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Feb. 4, 2013 at 9:03 PM   |   Comments

Markets retreat Monday

NEW YORK, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The Dow Jones industrial average ducked under 14,000 Monday after closing above the psychological benchmark Friday.

Friday marked the Dow's highest close since Oct.12, 2007. But that quickly eroded Monday after the Census Bureau said factory orders rose less than expected in December, climbing 1.8 percent over November. Economists had predicted a rise of 2.2 percent.

By close of trading, the Dow gave up 129.71 points or 0.93 percent to 13,880.08. The Nasdaq index shed 47.93 points or 1.51 percent to 3,131.17.

The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 17.46 points or 1.15 percent to 1,495.71.

At the New York Stock Exchange, 663 stocks advanced and 2,400 declined on a volume of 3.3 billion shares traded.

The 10-year treasury note was yielding 1.959 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro was $1.3511 from Friday's $1.3651. The dollar was 92.16 yen from 92.78 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 0.62 percent, 69.01 points, to 11,260.35.

In London, the FTSE 100 index dropped 1.58 percent, 100.40 points, to 6,246.84.


Britain seeks to get tough on banks

BOURNEMOUTH, England, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said a new law would allow finance regulators to force banks to divide retail and investment banking.

The New York Times reported Monday Osborne criticized the bank bailouts in a speech in Bournemouth, a coastal city in the south of England.

"Irresponsible behavior was rewarded, failure was bailed out, and the innocent -- people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the banks -- suffered," Osborne said.

Britain has bailed out several of the nation's largest banks and watched others face up to major scandals for money laundering and manipulation of benchmark lending rates.

"No more rewards for failure. No more too big to fail. No more taxpayers forking out for the mistakes of others," Osborne said in his speech.

British bank Barclays has already paid $450 million to British and U.S. regulators for attempting to manipulate the Libor or London inter-bank offered rate, an average of interest rates banks charge each other for loans.

The Royal Bank of Scotland, 82 percent owned by the British government, is expected to be the next bank to settle charges of Libor manipulation and the fine is expected to be $650 million.

The series of scandals has fueled the political reaction to the banks' role in the financial crisis and the new measures submitted to Parliament Monday anticipate the possibility that banks will try to dodge efforts to reduce risks by separating depositor funds from capital used for risky speculation, the Times reported.

Osborne said banks will have to appoint an executive to oversee the separation of retail and investment operations.

Bankers, however, complained that the measures will make it harder for banks to raise capital, which in turn will make it harder for them to make loans.

"This will create uncertainty for investors, making it more difficult for banks to raise capital, which will ultimately mean that banks will have less money to lend to businesses," said Anthony Browne, chief executive officer of the British Bankers' Association in a statement.


Government goes after S&P

NEW YORK, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. government has plans to file charges against credit rating firm Standard & Poor's for misleading bond ratings, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

State prosecutors may also sign onto the case that would be the first charging a credit rating agency with illegal actions that allegedly contributed to the housing market collapse that undermined the financial system in 2008, leading to a financial crisis and a nearly global economic downturn.

The Journal reported Monday the case is likely to be filed this week and will center on the model the rating agency used to evaluate mortgage bonds.

The basic model includes banks that bundle mortgage securities paying the ratings agencies for their services. As such, there is a built-in system that provides economic incentive for ratings firms to judge the securities as good investments.

The ratings firms, theoretically the watchdogs of the financial system, have been criticized for failing to predict the housing market collapse.

The federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that was charged with finding the causes of the economic downturn called the ratings agencies "key enablers of the financial meltdown."

The rating agencies have traditionally argued, with long-standing success in the judicial system, that their conclusions are opinions protected by the First Amendment.

A federal judge in New York, however, refused to accept that argument last year, sending a case filed by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank against S&P and Moody's Investors Service to trial. That trial is scheduled to begin in May, the Journal reported.


Price at the pump soars in S. California

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The price of gasoline jumped in Southern California last week, with gains averaging 26.1 cents per gallon in Orange County, AAA said.

AAA's Fuel Gauge Report said the price of gasoline rose 24.8 cents in Los Angeles Monday to Monday with the average price in the state jumping 23.4 cents over the past seven days.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the state's average increase, which beat the national average price increase by 6 cents, was due in part delayed refinery maintenance, which was put off last fall so refineries could keep operating when the price of gasoline in California reached a record $4.671 per gallon.

"California has a lot more planned refinery maintenance than it usually has at this time of year and most of that is concentrated in Southern California," said Denton Cinquegrana, executive editor of the Oil Price Information Service, which monitors gasoline prices from more than 100,000 gas stations across the United States.

In a related story, the Times said that 38 percent of U.S. consumers indicated they were more likely now than in the past to consider using a gasoline discount program offered by retailers.

A significant percentage of consumers indicated that brand loyalty still played a part in their choice of gasoline purchases. More than 33 percent indicated the price difference per gallon would have to be 11 cents or more before they would switch gasoline brands.

NPD Group surveyed 3,740 consumers and concluded that consumers were more apt to demand value from their retailers. "Clearly fuel discounts are a game changer in today's market," said gasoline industry analyst Dave Portalatin at NPD.

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