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Jan. 4, 2013 at 12:15 PM
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Stocks idle Friday

NEW YORK, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. markets were flat Friday after the Labor Department said the unemployment rate stayed at 7.8 percent and 155,000 jobs were added in December.

The Census Bureau said new factory orders rose for the sixth month out of the past seven in November, but the gain was marginal. A $200 million gain to $477.6 billion came out to less than 0.1 percent.

In early afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 20.92 points or 0.16 percent to 13,412.28. The Nasdaq gained 3.07 points or 0.1 percent to 3,103.64. The Standard and Poor's gained 4.28 points or 0.29 percent to 1,463.65.

The 10-year treasury note was off 3/32 to yield 1.933 percent.

The euro fell to $1.3047 from Thursday's $1.3049. The dollar rose to 88.18 yen from 87.24 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index gained 2.82 percent or 292.93 points to 10,688.11.

In London, the FTSE 100 index gained 0.7 percent, 42.50 points, to 6,089.84.

U.S. jobless rate steady at 7.8 percent

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. unemployment rate held steady in December at 7.8 percent, with 155,000 new non-farm jobs added, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

The rate was a 0.1 point increase from the initial unemployment figure reported in November that later was revised to 7.8 percent.

The BLS said the bright spots in the economy were in healthcare, food services and drinking establishments, construction and manufacturing, but the number of jobs added was less than economists had predicted.

"While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the woulds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression," said White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger.

Kruerger said the American Taxpayer Relief Act passed this week would reduce the federal deficit by $737 billion over 10 years and help the middle class "as we dig our way out of the deep hole."

The payroll firm Automatic Data Processing said Thursday the U.S. economy had added 215,000 non-farm private sector jobs in December.

The statistics indicate 12.2 million people had jobs last month, little changed from November.

Unemployment among adult women was 7.3 percent; adult men 7.2 percent; blacks 14 percent; whites 6.9 percent; teens 23.5 percent; Hispanics 9.6 percent; and Asians 6.6 percent.

About 4.8 million people -- 39.1 percent of the unemployed -- had been without jobs for 27 weeks or more.

The number of people involuntarily working part-time stood at 7.9 million.

Some 2.6 million people were "marginally attached" to the labor force, meaning they wanted and were available for work but not actively looking.

For the year, job growth averaged 153,000 jobs per month.

Factory orders rose slightly in November

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. factory orders for manufactured goods rose marginally in November, climbing for the sixth month out of the past seven, the Census Bureau said Friday.

New orders were up by 0.1 percent, increasing by $200 million to $477.6 billion.

The gain fell short of October's increase of 0.8 percent and September's gain of 4.5 percent. The figure also failed to match the consensus expectation, which predicted a gain of 0.4 percent.

New orders for durable goods -- items expected to last three years or more -- rose by $1.7 billion, or 0.8 percent, to $220.9, but orders for non-durable goods dropped 0.6 percent, or by $1.5 billion, to $256.7 billion.

Among durable goods, new orders for machinery had the largest increase, with orders up 3 percent, or $900 million, to $31.9 billion.

New orders for big-ticket transportation slipped. Excluding transportation orders, new factory orders rose 0.2 percent.

Swiss bank to close after guilty plea

ST. GALLEN, Switzerland, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Wegelin, a Swiss bank founded in 1741, said it would close its bank operations after pleading guilty to helping hide $1.2 billion from U.S. tax authorities.

The 272-year-old bank agreed to pay $57.8 million to settle charges that it helped U.S. citizens hide assets from the IRS and said in a statement, "once the matter is finally concluded, Wegelin will cease to operate as a bank."

Swiss lender Raiffeisen purchased most of Wegelin's business in 2012, setting up the possibility the bank would close, The Financial Times reported Friday.

While pleading guilty on behalf of the bank in a court appearance Thursday, Otto Bruderer, a managing partner of Wegelin, said the bank "intentionally opened and maintained non W-9 accounts for these taxpayers with the knowledge that, by doing so, Wegelin was assisting these taxpayers in violating their legal duties."

"Wegelin was aware that this conduct was wrong," he said.

The $57.8 million settlement includes $20 million for restitution, $15.8 million in forfeited fees the bank earned from clients it was helping evade taxes and a fine of $22 million, the Times reported.

The case is part of an extended investigation that began when a former UBS banker turned whistle blower helped U.S. authorities challenge UBS on helping U.S. taxpayers hide assets from the IRS. That case ended with UBS paying $570 million in a settlement and turning over the names of thousands of clients to authorities, which shattered a long-established pledge of secrecy among Swiss banks.

Currently, U.S. authorities are investigating Swiss banks Julius Baer and Credit Suisse for possible tax evasion schemes.

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