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Friday Afternoon Business Brief

December 13, 2013, 1:37 PM

Friday Afternoon Business Brief

The Wall Street rally that has driven stocks to record highs is taking a pause as investors try to figure out where things are headed. Stocks have turned lower in afternoon trading, headed for their second consecutive weekly loss. Investors are assessing whether stocks are overpriced and trying to guess what the Federal Reserve will do about its economic stimulus program when it meets next week.

  • Toyota will seek to settle hundreds of lawsuits involving alleged unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles, according to a U.S. District Court filing in California. A motion filed by Toyota and plaintiffs asks for an order to establish an "intensive settlement process" in personal injury, wrongful death and property damage cases. In October, an Oklahoma jury became the first in the country to find Toyota liable in an unintended acceleration lawsuit, awarding $3 million in damages.
  • The nation's second-largest commuter rail line is increasing scrutiny of its workers. A spokeswoman for Metro-North's parent agency says the New York City-area railroad is using more plainclothes spotters who slip aboard unnoticed to check whether train operators are complying with rules. The stepped-up effort comes two weeks after a deadly derailment of one of its trains.
  • Leaders of the International Association of Machinists are divided on whether to seek a vote on a proposed contract with Boeing. A national union spokesman says officials are exploring the idea after hundreds of members demanded an opportunity to vote on the contract to secure work on the 777X airplane. But local union officials say they don't see any point in bringing it to a vote because it's too similar to a contract the union rejected a month ago.
  • General Electric says it's increasing its quarterly dividend by 3 cents, or 16 percent, to 22 cents. The new dividend is payable Jan. 27 to shareholders as of Dec. 23. GE has been shaping itself into a conglomerate more focused on industrial equipment and appliances, shrinking its banking operations and selling off its media arm, NBCUniversal. GE's products include jet engines, medical diagnostic equipment, oil and gas drilling equipment and washing machines.

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