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Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

April 3, 2014, 1:25 PM

Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks are lower in afternoon trading on Wall Street as traders await tomorrow's monthly job report. Declines were led by health care stocks. Barnes & Noble fell $3.35, or 15 percent, to $18.76 after Liberty Media said it was cutting its stake in the company.

  • Federal authorities in South Florida say 25 people have been charged in the latest major identity theft and tax refund fraud sweep. The U.S. attorney in Miami says the suspects collectively tried to obtain $36 million in fraudulent tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service. One defendant is a school food service employee who is charged with stealing the identities of about 400 Miami-Dade County students. Other defendants include a mail carrier and tax preparers.
  • Brookstone is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of its $147 million sale to Spencer Spirit Holdings, announced last week. The gadget chain that's a staple in malls and airports says its 240 stores will remain open and business will continue as usual. Spencer Spirit owns Spencer stores and sells Halloween costumes at its Spirit pop-up stores.
  • Liberty Media is cutting its stake in Barnes & Noble. The investment company controlled by billionaire investor John Malone gave Barnes & Noble a lifeline in 2011 when it bought 12 million shares at $17 apiece. But now Liberty says it's selling the majority of its shares to institutional buyers. It will keep 10 percent of its original investment and lose its two board seats.
  • Two of the world's leading financial decision-makers are not seeing eye to eye. The head of the European Central Bank is publicly rejecting advice from International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, who yesterday urged the ECB to ease monetary policy. Instead, it decided today to leave its main interest rate at a record-low 0.25 percent and not provide any further stimulus. Its president, Mario Draghi (DRAHG'-ee), says the IMF has become overzealous in providing monetary policy guidance and probably wouldn't have dared to lecture the U.S. Federal Reserve in the same way.

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