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Monday Evening Business Brief

February 3, 2014, 5:43 PM

Monday Evening Business Brief
  • Stocks have taken a big hit today, as reports of sluggishness in the U.S. manufacturing sector added to worries about the global economy and extended the market's 2014 slide. The Dow plunged 326 points, or more than 2 percent, to close at 15,372.80. The broader indexes also lost more than 2 percent. The S&P 500 dropped 40 points to 1,741.89. The Nasdaq slid nearly 107 points to 3,996.96.
  • Five major technology companies have released previously confidential information on how often they are ordered to turn over customer information for secret national security investigations. The disclosures show Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn received secret court orders demanding the emails and other online activities of a relatively small number of their customers. But, the numbers still amount to thousands of Americans.
  • Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says he will start using emergency measures after this week to avoid a first-ever default on the national debt. Congress suspended the debt limit last October as part of a deal to re-open the government after a partial shutdown. But the suspension ends Friday. In a speech in Washington today, Lew said Congress should act without delay to increase the debt ceiling. He says he expects to run out of maneuvering room by the end of the month.
  • The European Central Bank is hunting what are being called zombie banks - lenders too financially troubled to loan money. The ECB plans to go through files from 128 of Europe's largest banks to track down hidden, soured loans and investments. That will be followed by stress tests that simulate how a bank would fare in a crisis. National bank regulators will be asked to push problem banks to raise capital by selling new shares to investors, restricting dividends, restructuring or even being bailed out.
  • A week of freezing temperatures in early December cost California's citrus industry about $441 million. California Citrus Mutual says the damage was confined to the state's Central Valley, where mandarin, navel and lemon crops were lost during seven consecutive nights of freezing temperatures. About 20 percent of the mandarin crop had already been harvested, but about 40 percent of the remaining oranges were lost.

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