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Jan. 31, 2008 at 11:05 AM
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U.S. markets slide

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes fell Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve cut fund rates by 50 basis points.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 31.22 points, or 0.25 percent, to 12,411.61 in mid-morning trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 was down 2.81points to 1,353.00, off 0.21 percent.

The Nasdaq composite was down 8.18 points to 2,340.82, off 0.35 percent.

The 10-year Treasury note was down 7/32 Thursday morning, yielding 3.709 percent.

The dollar lost ground. The euro traded at $1.4867, compared to $14773 Wednesday. The dollar traded at 106.57 yen, from 107.08 yen Wednesday.

In Japan, the Nikkei closed Thursday at 13,592.47, up 247.44 points, or 1.2 percent.

Initial unemployment claims rise

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Initial claims for unemployment benefits increased to 375,000 for the week ending Jan. 26, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday.

The seasonally adjusted figure was an increase of 69,000 compared with the week ending Jan 19. The 4-week average of initial claims also increased, hitting an average of 325,750, an increase of 10,250.

The number of actual initial claims under state programs for the week ending Jan. 26 totaled 366,891, a decrease of 48,258 from the previous week, but up from the 359,959 claims filed under state jobless programs in the fourth week of January 2006.

New claims filed by former federal civilian employees for the week ending Jan. 19 dropped to 1,540, which was 710 less than the previous week, the department said.

Senate raises ante on stimulus package

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate Finance Committee approved a $157 billion economic stimulus package that includes significant differences from a House-approved measure.

The Senate is to consider the $146 billion package the U.S. House of Representatives approved Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.

The House plan was worked out with the Bush administration but the Senate's package includes payments to 20 million low-income senior citizens and 250,000 disabled veterans, which the House version excludes.

The Senate's version raises the cap on individual eligibility from $75,000 to $150,000 and for couples from $150,000 to $300,000.

The House version could get checks in the mail in May. But, Finance Committee member, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said, "concern with timing must be weighed against the question of the quality of the House bill."

Two other Republicans on the committee, Olympia Stowe of Maine and Gordon Smith form Oregon backed the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is reportedly planning a filibuster, however, to push the House version through.

"We have to thread the needle here," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said. "We want to improve the bill, but we don't want to take it so far from the House bill that we slow it down."

USDA investigates animal cruelty charges

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an investigation into charges of inhumane treatment of disabled cattle at a California slaughterhouse.

The Humane Society of the United States said it had videotaped workers at the Westland Meat Co. slaughterhouse in Chino, Calif., kicking sick or injured cows, ramming them with the blades of a forklift, and even jabbing them in their eyes in attempts to force the animals to walk to slaughter.

"I am deeply concerned about the allegations made regarding inhumane handling of non-ambulatory disabled cattle in a federally inspected slaughter establishment," said Agriculture Department Secretary Ed Schafer. He said the Westland Meat Co.'s federal contract had been indefinitely suspended pending completion of the investigation.

"This torture is right out of the waterboarding manual," said society President Wayne Pacelle. "Our government simply must act quickly both to guarantee the most basic level of humane treatment for farm animals and to protect America's most vulnerable people, our children, needy families and the elderly from potentially dangerous food."

The company issued a statement saying it was "shocked, saddened and sickened" by the videotape. The company said it had fired the two employees involved and suspended their supervisor.

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