SEC alleges foreign currency Ponzi scheme
WASHINGTON, July 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against the head of a purported foreign currency trading firm, alleging he ran a Ponzi scheme.
The SEC alleged Jeffery Lowrance, who led First Capital Savings & Loan, raised $21 million from investors in at least 26 states and promised monthly returns of up to 7.15 percent through foreign currency trading, the watchdog agency said Friday in a release.
The SEC filed the fraud charges Thursday. The agency said Lowrance, who fled to Peru and was arrested there earlier this year, used most of the money to fund a start-up newspaper called "USA Tomorrow," according to the SEC.
"Lowrance ironically portrayed himself as a crusader against corruption in government, while he ripped off investors who put their trust in him," said Marc Fagel, director of the SEC's San Francisco regional office.
Lowrance's scheme began to fall apart in June 2008 and he and First Capital had lost all of the investors' money by September 2008, the SEC said. Still, Lowrance solicited at least an additional $1 million from at least 36 investors between June 2008 and February 2009 by pushing First Capital's fictitious high returns, the SEC alleged.
The SEC's lawsuit asked for court orders to bar the defendants from engaging in securities fraud and to require them to disgorge their ill-gotten gains and pay financial penalties.
Crude oil finishes the week on up note
NEW YORK, July 15 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices closed up Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, adding $1.55 to settle at $97.24 a barrel.
The bounce followed a 2.4 percent loss Thursday.
Other energy commodities futures followed crude oil's lead Friday.
Home heating oil added 3 cents to close at $3.12 a gallon.
Gasoline gained less than a penny to end the trading session at $3.13 a gallon.
Natural gas closed up 17 cents to $4.55 per million British thermal units.
At the pump, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline Friday was $3.667, up from Thursday's $3.655.
U.S. stock indexes hold on to gains
NEW YORK, July 15 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes wobbled but never fell Friday, closing up as strong earnings reports by Google and Citibank overcame concern about the nation's debt.
The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 25.34 points, or 0.34 percent, to close the trading at 12,479.73.
The Nasdaq added 25.50 points, or 0.92 percent, 2,788.17.
The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 7.27 points, or 0.56 percent, 1,316.14.
Upbeat earnings results from Google and Citibank, which helped boost investor sentiment, came as Standard & Poor's warned Thursday there was a 50-50 chance it would lower the AAA bond rating on U.S. debt within three months if the debt ceiling isn't raised by Aug. 2.
In other domestic economic news, the Consumer Price Index for June fell 0.2 percent from May. U.S. industrial production increased 0.2 percent during the same period.
The listed volume on the New York Stock Exchange was 3.48 billion shares.
The 10-year treasury note was 2.91 percent.
The euro was $1.4144, down from $1.4143 Thursday. Against the yen, the dollar was 79.07 yen, down from 79.0845 yen Thursday.
In London, the FTSE 100 closed at 5,843.66, down 3.29 points.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei Average closed at 9.972.59, up 36.47.
China battles rising pork prices
BEIJING, July 15 (UPI) -- The Chinese government says it will release more pork reserves onto the market in an effort to curb rising prices.
The Ministry of Commerce said pork prices have risen 38 percent from the beginning of the year in 36 major Chinese cities, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported Friday.
The dramatic increase in pork prices this year was the result of higher feedstuff prices and labor costs and lower pig numbers due to cheap pork prices over the past two years, ministry spokesman Yao Jian said.
China's central government had about 200,000 tons of pork reserves, he said, and more would be released onto the market.
The price of pork has become a major driver for rising consumer prices as the country Consumer Price Index jumped 6.4 percent in June, the highest level in two years, Xinhua said.
The central government has announced a new fiscal support policy to increase the supply of live pigs, including an investment of $384 million in large-scale pig farms and more subsidies for farmers raising pigs.