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U.S. stocks close in a split

NEW YORK, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes were mixed Thursday in New York, despite positive economic data.


The Nasdaq index of tech-oriented stock dropped 0.74 percent, or 23.29 points, to 3,130.38 at the close. The DJIA gave up some early gains, but remained positive, adding 46 points, or 0.33 percent, to 13,825.33.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.01 points, less than 0.01, to close the day at 1,494.82.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,698 stocks advanced and 1,330 declined on a volume of 3.6 billion shares traded.

Positive data came from the Conference Board's Leading Indicator Index, which climbed 0.5 percent in December, ahead of expectations. The Labor Department said 5,000 fewer first-time unemployment benefit claims were filed in the week, adding to a drop of 37,000 in the previous week.

Markit Economics added to the encouraging news. The research firm said the U.S. manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index jumped in January with new orders climbing at the fastest month-to-month pace in 32 months.

The 10-year treasury note fell 7/32 to yield 1.852 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro was $1.3368 from Wednesday's $1.3318. The dollar rose against the yen, hitting 89.9 yen from 88.62 yen.


In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index gained 1.28 percent, 133.88 points, to 10,620.87.

In London, the FTSE 100 index added 1.09 percent, 67.27 points, to 6,264.91.

Obama nominates two chief regulators

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- President Obama nominated two regulatory chiefs Thursday to take charge of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Obama chose former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White to serve as chairwoman of the SEC and Richard Cordray to continue as head of the CFPB.

Obama introduced White in a lighthearted manner, saying she was "a big fan of the Hardy Boys," when she was young, adding, "I was, too, by the way."

He then said White had "built a career the Hardy Boys could only dream of."

White is a former federal prosecutor who litigated high profile terrorist cases, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

She took on "white-collar criminals and money launderers," Obama said, adding, "in the early 1990s, she brought down John Gotti, the head of the Gambino crime syndicate."


"As one former SEC chairman said, Mary Jo 'does not intimidate easily,'" the president said.

Obama said the country needs to press forward with financial reform and he was "absolutely confident that Mary Jo has the experience and the resolve to tackle these complex issues."

White said if confirmed by Congress, "I would welcome the opportunity to lead" in efforts "to protect investors and to ensure the strength, efficiency, and the transparency of our capital markets."

Obama praised Cordray for leading the CFPB in its first year, a position he took on an interim basis as Republicans refused to confirm his appointment the first time around.

"Over the past year, Richard proved to be a champion of American consumers," Obama said.

"Financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests. The American people need Richard to keep standing up for them," Obama said.

"We understand that our mission is to stand on the side of consumers -- our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters -- and see that they're treated fairly," Cordray said.

The CFPB is a new agency born of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul act.

White would take over the SEC from Mary Schapiro, who was charged with pulling the SEC through the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.


Before Schapiro took over, the SEC was accused of being asleep at the wheel, missing several cues to stop infamous Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff and failing to prevent abuses that contributed to the financial crisis.

The CFPB is carving its niche in the regulatory landscape.

The bureau has created new lending rules and initiated steps to control debt collectors.

"Thanks to his (Cordray's) leadership, we've made it tougher for families to be tricked into mortgages they can't afford," Obama said.

Former Humana exec admits taking kickbacks

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A former Humana Inc. sales manager pleaded guilty in Kentucky Thursday to taking $2 million in kickbacks but his lawyer called the matter a victimless crime.

James Wenger Jr. was charged along with another former Humana sales manager, Glenn Fine of Louisville, Ky., with violating Kentucky commercial bribery law by setting up a deal with Shep Cutler, the chief executive officer of Cutler & Associates, an insurance brokerage in Columbia, S.C. Wenger and Fine were charged with a federal violation for doing so across state lines.

The two agreed to steer agents who would sell Humana insurance products to Cutler's company and his business partner, Don McNerney, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal reported Thursday. Wenger and Fine set up fictitious businesses and each received $2,089,475 from Cutler between 2006 and 2010.


As part of his guilty plea, Wenger agreed to pay $100,000 to Humana and to give up $900,000 in ill-gotten gains to the government. Fine's attorney, Scott Cox, said his client would likely plead guilty in February.

Wenger's lawyer, Robert Eckard, called the payments referral fees and said "there was no victim" since Humana "made a lot of money from the work of" Wenger and Fine.

Humana has said it was "a victim of Fine and Wenger's fraudulent conduct. They abused their positions at Humana to profit personally at the expense of the company."

Eckard said prosecutors had contended Humana's losses were limited to legal fees and the cost of investigating Wenger and Fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lettricea Jefferson-Webb said Humana was the victim of a crime but declined to discuss the extent of the company's losses, the Courier-Journal said.

Cutler's lawyer, Guthrie True, said, the payments were not bribes or kickbacks.

The charges carry a possible sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Judge Charles Simpson said he would hold off on sentencing Wenger because Wenger has been cooperating with the government.

Older women set pace in labor force gains

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The Census Bureau said Thursday women 65 years old or older made up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce.


From 1990 to 2010, women 65 and older experienced a 4.1 percentage point increase in labor force participation, the bureau said in a news release.

By comparison, women age 16 through 64 experienced a 1.9 percentage point increase, men older than 65 experienced a 3.2 percentage point increase and men age 16 to 64 experienced a 5.2 percentage point decline.

"As with all age groups, the increase in labor force participation of women has been a driving factor for this overall trend," said Braedyn Kromer, an analyst in the Census Bureau's Labor Force Statistics Branch.

Overall, the percentage of people 65 years old or older who were in the workforce stood at 12.1 percent in 1990. By 2010, that had increased to 16.1 percent, the bureau said.

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