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Nov. 20, 2012 at 6:49 PM   |   Comments

Stocks close mixed

NEW YORK, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. stock markets closed mixed Tuesday, a day after posting their biggest gains in more than two months.

Budget talks in Washington described as cooperative gave investors reason to believe the economy would not go over the so-called fiscal cliff -- the nickname given to a combination of the scheduled expiration of lower federal income tax rates and spending cuts mandated by law, which could be circumvented with a new budget.

Optimism was held in check Tuesday as technical giant Hewlett-Packard announced the purchase of software firm Autonomy Corp. would include a massive write-down of $8.8 billion due to accounting fraud.

Best Buy shares declined on a loss in the third quarter related to a one-time restructuring charge and, more ominously, a drop in sales.

By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average shed 7.45 points or 0.06 percent to 12,788.51. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index added 0.61 points or 0.02 percent to 2,916.68. The S&P 500 gained 0.92 points or 0.07 percent to 1,387.81.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,710 stocks advanced and 1,325 declined on a volume of 3.1 billion shares traded.

The benchmark 10-year treasury fell 16/32 to yield 1.671 percent.

The euro rose to $1.2814 from Monday's $1.2813. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 81.68 yen from 81.41 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.12 percent, 10.56 points, to 9,142.64.

In London, the FTSE 100 index added 0.18 percent, 10.44 points, to 5,748.10.


Steven Cohen tied to insider trading case

NEW YORK, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Billionaire Steven Cohen is involved in a multimillion dollar insider trading scheme, a court complaint unsealed in New York Tuesday says.

Cohen, the founder of SAC Capital Advisors, is not named in the complaint, The Wall Street Journal reported. But he is implicated in the scheme, with references in the complaint to "Portfolio Manager A," which is Cohen, the Journal said.

The case is alleged to be the most profitable insider trading scheme on record. It involves portfolio manager Mathew Martoma at SAC Capital affiliate CR Intrinsic Investors, who allegedly paid Dr. Sidney Gilman, a neurology professor, to advise the firm on progress being made on a drug for Alzheimer's disease being developed by Elan Corp. and Wyeth, two firms that are now owned by Pfizer Inc.

The doctor allegedly met with Martoma over an 18-month stretch. When he allegedly provided the investor with confidential information that the drug was not doing well in evaluations, the firms reaped $276 million by selling pharmaceutical company shares short.

Both civil and criminal complaints have been filed in the case, although the doctor has been charged only in the case filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Journal said.

The SEC complaint says "Portfolio Manager A" authorized several trades based on the information provided by Martoma, often allowing his information to trump the advice given to him from other managers.


Rethinking the Cuba embargo after 50 years

HAVANA, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. embargo of Cuba should not be weakened in response to recent market reforms in the island, a key Florida congresswoman said.

"The sanctions on the regime must remain in place and, in fact, should be strengthened, and not be altered," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee.

"Responsible nations must not buy into the facade the dictatorship is trying to create by announcing 'reforms' while, in reality, it's tightening its grip on its people," she said in an email.

The New York Times reported Tuesday Cuba's recent legalization of hundreds of thousands of small businesses is being accepted by some in the United States as a sign it is time to loosen the restrictions of the 50-year-old Cuban embargo.

"Maintaining this embargo, maintaining this hostility, all it does is strengthen and embolden the hard-liners. What we should be doing is helping the reformers," Carlos Saladrigas, co-chairman of the Cuba Study Group in Washington told the Times.

While Cuba has made incremental, if debatable policy improvements, President Barack Obama loosened travel and remittances restrictions for Cuban Americans in 2009.

He cannot lift the embargo without Cuba committing itself to democratic reforms, as spelled out in the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which mandate the embargo stays until a democratically elected government is in place in Havana.

But he can make a few adjustments, loosening travel and business restrictions further, the Times said.

For example, U.S. medical supplies are allowed to go to Cuba, but many companies refuse to send supplies because the law requires them to send a representative to the island to make sure the medicine is not used for making weapons.

"The Treasury Department is asking me, in a children's hospital, if I use, for example, catheters for military uses -- chemical, nuclear or biological," Dr. Eugenio Selman, director of Havana's William Soler Pediatric Cardiology Center, said.


Almost half in U.S. would skip holidays

FORT WORTH, Texas, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Almost half of U.S. adults say they are so stressed about the holidays they'd just as soon forget the whole December extravaganza, a survey indicates.

The survey, sponsored by Think Finance, a developer of online personal financial management products, found 45 percent said they did not expect to have enough money set aside to cover holiday expenses.

Eighty-five percent said they will spend the same amount of money or less on gifts this year, with 54 percent planning to spend $500 or less and 27 percent planning to spend between $500 and $1,000 on holiday gifts.

Almost half of respondents -- 44 percent -- described their level of stress related to holiday expenses as high or extremely high.

Forty-one percent of respondents -- including 50 percent of those in the $75,000 to $99,999 income bracket and 32 percent of those earning $100,000 or more -- said they planned to utilize store layaway programs.

Approximately two-thirds of those surveyed -- 68 percent -- reported they would like to see additional financing options other than from layaway programs and store credit cards.

Half of those surveyed think they will be better off financially one year from now, while 79 percent said they were positive or neutral on the direction of the economy with the majority saying they expect it to get better.

The survey -- conducted during eight days in October -- involved of 1,000 U.S. adults across all income levels who supplement traditional bank accounts with various alternative financial services such as payday loans, prepaid debit cards and direct deposit advances. No margin of error was provided.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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