Thursday, 1 March 2012

Summary of business headlines

Fear of a U.S. economy that will stall in the middle of a recovery took a back seat after the day's events. The Federal Reserve says the economy continued to expand modestly through mid-February, taking note of improvements in the battered housing market. The so-called Beige Book, a summary of economic conditions, also pointed to a pick-up in hiring. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told lawmakers the falling unemployment rate is a surprise. SOUNDBITE: FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN BEN BERNANKE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Continued improvement in the job market is likely to require stronger growth in final demand and production. And notwithstanding the better recent data, the job market remains far from normal." Bernanke gave no hint of further stimulus in the first day of his semi-annual testimony to lawmakers, but said higher inflation due to rising gasoline prices was only temporary. That's a hint he will not hike interest rates any time soon. Meanwhile, slightly stronger spending by consumers and businesses helped make economic growth in the fourth quarter the strongest since early 2010, according to a Commerce Department revision. Besides the economy, one of the big stories of the day was the stepping down of News Corp International chairman James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch. He ran the division that included London's News of the World newspaper, shut due to a hacking scandal. British media analyst Theresa Wise: SOUNDBITE: THERESA WISE, MEDIA ANALYST, T.WISE CONSULTING (ENGLISH) SAYING: "This is something of an acknowledgment that James Murdoch isn't the heir apparent anymore that he used to be. Two years ago we were pretty sure that he was the next in line to be CEO of News Corp." U.S. listed shares hit a more than four-year high. But the rest of Wall Street was in the doldrums with Bernanke quiet about more stimulus. European stocks finished to the downside as well. Conway Gittens, Reuters

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