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Feb. 27, 2013 at 6:29 PM
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Dow within reach of record close

NEW YORK, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes rose Wednesday pushing the Dow Jones industrial average within reach of its October 2007 record close of 14,164.63 points.

The blue chip index closed Wednesday at 14,075.37 points, up 1.26 percent on a gain of 175.24 points. It was the second consecutive day of solid gains.

Investors were buoyed by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's defense Tuesday of the central bank's monetary policies and a bond auction in Italy that found strong demand.

By close of trading Wednesday, the Standard and Poor's 500 added 19.05 points, or 1.27 percent, to 1,515.99. The Nasdaq composite added 32.61 points, or 1.04 percent, to 3,162.26.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,311 stocks advanced and 731 declined on a volume of 3.5 billion shares traded.

Investors shrugged off a U.S. Commerce Department report that said new durable goods orders declined 5.2 percent in January, a sharper drop than expected.

The 10-year U.S. treasury fell 5/32 to yield 1.904 percent.

Against the dollar the euro rose to $1.3137 from Tuesday's $1.3061. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 92.18 yen from 91.98 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 dropped 1.27 percent, 144.84 points, to 11,253.97.

In London, the FTSE 100 index gained 0.88 percent, 55.44 points, to 6,325.88.

Hyundai settles false advertising lawsuits

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. has agreed to settle class-action lawsuits over exaggerated fuel efficiency ratings for its cars, court papers say.

The Detroit News reported Wednesday that Hyundai would offer car owners a cash settlement or a voucher for another car purchase worth half again as much -- or 150 percent -- of the cash settlement.

The payment to owners is to be calibrated based on the extra fuel costs incurred while driving a car that did not live up to its advertised fuel efficiency rating plus 15 percent.

Hyundai explained the settlement through an example. The original owner of a Hyundai vehicle in Florida would receive an $88 refund in 2013 and additional refunds for as long as they own the same car. The example is based a car that is driven 15,000 miles per year.

If the owner of the Hyundai is not the original owner, the settlement is half of what the original owner would get, the News reported.

Hyundai based its advertising on a slogan of "4 for 40," which meant it produced four brands of cars it said had fuel efficiency ratings of 40 miles per gallon or more.

In November, however, Hyundai and related automaker Kia admitted they had exaggerated fuel efficiency claims, which amounts to false advertising for 1.1 million vehicles sold in North America since 2010, the majority of those in the United States.

The two companies have put aside $400 million to cover the class-action lawsuits, 38 of which were filed.

Kia is reviewing the settlement, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Maryland court exonerates ExxonMobile

BALTIMORE, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- ExxonMobil Corp. was not guilty of fraud involving an underground gasoline leak in Baltimore County, Maryland's highest court has ruled.

The court said the company's response to the spill was "imperfect, however, does not rise (to the level of) fraud."

With its ruling, the court cancels out much of the $1.65 billion in judgments against the company, including funds that were to go to monitoring health problems in the area and damages assigned to cover emotional trauma, The Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday.

The underground leak spewed 26,000 gallons of gasoline into the environment in Jacksonville, Md.

A lower court ruled in 2011 that ExxonMobil was guilty of fraud and ordered the company to compensate victims with $1 billion in punitive damages out of a total award of $1.5 billion.

"The evidence showed that we acted appropriately after the accident and the court has agreed," ExxonMobil spokesman Charlie Engelmann wrote in an email.

"We have apologized to the Jacksonville community and we remain ready to compensate those who were truly damaged by this unfortunate accident. We will continue the cleanup," Engelmann said.

Jacksonville resident Susan Lazzaro said the ruling left the plaintiffs "in a state of shock."

"We absolutely did not expect this. It leaves us with such a sense of defeat because we are still living with this nightmare," she said.

JPMorgan to slice up to 19,000 jobs

NEW YORK, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- JPMorgan Chase & Co., the United States' largest bank, says it will slash up to 19,000 jobs over the next two years.

The New York bank announced its workforce reduction plan Tuesday, the same day it reported a third straight year of record net income, The Washington Times reported.

JPMorgan said it will shed 4,000 jobs this year as it reshapes itself, the newspaper said. Most of the job cuts -- 13,000-15,000 -- will come in its mortgage unit, while another 3,000-4,000 will occur in its community banking unit by the end of 2014.

JPMorgan cut 1,200 jobs last year.

"You hire a whole bunch of people to do foreclosures, the foreclosures go down, and you don't need them anymore," said Dick Bove, a banking analyst with Rafferty Capital Markets in New York.

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