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Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

April 2, 2014, 1:53 PM

Wednesday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks have turned mixed in afternoon trading on Wall Street. Two hours before the end of trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was about two points above yesterday's close, which was an all-time high. The Dow Jones industrial average was up less than 10 points and the Nasdaq composite was down about three points.

  • Members of a Senate subcommittee are accusing General Motors of trying to cover up problems with an ignition switch that is now tied to 13 deaths. Panel members are pushing CEO Mary Barra to punish anyone involved and say GM should tell owners to stop driving all the 2.6 million cars being recalled for the faulty switch until they are repaired.
  • The head of the International Monetary Fund is warning that leading nations need to embrace bold policy steps to accelerate a still-modest and fragile global economic recovery. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde says the European Central Bank should consider lowering interest rates further and using unconventional policies to support growth and fight inflation that is too low. Her comments came in a speech previewing next week's meetings of global finance officials in Washington.
  • Amazon is introducing a set-top box that allows streaming of online video content to televisions. The company says its $99 Amazon Fire TV device has better speed, performance and search functions than other streaming services such as Apple TV and Google Chromecast. The device runs Google's Android operating system and offers Netflix, Hulu and other streaming channels in addition to Amazon Prime instant video. The box, which starts shipping today, also features thousands of free and paid games.
  • Microsoft is showcasing a new virtual assistant as part of an upcoming update for Windows phones. The assistant, named Cortana, tries to be chatty like Siri on Apple's iPhones and iPads, while anticipating information you might want, like Google Now on Android devices. Cortana is one of the new features coming to a Windows Phone update called 8.1. Microsoft says the feature is still in a "beta" test mode as the company tries to improve its voice recognition capabilities.

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