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NEW THIS UPDATE:

Adds: GULF OIL SPILL-TRIAL

Updates: CYPRUS-FINANCIAL CRISIS, BUDGET BATTLE, EARNS-ORACLE, WALL STREET

TOP STORIES:

FEDERAL RESERVE

WASHINGTON â¿¿ The Federal Reserve says that the U.S. economy has strengthened after pausing late last year but still needs the Fed's extraordinary support to help lower high unemployment. In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed stood by its plan to keep short-term interest rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent, as long as the inflation outlook remains mild. And it said it would continue buying $85 billion a month in bonds indefinitely to keep long-term borrowing costs down. By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger.

AP photos.

With:

â¿¿ FED-FORECASTS

â¿¿ BERNANKE-NEWS CONFERENCE

LOW-WAGE WORKERS

WASHINGTON â¿¿ America's lower-income workers post the biggest job gains since the deep 2007-2009 recession â¿¿ but few are bragging. As a workforce sector, those earning under $35,000 annually are generally pessimistic about their finances and career prospects. Many see themselves as worse off now than during the recession, a two-part AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey of workers and employers shows. By Tom Raum and Jennifer Agiesta.

AP graphic.

With:

â¿¿ LOW-WAGE WORKERS SURVEY-METHOD â¿¿ How the survey was conducted.

CYPRUS-FINANCIAL CRISIS

NICOSIA, Cyprus â¿¿ Cyprus' government draws up a new plan to raise funds needed for the country to secure a crucial international bailout, three top government officials say. The new bill could be voted on as early as Thursday evening. Parliament had resoundingly rejected the previous plan, which involved seizing up to 10 percent of people's bank deposits. By Menelaos Hadjicostis and Elena Becatoros.

AP photos.

With:

â¿¿ GERMANY-CYPRUS â¿¿ Merkel says Germany wants solution to Cyprus problem but banks must become sustainable.

BUDGET BATTLE

WASHINGTON â¿¿ The Senate approves legislation to lock in $85 billion in broad federal spending cuts and simultaneously avoid a government shutdown next week â¿¿ and pointedly rejectes a call to even reopen White House tours that the Obama administration says had to be canceled because of the cuts. By Special Correspondent David Espo.

AP photos.

GAS DRILLING-UNLIKELY PARTNERS

PITTSBURGH â¿¿ In an unlikely partnership between longtime adversaries, some of the nation's biggest energy companies and environmental groups have agreed on a voluntary set of standards for gas and oil drilling in the Northeast that appear to go further than existing state and federal pollution regulations. "It's very different from someone from the outside saying, 'You can do better,'" says one environmentalist. By Kevin Begos.

AP photo.

SMALLBIZ-SMALL TALK

NEW YORK â¿¿ A notable piece of small-business news in Congress this year isn't about a bill â¿¿ it's about a proposal to change some of the tax laws aimed at small companies. The proposal suggests Congress make permanent a popular tax deduction for equipment purchases. In recent years the deduction has varied, making it difficult for small businesses to plan. The proposal could give owners some predictability â¿¿ something they've been clamoring for given the large list of other uncertainties such as health care, minimum wage and the economy. By Business Writer Joyce M. Rosenberg.

With:

â¿¿ SMALLBIZ-BILLS â¿¿ A look at small business bills that have been introduced in the new Congress.

MARKETS & ECONOMY:

FREDDIE MAC-LIBOR LOSSES

WASHINGTON â¿¿ Freddie Mac has sued 15 big international banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, accusing them of rigging a key interest rate and causing huge losses for the government-controlled mortgage giant. By Business Writer Marcy Gordon.

CHINA-US

BEIJING â¿¿ U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew pressed Chinese leaders over computer hacking and for help with North Korea during two days of talks that ended Wednesday. By Business Writer Joe McDonald.

AP photos.

WALL STREET

Fear of a revived debt crisis in Europe fades from the stock market, freeing the Dow Jones industrial average to touch an all-time high. After dipping Monday on concerns that Cyprus would become the latest European nation to stir fiscal chaos, the Dow posts its second straight day of gains. By Business Writer Daniel Wagner.

AP photos..

â¿¿ OIL PRICES â¿¿ The price of oil rises to nearly $93 a barrel.

BROKEN BUDGETS-GASOLINE TAXES

LANSING, Mich. â¿¿ Michigan's venture capitalist-turned-governor, Rick Snyder was elected on the downside of the recession and was among a crop of new Republican leaders eager to show they could boost their states' ailing economies with lower taxes. But two years later, confronting one of the automobile-addicted state's most visible problems â¿¿ crumbling roads â¿¿ Snyder has roiled conservatives by calling for a major gasoline tax increase. Although a break from the GOP's anti-tax ideology, Snyder's move shows a growing, if dicey, willingness among some GOP officials to begin raising more revenue. By David Eggert.

AP photo.

INDUSTRY:

EARNS-FEDEX

DALLAS â¿¿ FedEx's third-quarter profit falls 31 percent as customers shift to slower, cheaper options for international air shipments. The company will cut capacity to and from Asia starting next month and might retire some of its older airplanes. By Business Writer David Koenig.

AP photo.

AIRLINES-OUTLOOK

GENEVA â¿¿ The global airline industry predicts a modest improvement in global profit for 2013, crediting a backdrop of rising optimism about the world's economy, particularly in the United States and Europe. The International Air Transport Association expects profit of $10.6 billion this year due to more passengers and cargo, up from a December prediction of $8.4 billion. By John Heilprin.

AP photos.

â¿¿ CHINA-SUNTECH BANKRUPTCY â¿¿ Suntech, one of the world's biggest solar panel manufacturers, is forced into bankruptcy court. It's the latest casualty of a painful slump in the global solar industry. AP photo.

AMGEN-MELANOMA TREATMENT

Shares of biologic drugmaker Amgen Inc. jump on news its innovative melanoma immunotherapy, which uses a virus as a Trojan horse to infiltrate and destroy tumors, shrank far more tumors than a standard treatment in a late-stage test. The results show there's promise for similar disease-treating vaccines other companies are developing. By Business Writer Linda A. Johnson.

â¿¿ GULF OIL SPILL-TRIAL â¿¿ Judge dismisses all claims against BP's drilling fluids contractor at Gulf oil spill trial.

â¿¿ AVASTIN-RECALL â¿¿ The Food and Drug Administration is warning doctors that a compounding pharmacy is recalling syringes of the Roche drug Avastin after receiving reports of eye infections among patients.

â¿¿ JP MORGAN CHASE-MF GLOBAL SETTLEMENT â¿¿ JPMorgan Chase reaches deal with trustee to return $546 million to MF Global customers.

â¿¿ JPMORGAN-PAYDAY LENDING â¿¿ JPMorgan Chase says it will take steps to protect its customers from fees and other charges that payday lenders may slap on them.

â¿¿ GERMANY-EARNS-DEUTSCHE BANK â¿¿ Deutsche Bank cuts its 2012 profit because of new charges for possible costs from mortgage-related lawsuits in the U.S.

â¿¿ SCHOOL SHOOTING-DEVELOPMENT AID â¿¿ Just days before 20 children and six educators were killed at a Connecticut school in December, state development officials offered the maker of the rifle used in the massacre a $1 million loan to bring new jobs to the state.

â¿¿ AMERICAN REALTY CAPITAL-ACQUISITION â¿¿ Real estate investor American Realty Capital makes a $5.74 billion cash-and-stock bid for another REIT, Cole Credit Property Trust.

â¿¿ CHINA-VW RECALL â¿¿ Volkswagen recalls more than 384,000 vehicles in China to fix gearboxes following a report last week by state TV that criticized the quality of the German automaker's cars.

TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:

SKOREA-COMPUTER CRASH

SEOUL, South Korea â¿¿ A cyberattack causes computer networks at major South Korean banks and top TV broadcasters to crash simultaneously, paralyzing bank machines across the country and prompting speculation of North Korean involvement. The rivals have exchanged threats amid joint U.S.-South Korean military drills and in the wake of U.N. sanctions meant to punish North Korea over its nuclear test last month. By Hyung-jin Kim.

AP photos.

EARNS-ORACLE

NEW YORK â¿¿ Oracle Corp. reports flat earnings for its fiscal third-quarter, hurt by a drop in sales of hardware systems and new software. Shares tumbled in after-hours trading on the weaker-than-expected results. By Technology Writer Barbara Ortutay.

AP photo.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-PHONE HACKING â¿¿ The deputy editor at The Sun tabloid in Britain is charged with authorizing thousands of pounds in illegal payoffs to government officials, the latest in a drumbeat of criminal charges against employees of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

â¿¿ BOOKS-SANDBERG â¿¿ Sheryl Sandberg has the ear, and the eyes, of the country's book buyers. Sandberg's "Lean In" sold 140,000 copies its first week of publication and has gone back to press seven times for additional printings, publisher Alfred A. Knopf says.

INTERNATIONAL:

â¿¿ FRANCE-IMF CHIEF â¿¿ French investigators search the home of IMF chief Christine Lagarde as part of an inquiry into her role in a $400 million arbitration deal in favor of a tycoon.

â¿¿ BRITAIN-BUDGET â¿¿ Britain is on the verge of slipping back into recession, but Treasury chief George Osborne is expected to cling to his message of tax hikes and spending cuts when he delivers his budget.

INDONESIA-WHERE'S THE BEEF?

JAKARTA, Indonesia â¿¿ Haji Hidayat makes his living selling one of Indonesia's most popular dishes: A tasty meatball soup known as bakso. But now he can no longer afford to keep ladling out the brothy goodness. The price of beef, the main ingredient in bakso, has hit a record high while other essential components â¿¿ garlic, shallots and chillies â¿¿ have also recently skyrocketed. Analysts say the high cost of beef is an inevitable side effect of Indonesia's drive to achieve self-sufficiency in the meat as well as corn, rice, sugar and soybeans by 2014, a policy sparked by the global food crisis that hurt tens of millions in developing countries in 2007 and 2008. By Niniek Karmini.

AP photos.

___

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CENTERPIECE

Big rebound funds

For the managers of a select group of mutual funds, the stock market's return to its 2007 levels is no big deal. Their funds crossed that recovery milestone some time ago. A look at five funds that limited their losses in 2008 to help them rank as the top-performing large-cap funds since the last market peak in October 2007.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT

FedEx profit falls

FedEx, the world's second-biggest package delivery company, said that its third-quarter profit fell 31 percent. The company's fiscal year ends in May.

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