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March 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM
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Dow slides in early going

NEW YORK, March 13 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes were mixed early Wednesday trading with the Dow blue chip index posting modest losses.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped despite a 1.1 percent rise in U.S. retail sales in February from January.

The U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales rose month with gains beating expectations, which predicted a 0.5 percent increase.

Analysts are pondering the standard question of how long a winning streak can last, assuming markets are due for a reality check and possibly a correction, which is defined as a 10 percent drop from a recent peak.

The recent peak isn't hard to find. The DJIA set its sixth consecutive closing high record at 14,450.06 points.

In late morning trading Wednesday, the DJIA gave up 7.99 points or 0.06 percent, to 14,442.07. The Standard and Poor's 500 index added 0.51 points or 0.03 percent to 1,553.25. The Nasdaq composite gained 1.51 points or 0.05 percent to 3,243.83.

The 10-year U.S. treasury bonds fell 8/32 to yield 2.049 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro fell to $1.2944 from Tuesday's $1.3033. Against the yen, the dollar was higher at 96.18 yen from 96.09 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 shed 0.61 percent, 75.15 points to 12,239.66.

Cathay Pacific 2012 profits down 83.3%

HONG KONG, March 13 (UPI) -- Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Group Wednesday reported its 2012 profits fell 83.3 percent from 2011, citing high fuel costs and weak air cargo demand.

Although 2012 revenues rose 1 percent from 2011 to $12.81 billion, 2012 profits fell to $118 million, from $709 million in 2011. Earnings per share were down 83 percent to 3 cents.

"In 2012 the group's core business was adversely affected by the high price of jet fuel, pressure on passenger yields and weak air cargo demand," the company said.

"Economic uncertainty, particularly in the eurozone countries and an increasingly competitive environment added to the difficulties. It was a challenging year for the aviation industry generally. The group's share of profits from associated companies, including Air China, showed a marked decline."

Cathay said its two airlines carried a total of 29 million people in 2012.

"The Cathay Pacific Group operates in a volatile and challenging industry, one that will always be highly susceptible to external factors that remain largely beyond our control," Cathay Pacific Chairman Christopher Pratt said.

"The cost of fuel remains the biggest challenge, particularly for an airline such as ours where long-haul operations form a significant part of our total operations."

He said the company has taken the right measures to deal with current challenges and will take similar steps if business environment doesn't improve.

"Our focus will remain on protecting the business and managing short-term difficulties while remaining committed to our long-term strategy," he said. "Our financial position remains strong and we will continue to invest in the future."

WFTU: Billionaires owe thanks to workers

ATHENS, Greece, March 13 (UPI) -- The World Federations of Trade Unions in Greece said Wednesday the world's 1,426 billionaires owed their success to the global labor force.

"Let us remind ourselves that these riches could not have been accumulated without the most vital means of production: The labor force," the WFTU said in a statement.

The WFTU said there were 1,426 billionaires on the Forbes Magazine list of the world's richest people for 2013 and that their wealth had grown $800 billion since 2012 and reached a total net worth of $5.4 trillion.

By comparison, the WFTU said 80 percent of the world's population lives on $10 per day.

"These billionaires are only appropriating the product of the social work and exploiting the natural resources that belong to the people," the organization said.

"While these billionaires are celebrating in their jets and swimming pools, there is an 80 percent of the population that lives with under $10 a day. ... While some many millions of them live in slums, are still illiterate, lack sufficient access to clean water and adequate medical services," the group said, urging support for trade unions to rebalance the world's wealth.

Japan may join TPP free trade talks

TOKYO, March 13 (UPI) -- Japan may announce this week its participation in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, a source told Kyodo News

The report Wednesday quoted a government source that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to make the announcement Friday. The report said Abe would hope to get backing for his decision at a weekend meeting of his Liberal Democratic Party.

The Japanese development comes as the 16th round of the TPP talks for the regional economic integration of participating nations continued in Singapore. Participating countries are the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Those countries' combined gross domestic product exceeds $21 trillion.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has said the participation of Canada and Mexico, the two largest trading partners of the United States, adds "significantly to the economic importance of the agreement as well as to establishing TPP as the most promising pathway to promote regional economic integration and to support the creation and retention of U.S. jobs."

Kyodo, quoting a source close the negotiations, said some countries at the Singapore meeting expressed concern over Japan's policy of seeking exemptions to tariff eliminations for items such as some farm produce.

The report said that those taking part in the Singapore round, however, would likely request Japan to go along with what has been agreed in earlier rounds. TPP calls for elimination of tariffs on all trade items.

In Japan, there are concerns the TPP would cause cheaper foreign goods to flood Japan.

Abe, described as a conservative keen on strengthening Japan-U.S. relations, returned as prime minister in December after his LDP party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. Japan's farming industry has traditionally supported the LDP.

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