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Friday Afternoon Business Brief

January 11, 2013, 1:40 PM

Friday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks are little changed on Wall Street as traders wait for a clearer picture on the outlook for corporate earnings. The Standard & Poor's 500 index has dropped below the five-year high it reached yesterday.

  • The U.S. annual budget deficit is on track to reach $1 trillion for a fifth straight year, despite a jump in tax revenue in December as people paid some taxes early to beat increases in 2013. The Treasury Department says the deficit is $292 billion for the first three months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The actual size of the annual deficit will hinge, in part, on how Congress and the White House resolve a debate over raising the nation's borrowing limit.
  • Facebook is testing some "extreme price points" to let users pay to have their messages seen by people who are not their friends. The tech blog Mashable reports that some users trying to reach Mark Zuckerberg are being offered the option of paying $100 to ensure that their message gets to the Facebook CEO. Facebook is also testing a service that lets people pay $1 per message to route communications to non-friends' inboxes.
  • The Agriculture Department has released its final crop report for 2012, showing heavy losses due to the drought still gripping much of the nation. The year-end report shows farmers got less than three-fourths of the corn the agency initially expected when planting was done in the spring. Farmers say better crop technology saved them from more devastating losses, and production was helped by the large number of acres planted this year.
  • Supporters and opponents of the contentious gas drilling process called fracking have delivered tens of thousands of comments to New York state officials considering whether to allow it. Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon have led an intense 30-day effort opposing hydraulic fracturing. Industry representatives are arguing that proposed rules are so strict they'll effectively prevent drilling in New York.

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