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Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

February 19, 2014, 1:32 PM

Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks are moving lower following the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve's January policy meeting. The minutes show that officials agreed further gradual reductions in their stimulus would be appropriate as long as the economy keeps improving. They discussed the need to stress that the Fed's key short-term interest rate would remain near zero, but they couldn't agree on how to modify their commitment to keep the rate near zero "well past" the time unemployment falls below 6.5 percent.

  • A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge has approved Lehman Brothers Holdings' $767 million settlement with Freddie Mac. The agreement announced today releases hundreds of millions of dollars to return to the failed investment bank's creditors. Freddie Mac will hand over loan information that allows Lehman to pursue claims against mortgage originators for alleged misrepresentation. The deal is similar to one struck recently between Lehman and another mortgage finance giant, Fannie Mae.
  • Visa and MasterCard are introducing Internet-based technologies to make it easier for shoppers to buy things at retail stores without pulling out a credit card. The two technologies, announced separately today, allow customers to use a mobile app to make purchases by tapping the phone to a store's card reader. The technologies tap a new feature in Google's Android operating system.
  • Google is planning to offer high-speed Internet service in 34 more cities scattered across eight states in an ambitious expansion aimed at providing formidable competition to cable and telecommunication providers. The company promises that people will be able to use its Google Fiber service to surf the Internet at 100 times the speeds of existing broadband services. The tentative list of cities includes Atlanta; San Jose, Calif.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore. and Salt Lake City.
  • In what may be the first college donation of the new electronic currency, a Bitcoin entrepreneur has donated $10,000 worth of the digital money to a Washington state liberal arts college. The University of Puget Sound says it has received a donation of 14.5 coins of the currency, which it has converted into more traditional dollars. The donor is Nicolas Cary, who graduated from the university in 2007 and now runs Blockchain, which supports the online currency market.

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