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April 26, 2012 at 6:22 PM   |   Comments

Markets close higher Thursday

NEW YORK, April 26 (UPI) -- Stocks closed higher in New York Thursday after the U.S. Labor Department said first-time unemployment benefit claims dropped marginally in the week.

It was the second consecutive week of marginal gains with 2,000 fewer claims filed in the previous week and 1,000 fewer in the week that ended Saturday.

The four-week rolling average for first-time claims came to 381,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week.

By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 113.90 points or 0.87 percent to 13,204.62. The tech-dominated Nasdaq composite index gained 20.98 points or 0.69 percent to 3,050.61. The Standard and Poor's 500 index gained 9.29 points or 0.67 percent to 1,399.98.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,059 stocks advanced and 969 declined on a volume of 3.7 billion shares traded.

The 10-year treasury note fell 1/32 to yield 1.944 percent.

The euro fell to $1.3192 from Wednesday's $1.3217. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 81 yen from Wednesday's 81.34 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 0.01 percent, 0.82, to 9,561.83.

In London, the FTSE 100 index gained 0.52 percent, 29.83, to 5,748.72.


GM cries poor on CEO pay

DETROIT, April 26 (UPI) -- General Motors, 32 percent owned by U.S. taxpayers, has implored the government to allow it to raise pay levels for top-level executives.

"Appropriately recognizing and rewarding these key contributors and competing with other large, multinational employers to attract and retain fresh talent with critical skill sets is extremely difficult," GM said in a proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, referring to limits set on GM by the Treasury Department.

"We are not able to deliver compensation for critical personnel in a manner that will continue to focus and drive their efforts in alignment with GM's internal business plan for sustained long-term growth," the filing said.

The Detroit News reported Thursday that pay for GM's Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson, was set at $9 million for the year, but that Akerson received $7.7 million due to the timing of some of the stock options he was awarded.

The News also said that Akerson's pay was substantially lower than CEO pay at Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler.

Ford's CEO Alan Mulally earned $29.5 million in total compensation for 2011, including $2 million in salary and $5.46 million in bonus pay.

Mulally's pay was a substantial 11.3 percent higher than his 2010 compensation package.

Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne earned $22 million in 2011, but all of that came from Fiat and Fiat Industrial, a subsidiary. Chrysler, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, did not pay Marchionne at all in 2011, the News said.

The Detroit Free Press reported that GM's highest paid executive for 2011 was Thomas Stephens, who retired as vice chairman and global chief technology officer at the beginning of April 1.

Stephens was paid $8.3 million, in 2011, a 48 percent pay hike from the $5.6 million he received in 2010.


Insurers to pay $1.3 billion in rebates

OAKLAND, Calif., April 26 (UPI) -- Early estimates indicate U.S. insurance firms will pay $1.3 billion in rebates in 2012 for non-compliance with a new federal statute, a watchdog group said.

The Affordable Care Act that began in 2011 stipulates large insurers must return 85 percent of premium dollars to customers and smaller firms must reach an 80 percent threshold, the Kaiser Family Foundation said in a statement Thursday.

The law says no more than 20 percent and 15 percent of premiums, respectively, can be used to cover administrative costs or for company profits.

Preliminary estimates indicate insurers will pay rebates of $541 million in the large employer market, $377 million in the smaller business market and $426 million in the individual insurance market, the foundation said.

As many as 92 percent of individual policy holders in Texas and 86 percent in Oklahoma can expect rebates while individuals in several other states can expect no rebate, the group said.

Nationwide, 215 insurance plans expect to issue rebates to 3.4 million individual market customers.

The largest per-person rebates are expected in Alaska, Maryland and Pennsylvania with rebates averaging $305, $294 and $243, respectively.

The 80 percent and 85 percent thresholds are known as the industry's medical loss ratio.

The rebates are expected by August, the statement said.


Researcher says Apple has lost its spark

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 26 (UPI) -- Forrester Research Chairman and Chief Executive Officer George Colony says U.S. innovator Apple Inc. without Steve Jobs is a company without its spark.

"He is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities," Colony wrote in an online column, quoting "The Theory of Social and Economic Organization" by sociologist Max Weber.

Colony was referring to the late Steve Jobs, an Apple co-founder who died in October.

Citing Weber, Colony said there are three categories of organizations, which included "legal/bureaucratic (think IBM or the U.S. government), 2) Traditional (e.g. The Catholic Church) and 3) Charismatic."

Charismatic, defined by Weber, is an organization "run by special, magical individuals," Colony said.

Without a charismatic replacement for Jobs, Apple, the world's most valuable company, "will coast, then decelerate," Colony wrote.

He said Apple had maybe two more years of "momentum" left over from the Jobs era.

He cited other companies that once sat on top of the world with a charismatic leader that later slid from their perches to reach more pedestrian levels.

Sony without CEO Akio Morita and Disney without Walt Disney were two examples, Colony said.

Colony said Apple's choice of Tim Cook to replace Jobs would not work.

"His legal/bureaucratic approach will prove to be a mismatch for an organization that feeds off the gift of grace," he said.

A company that loses a charismatic leader has to find another as a successor, Colony said.

Unfortunately, Colony said, citing Weber's text, "Charisma can only be awakened and tested, it cannot be learned or taught."

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