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Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

December 12, 2013, 2:26 PM

Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks are mixed in afternoon trading on Wall Street, a day after posting their biggest declines in five weeks. The Dow is still up 20 percent for the year, and the S&P 500 is up 24 percent. Investors may be wondering if a budget deal in Congress and more signs of a U.S. recovery could prompt the Federal Reserve to start winding down its economic stimulus efforts soon.

  • Merrill Lynch has agreed to pay $131.8 million to settle U.S. civil charges that it misled investors about risky mortgage bonds it sold ahead of the 2008 financial crisis. The company was accused of marketing the investments with misleading materials in 2006 and 2007. Merrill Lynch doesn't admit or deny the allegations under the settlement announced today by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • A labor group monitoring three Chinese factories that make iPhones and other Apple products says working conditions have steadily improved in the last 18 months, but more must be done to reduce the amount of overtime that employees work. The audit released today by the Fair Labor Association represents the final assessment in a process that started last year at plants run in China by Apple's largest supplier, Foxconn.
  • State prosecutors are asking the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its approval of a powerful new painkiller. They say the narcotic pill, called Zohydro, could add to the national epidemic of prescription drug abuse. The FDA approved Zohydro in October, making it the first single-ingredient hydrocodone drug available in the U.S. The extended release pill is reportedly five to 10 times more potent than currently available hydrocodone combination pills, like Vicodin.
  • As one federal panel looks to remove restrictions on making phone calls from airplanes, another agency is apparently considering its own ban on those calls. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission told lawmakers today that his agency sees no technical reason to ban cellphone calls on planes. But he says the nation's transportation secretary told him this morning that his agency would be moving forward with its own restrictions.

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