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Wednesday Morning Business Brief

March 26, 2014, 5:39 AM

Wednesday Morning Business Brief

A series of mixed signals for the economy has undermined investor confidence and it's at least somewhat accountable for the ups and downs in the stock market. Yesterday was a case in point. One report showed fewer people bought new homes in February, dropping sales to the slowest pace in five months. But an index measuring consumer confidence rose to the highest level in six years. Still, the major indexes registered gains, with the Dow adding 91 points, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq each rose about 8.

  • Worlds stock markets are higher today with investors expecting new stimulus measures from Europe and China and U.S. economic data reinforcing recovery hopes for the world's largest economy. In energy markets, benchmark U.S. oil for May delivery was up just 3 cents at $99.22 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
  • Facebook has agreed to buy Oculus for $2 billion, betting that its virtual reality technology may be a new way for people to communicate, learn or be entertained.  Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg calls it "a long-term bet on the future of computing." The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset has received a lot of attention from video game developers, though it has yet to be released for consumers. The headsets cover a user's eyes and create an immersive world that reacts to turning one's head or moving back and forth.
  • A push by congressional Democrats to bring a wide array of changes to the International Monetary Fund has fallen victim to a greater desire by lawmakers to punish Russia for its bold military incursion into Crimea. Democrats wanted legislation aimed at helping Ukraine to include provisions to enhance the IMF's lending capacity. But Republicans were opposed. The Senate is on track to approve the sanctions Thursday along with aid for Ukraine.
  • A federal appeals court has upheld the insider trading conviction of a former Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble board member. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that Rajat Gupta was fairly tried and convicted of conspiracy and securities fraud. Gupta was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $5 million. But he's been free on $10 million bail.

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