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Nov. 19, 2012 at 8:24 PM
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Stocks post big gains Monday

NEW YORK, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. stock markets pivoted on news from Washington Monday with investors cheered as lawmakers voiced confidence the "fiscal cliff" could be avoided.

Talks between Republicans and the White House Friday ended with lawmakers cooing about the mood of cooperation that has been lacking in previous rounds of budget talks.

Lawmakers have until Jan. 1 to assemble a budget plan that would replace a mandatory set of spending cuts and tax hikes that economists say would throw the U.S. economy back into recession.

Fears the economy would fall off the "fiscal cliff" have undermined markets that have dropped sharply since before the Nov. 6 election. Both the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index are down more than 4.5 percent since the election and down 7 percent or more since the recent peak in late September.

Comments after Friday's meeting helped give stocks a boost in Asia and Europe.

By close of trading Monday, the DJIA added 207.65 points or 1.65 percent to 12,795.96. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 62.94 points or 2.21 percent to 2,916.07. The S&P 500 tacked on 27.01 points or 1.99 percent to 1,386.89.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,728 stocks advanced and 351 declined on a volume of 3.3 billion shares traded.

The benchmark 10-year treasury fell 11/32 to yield 1.617 percent.

The euro rose to $1.2781 from Friday's $1.2743. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 81.34 from 81.31 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index gained 3.66 percent, 323.48 points, to 9,153.20.

In London, the FTSE 100 index added 2.36 percent, 132.07, to 5,737.66.

Murdoch's News Corp. poised to purchase

NEW YORK, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Industry analysts said Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp., is on the prowl for new acquisitions.

Murdoch held back on making new purchases in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal in Britain that forced the closure of News of the World in 2011 after 168 years of publication.

Murdoch may be considering buying the Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune from Tribune Co., which is aiming to climb out of bankruptcy, The New York Times reported Monday.

In addition, News Corp. is about to cement a $3 billion deal with Yankee Global Enterprises to buy 49 percent of Yes Network, the New York area sports network.

"Rupert has his mojo back," media analyst Todd Juenger at Sanford C. Bernstein told the Times.

As the phone hacking scandal recedes from the limelight, News Corp.'s value is rising.

"Investors are happy with the company's recent decisions," Juenger said.

Murdoch, "is definitely rubbing his hands together," a source close to the deals at News Corp. told the Times.

In Murdoch's favor, Britain's Office of Communications in September gave a green light to British Sky Broadcasting for a broadcast license. The company is 39 percent owned by News Corp.

Concurrently, however, News Corp. has dropped a $12 billion bid to buy the portion of British Sky Broadcasting that it does not own, meaning there are resources available for News Corp. to make a bid on something else.

At the same time, News Corp. is expected to lump some of its underperforming publications, including The Wall Street Journal, into a new publicly traded company, the Times reported.

After the phone hacking controversy, the scandal spotlight has now swung over to the British Broadcasting Corp., which was accused of burying a story about program host Jimmy Savile, who has been accused of child molestation and with falsely accusing a member of Margaret Thatcher's administration with pedophilia.

"After Savile scandal, now prominent news program falsely names senior pol as pedophile," Murdoch wrote on Twitter on Nov. 10.

That scandal also affects The New York Times as CEO Mark Thompson was the director general at the BBC, his time there overlapping with the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Hostess and union agree to talk

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Eulogies for Hostess Brands, makers of Twinkies may be premature, as the bakers' union and the company agreed to talk over their differences.

The New York Times reported Monday that Judge Robert Drain of the Federal Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York requested the two sides sit down to talk and possibly save the 82-year-old company that makes Twinkies, Wonder Bread and Hostess Cupcakes.

On Friday, the company filed for permission to liquidate, saying it could not survive a strike by 5,600 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.

Instead of granting permission for a liquidation sale, Drain requested the two sides attempt to negotiate a settlement and said he would mediate a discussion on Tuesday afternoon.

In addition, Marc Leder, co-chief executive officer of Sun Capital Partners, said the investment firm is looking at a possible purchase of the company.

Leder said Sun Capital, which had considered buying Hostess earlier this year, "could offer a slightly better, more labor-friendly deal than what was on the table last week," CNN reported.

Fortune magazine said Leder was considering investing fresh capital into the business.

"We would look to invest newer, more modern manufacturing assets that would enable the company to become more productive and to innovate," Leder said.

A union leader and the company's current CEO Gregory Rayburn had earlier aired competing statements concerning the chance that someone could rescue the brand.

Frank Hurt, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers' International Union, told The Wall Street Journal he thought there was "more than a good chance" a buyer would buy the profitable parts of the Irving, Texas, company and give his union's members their jobs back.

The union said management's insistence on deep union concessions was responsible for the collapse while the company blamed the union's weeklong strike.

In total, a shutdown of the company would result in the loss of more than 18,000 jobs.

"I'm not in a position to promise anybody anything, but I'm in a position to be hopeful," Hurt told the Journal Sunday.

JPMorgan Chase names Lake next CFO

NEW YORK, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- JPMorgan Chase said Marianne Lake, 43, would be its next chief financial officer, making her one of the most powerful women in the U.S. banking industry.

Lake is the current CFO of the bank's consumer and community banking business. She is expected to replace Douglas Braunstein as the bank's CFO as Braunstein transitions to vice chairman of the bank early next year.

Lake is to report to Chief Executive Officer James Dimon. Braunstein had been working under co-Chief Operating Officer Matt Zames, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Dimon said lake is "an outstanding choice for this critically important role."

Lake has "developed an impressive breadth of knowledge and experience in finance across both our wholesale and our consumer businesses -- in the United States and around the world," he said.

By taking the position, Lake joins the inner circle of 14 executives who run JPMorgan Chase, which is currently the largest bank in the country.

There is only one other woman in the so-called operating committee at the present time, Mary Erdoes, the head of JPMorgan's asset management.

By comparison, four of 10 of executives reporting to the CEO at Bank of America are women, while no women are in the tier at Citigroup and only one is on the 11-executive team that runs Morgan Stanley, the Journal said.

Dimon said Monday hiring a woman as CFO was incidental. While "very conscious" that hiring women is important, gender "wasn't a consideration at all -- we were simply looking for the best person for the job," he said in an interview.

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