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Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

March 5, 2014, 1:29 PM

Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks are mixed in early afternoon trading on Wall Street. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was flat, a day after closing at an all-time high. The day's news includes word that U.S. service companies expanded more slowly in February as hiring levels declined. The Institute for Supply Management said its service-sector index fell to 51.6 from 54 in January. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

  • A Federal Reserve survey finds that severe winter weather held back economic growth in much of the nation from January through early February. Even so, conditions improved in most U.S. regions, helped by slight gains in areas such as employment and commercial real estate. Eight of the Fed's 12 regions reported improved activity, according to the Beige Book survey released today. The improvement was depicted as "modest to moderate."
  • One of the nation's largest coal producers will pay a $27.5 million fine and is set to spend $200 million to reduce illegal toxic discharges into waterways across five Appalachian states. The proposed settlement is the largest ever of its kind. The Associated Press obtained details before the settlement involving Alpha Natural Resources Inc. was filed in court in West Virginia. The government says the company and its subsidiaries violated water pollution limits in state-issued permits more than 6,000 times between 2006 and 2013.
  • A federal jury has found two men guilty of economic espionage involving the theft and sale of a U.S. company's technology to a competitor controlled by the Chinese government. The defendants (Robert Maegerle and Walter Liew) were accused of stealing GuPont Co.'s method for making titanium oxide, a chemical that fetches $17 billion a year in sales worldwide and is used to whiten everything from cars to the middle of Oreo cookies. Each defendant could face sentences of 15 years or more in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
  • U.S. safety regulators are demanding that General Motors turn over documents detailing what the company knew when about a dangerous ignition problem that has been linked to 13 car-crash deaths. GM says it received an order yesterday seeking the information. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating how GM handled the problem, which triggered the recall of 1.6 million older-model compact cars worldwide. GM has acknowledged it knew of ignition troubles a decade ago but didn't recall the cars until last month.

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