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Business Update for 12/17/13

Business news for Tuesday, December 17.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addresses shareholders during the Microsoft Shareholders Annual Meeting
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addresses shareholders during the Microsoft Shareholders Annual Meeting (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks have been lower for most of the day, on the first day of the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting. Investors will find out tomorrow whether the Fed will start to trim back its huge bond-buying program. The recent budget deal in Washington, and a strong jobs report, have added to speculation that the Fed might start to do so.

BRUSSELS (AP) — European finance ministers are beginning two days of emergency meetings aimed at achieving agreement on more centralized control over banks. Ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro currency are gathering in Brussels for talks this evening. Tomorrow, they will be joined by ministers from the 11 other European Union nations.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Economists believe the growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else is hurting the U.S. economy. That’s the view of a majority of more than three dozen economists surveyed by The Associated Press. A key source of the economists’ concern: Higher pay and stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Yet these households spend less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population.

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft expects to finish its search for CEO Steve Ballmer’s replacement by early next year. Board director John Thompson, who heads the company’s executive search committee, said so in a blog post today. Ballmer said in August he would retire within 12 months. Thompson said the committee initially identified over 100 candidates, spoke with several dozen, whittled the group to 20 and then narrowed the list further. He said the company’s full board has also been involved in the discussion.

UNDATED (AP) — Pfizer says it reached a settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals that allows the generic drugmaker to launch a copycat version of its popular drug Viagra in 2017. Pfizer says Teva will pay an undisclosed royalty for a license to produce a generic version of Viagra, one of Pfizer’s best-selling drugs. Viagra generated about $1.14 billion in U.S. sales last year.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan budget bill that would ease some painful across-the-board spending cuts that would otherwise slam the Pentagon and domestic agencies has passed a test vote in the Senate. Today’s vote ensures the measure will pass the Democratic-led chamber no later than Wednesday and head to the White House to be signed into law. Top Senate Republicans oppose the bill, which would replace $45 billion in scheduled cuts for the 2014 budget year already underway, easing about half of the scheduled cuts.

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Reserve begins a two-day policy meeting today — its last policy meeting of 2013. The Fed will likely keep its economic stimulus measures in place at least through March, according to a recent survey of economists.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer prices stayed flat in November, held down by falling gas prices, and inflation remains low across the broader economy. The Labor Department says the consumer price index was unchanged last month, after dropping 0.1 percent in October. Gas prices declined 1.6 percent in November to keep overall prices down. Over the past 12 months, consumer prices have risen just 1.2 percent. That is significantly below the Fed’s inflation target of 2 percent.

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. homebuilders’ confidence has bounced back strongly this month, suggesting many will ramp up construction and hiring in the coming months. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index has climbed to 58. That’s up from 54 in November and matched an eight-year high reached in August. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

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