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Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

February 12, 2014, 2:19 PM

Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks remain mixed on Wall Street. The Dow has swung from 40 points higher this morning to as much as 60 points lower at midday, and it remains down in afternoon trading. The S&P has been back and forth between positive and negative territory, while the Nasdaq composite has been mostly higher.

  • The government's deficit through the first four months of the budget year is down by more than a third from a year ago. The Treasury Department says the deficit for October through January totals $184 billion. That's $106 billion lower from the same period a year ago. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the deficit for the current budget year will drop to $514 billion. That would be the smallest imbalance in six years.
  • President Barack Obama is raising the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10, as he promised in the State of the Union. The measure applies only to new contracts, and officials say that means it will affect just a few hundred thousand workers. That's a small percentage of the more than 2 million federal contractors. Obama is pushing Congress to raise the minimum wage for all workers to $10.10. He says that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.
  • The White House has released a set of computer security standards aimed at preventing cyberattacks against systems that run critical sectors of the economy like transportation, financial, health care and energy. At the same time, the administration is launching a voluntary program to encourage businesses to put the standards into use. President Barack Obama is urging Congress to pass legislation that would give the government more power to secure networks and deter attacks.
  • The race to increase vehicle fuel economy is taking a toll on reliability. J.D. Power and Associates' annual survey of vehicle dependability finds owners of three-year-old vehicles are reporting more problems than they did a year ago. It's the first time since 1998 that the average number of problems per vehicle has increased. J.D. Power says engine issues account for most of the increase, blaming new fuel-saving technology such as stop-start systems that automatically shut cars down at traffic lights.

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