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UPI NewsTrack Business

March 20, 2013 at 9:14 PM   |   Comments

U.S. markets close with gains

NEW YORK, March 20 (UPI) -- U.S. markets swung higher Wednesday, with investors holding onto gains after the Federal Reserve said it would keep its monetary policy intact.

Investors ignored uncertainly about the $13 billion international bailout offered to Cyprus. Lawmakers in Cyprus overwhelmingly rejected the plan to tax bank deposits as part of the deal worked out in Brussels.

By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 55.91 points, or 0.39 percent, to 14,511.73.

The Nasdaq gained 25.09 points, or 0.78 percent, to 3,254.19.

The Standard and Poor's 500 added 10.37 points, or 0.67 percent, to 1,558.71.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,270 stocks advanced and 780 declined on a volume of 3.3 billion shares traded.

Ten-year U.S. treasury bonds fell 15/32 to yield 1.963 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro was at $1.2935 from Tuesday's $1.2883. Against the yen, the dollar was higher at 96 yen from 95.17 yen.

In London, the FTSE 100 index shed 0.13 percent, 8.62 points, to 6,432.70.


Heating oil firms deny diluting product

NEW YORK, March 20 (UPI) -- Investigators are looking into whether New York suppliers sold heating oil cut with waste oil, posing an environmental health threat, officials said.

Authorities raided at least five heating oil companies March 12, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Within days, some owners of commercial and residential buildings filed lawsuits against oil giant Hess Corp. and Castle Oil Corp., which describes itself as one of the largest heating oil distributors in the metropolitan area.

The companies have denied any wrongdoing. Castle said its products are tested daily at an in-house laboratory and inspected five days a week by city officials.

An attorney filing a lawsuit against Hess said in court Hess may have been an unwitting participant in the illegal manipulation of its products, the Times reported.

A state Supreme Court Justice ordered the companies to cease and desist selling heating oil cut with waste oil.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. -- senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit against Castle -- said burning waste oil in building heating systems could release a barrage of toxic pollutants.

"Basically that company has turned every boiler or furnace it services into a toxic waste incinerator," he said. "When you burn waste oil, there is a tremendous amount not only benzene, toluene and xylene, which are known carcinogens, but in addition there is an inventory of heavy metals that are extremely toxic, including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, antimony and zinc.," Kennedy said.

Authorities raided Statewide Oil & Heating in Brooklyn, which has delivered oil for Hess and Castle at different periods; County Oil Company and J. B. Waste Oil Company in Queens, N.Y.; New York Oil Recovery Corp. in Brooklyn; and Paradise Heating Oil, in Ossining, N.Y., the Times said.

The Internal Revenue Service and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are also investigating, the Times reported.


Police search IMF director's apartment

PARIS, March 20 (UPI) -- Police in Paris said they searched International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde's apartment as part of a probe into an alleged political kickback.

The Los Angeles Times reported the investigation involves the appearance of a monetary reward for a supporter of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Lagarde was Sarkozy's finance minister in 2008, when she referred a 20-year old legal dispute between business tycoon Bernard Tapie and Credit Lyonnais, a bank partly owned by the government, to private arbitration. Critics have said she abused her position by referring the case to arbitration, since the bank was partly owned by taxpayers.

Tapie was awarded $400 million in the dispute, which revolved around the sale of sportswear company Adidas. Tapie was a major shareholder in Adidas and had lost his case in France's highest court, and was planning an appeal, when Lagarde stepped in and assigned the case to a private arbitrator.

Lagarde approved the $400 million settlement, which she said at the time was the "best solution" to the dispute.

She has denied any wrongdoing. Her attorney Yves Repiquet said Wednesday the search of her apartment would "contribute to the exoneration of my client of any criminal wrongdoing."

Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF director after he resigned in 2011 amid allegations he sexually assaulted a maid in a New York hotel. Charges in that case were later withdrawn.

Lagarde may have to resign the IMF job if investigators initiate a full inquiry, the Times said.


Michigan hits Google with $3.1M tax lien

LANSING, Mich., March 20 (UPI) -- Tax authorities in Michigan have hit Google Inc. with a $3.1 million tax lien, public records show.

The Lansing State Journal reported Wednesday that neither tax authorities nor Google would comment on the liens, which involve tax assessments of $1.7 million and $1.4 million.

It was not known whether or not the liens are connected to a 20-year, $38 million tax break the company received based on the company's pledge to hire 1,000 workers at its Ann Arbor offices over five years.

Google made the pledge in 2006, but missed the benchmark measure of 1,000 additional workers, the newspaper said.

"Treasury cannot publicly discuss or otherwise disclose information about particular liens," said Terry Stanton, a spokesman for the department.

"We're not commenting on the lien," said Matt Kallman, Google's communications and public affairs manager in an email.

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