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Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

December 4, 2013, 1:16 PM by Jenna Petrak

Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks are lower on Wall Street as investors assess the outlook for continued stimulus from the Federal Reserve. Conflicting news about the strength of the economy has left investors unsure about when the Fed will reduce its monthly bond purchases, which have been supporting financial markets. The Fed's next policy meeting is in two weeks. The government's closely watched monthly employment report comes out on Friday.

  • A Federal Reserve survey shows the U.S. economy held steady during the 16-day partial government shutdown, growing moderately in most regions from October through late November. The Fed says seven of its 12 banking districts described growth as moderate and four said growth was modest. Manufacturing strengthened in most districts, consumers boosted spending in most regions and hiring improved in five of the districts.
  • A survey of chief executives at the largest U.S. companies finds growing optimism about the economy's prospects for the next six months. The Business Roundtable says its CEO outlook index rose to 84.5 in the October-December quarter, up from 79.1 in the previous quarter. Thirty-four percent of the executives said they expect their companies will increase hiring in the next six months, and roughly two-thirds expect their company's sales to increase.
  • President Barack Obama says the income gap between America's rich and poor is jeopardizing the nation's middle class. He calls it a "defining challenge of our time" and he's urging Washington to take steps to ensure that the economy works for everyone. Obama says a rapidly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat than the fiscal deficit.
  • The effort to get high-speed broadband in every school is getting a boost from the philanthropy of two technology gurus: Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates. Zuckerberg's Startup: Education and Gates' foundation have contributed a combined $9 million to the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway. The San Francisco-based nonprofit is working to improve connectivity in schools.

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