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Friday Afternoon Business Brief

January 4, 2013, 1:36 PM

Friday Afternoon Business Brief
  • Stocks have been edging higher today following the government's December employment report. It shows employers added 155,000 jobs, while the jobless rate held at 7.8 percent. The Dow remains on track for its best week in more than six months.
  • U.S. service firms' activity expanded in December by the most in nearly a year. The Institute for Supply Management says its index of non-manufacturing activity rose to 56.1 in December. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reports orders to U.S. factories were flat in November.
  • The House has overwhelmingly passed a bill providing $9.7 billion to pay flood insurance claims for home and business owners damaged during Superstorm Sandy. But the 67 members who voted against are saying such disaster aid should be offset with spending cuts. The conservative Club For Growth has been urging lawmakers to only approve Sandy aid in installments. It says Congress needs to make sure the money is wisely spent and not inflating the deficit.
  • Federal officials are trying to ease concerns that low water levels in Mississippi River could lead to a shutdown of barge traffic. The Army Corps of Engineers says crews are making "fantastic" progress clearing treacherous bedrock from an important channel south of St. Louis. The Coast Guard adds that water releases from two lakes are also helping.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is proposing new food safety rules aimed at reducing the estimated 3,000 deaths a year from food borne illness. The proposed rules would require farmers to take precautions against contamination on the farm - making sure workers' hands are washed, irrigation water is clean, and animals stay out of fields, for example. Food manufacturers would have to submit food safety plans to the government.

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