Dow closes at nearly 5-year high
NEW YORK, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The Dow Jones closed at its highest level since October 2007 Tuesday as investors resumed trading on the New York Stock Exchange after a long weekend.
In late afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average picked up 53.91 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 14,035.67
The Standard & Poor's 500 added 11.15 points, or 0.7 percent, to finish at 1,530.94 points.
The Nasdaq gained 21.56 points, or 0.7 percent, to finish at 3,213.59 points.
"You don't get a pullback just because you've had a nice run," Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab Corp., told The Wall Street Journal. "You need a catalyst and we haven't had that yet. This market, in the absence of any bad news, wants to go up."
On the New York Stock Exchange, the total share volume was 3.74 billion shares, with advancers leading decliners 2.52 billion shares to 1.18 billion shares.
The 10-year U.S. treasury yielded 2.032 in late afternoon trading.
Against the euro, the dollar was 1.3387 from $1.3362 on Friday. Against the yen, the dollar was 93.54 yen Tuesday from 93.52 yen Friday.
In London, the FTSE 100 closed at 6,379.07 points, up 60.88 points.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed at 11,372.34 points, off 35.53.
Novartis yanks chairman's compensation
ZURICH, Switzerland, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis Tuesday retracted its $78 million separation package for its chairman after shareholders and Swiss politicians complained.
Novartis said its board and Chairman Daniel Vasella agreed to cancel the compensation agreement, which included a six-year, non-compete clause, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The deal was to have taken effect Friday, when Vasella, 59, intends to exit the company at its annual shareholder meeting, the newspaper said.
A Novartis spokesman said Vasella would still receive some compensation tied to his past performance.
"We believe the decision to cancel the agreement and all related compensation addresses the concerns of shareholders and other stakeholders," Novartis Vice Chairman Ulrich Lehner said, adding the company's directors "understood the importance of full transparency and will strengthen its efforts in this regard."
The lucrative package had elicited some harsh criticism, The New York Times had reported Monday. Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga was quoted as saying the size of the pay was an "enormous blow for the social cohesion of our country."
The sum was "beyond evil," said Christian Democratic People's Party President Christophe Darbellay.
The severance plan was revealed just two weeks before Swiss voters are to decide a referendum that would give shareholders power of deciding executive pay.
Transocean to pay $1B fine for oil spill
NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The owners of a drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico will pay a $1 billion civil fine for the ensuing record oil leak, a federal judge said.
The fine is part of a settlement reached between the government and Transocean Ltd., the Swiss company that owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon rig for British oil producer BP that exploded, killing 11 workers and leading to the uncontrolled 87-day leak that spilled more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the gulf.
The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Tuesday Transocean also has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges that it violated the Clean Water Act. A fine of $400 million was levied by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche, the largest such criminal fine ever under the Clean Water Act.
Congress passed a law last year requiring that at least 80 percent of any fines, settlements or jury awards relating to the gulf oil spill be spent on economic restoration projects in the region.
China says trade with North Korea normal
BEIJING, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Chinese trade with North Korea hasn't been affected by the North's recent nuclear test, observers told the China Daily.
However, the official newspaper Tuesday quoted other Chinese observers that the Feb. 12 nuclear test, North Korea's third since 2006, could adversely affect its two economic zones.
North Korea is under tight U.N. economic sanctions and its latest test was widely condemned by the international community, including China.
China, North Korea's only major ally, is its largest trading partner. Official Chinese data show bilateral trade, which totaled nearly $6 billion in 2011, has been increasing annually since 2000. China's investment in North Korea's non-financial sectors reached $300 million at the end of 2011, while the North's total investment in China was $100 million in various industries, including catering.
China's main imports from North Korea are coal, ores, woven apparel, fish and seafood, while its exports include electrical machinery, vehicles and iron and steel. China is also a major supplier of petroleum to North Korea.
Qian Yingchun, general manager of Tongyi Co., a trading company at the border city of Dandong in China's Liaoning province, told China Daily trade with North Korea has been "operating as usual" since the test. His company has been exporting Chinese construction materials, metals, general merchandise and furniture to the North for 15 years.
China Daily said cross-border trade in Dandong accounts for more than 80 percent of the countries' trade.
Sang Baichuan, at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, told China Daily the nuclear test has led to suspension of expansion of two economic zones.
Wang Yuzhu at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the nuclear test could adversely affect North Korea's economy.
"Unilateral sanctions [by China], if introduced, will hit [North Korea] very hard, as the country is less developed in agriculture and industrialization," he said.
But Dong Manyuan at the China Institute of International Studies dismissed the chance of unilateral sanctions from China since Beijing opposes such measures.