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Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

March 13, 2014, 2:14 PM

Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

The latest jobless and retail sales numbers are positive, but that's not been enough to keep stocks higher today. After getting an early boost, stocks have turned sharply lower with investors expressing worries about the direction of China's economy and the possibility of broader fallout from the conflict in Ukraine. The Dow was down 200 points in afternoon trading, while the broader indexes also are seeing heavy losses. Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index are down.

  • There's a run on banks in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Customers have been lining up to withdraw cash from their accounts ahead of Sunday's referendum on joining Russia. Ukraine's largest bank says it's imposed a $150 limit on daily withdrawals across the entire country, as banks in Crimea struggle to deliver cash to customers.
  • Three nominees for the Federal Reserve's board are expressing their support for the Fed's efforts to bolster the U.S. economy. Stanley Fischer has been nominated to be vice chairman. In a Senate confirmation hearing today, Fischer noted that the Fed is trimming back its stimulus effort but will need to continue an "expansionary monetary policy" for the economy to reach maximum employment and price stability.
  • Mortgage rates continue to edge higher, though they remain close to historically low levels. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for a 30-year fixed loan increased nearly a tenth of a point to 4.37 percent last week. The average for a 15-year fixed mortgage rose to 3.38 percent. Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows roughly a year ago.
  • The government wants commercial trucks and buses that cross state lines to be equipped with electronic devices that record how many hours the vehicles are in operation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's proposal is intended to prevent drivers from exceeding limits on the number of hours they can spend behind the wheel. Accident investigators have pointed to crashes where drivers regularly were exceeding limits on work hours, sometimes fiddling with log books to cover it up.

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