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Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

December 27, 2012, 1:47 PM

Thursday Afternoon Business Brief
  • Stocks have fallen today, pushed down by unwelcome signs that the economy is still far from repaired and that "fiscal cliff" negotiations are far from sealed. Major stock indexes wavered between small gains and losses in early trading, then turned decisively downward after 10 a.m.
  • Leaders from each party are demanding the other side take the initiative in trying to reach a deal to avert the fiscal cliff. There was more of the partisan tone today with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying the House was "being operated with a dictatorship of the speaker." A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner says Reid "should talk less and legislate more if he wants to avert the fiscal cliff."
  • EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is stepping down. The Obama administration's chief environmental watchdog, Jackson had four years on the job marked by high-profile brawls over global warming pollution, the Keystone XL oil pipeline, new controls on coal-fired plants and a number of other hot-button issues. The 50-year-old Jackson has not given any particular reason for her departure.
  • The White House is urging dockworkers and shipping companies to reach agreement "as quickly as possible" on a contract extension for East Coast and Gulf Coast dockworkers whose existing pact expires this week. Obama spokesman Matt Lehrich says the White House is monitoring the situation closely and urges the parties to "continue their work at the negotiating table to get a deal done as quickly as possible."  The National Retail Federation has asked the Obama administration to use "all means necessary" to prevent a strike.
  • The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says five of the country's largest banks will pay $4.5 million to settle claims they used municipal and state bond funds to pay lobbyists. The regulatory agency says that between 2006 and 2010 Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley made payments to California business lobbying group Cal PSA and requested that those payments be reimbursed as underwriting expenses from the proceeds of municipal and state bond offerings.

Read more business headlines on the Back To Business page.

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