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March 13, 2013 at 6:45 PM
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Dow makes it 9 straight gains

NEW YORK, March 13 (UPI) -- A stronger than expected retail report helped keep a winning streak on Wall Street alive Wednesday, as the Dow index hit a seventh consecutive all-time peak.

The Dow Jones industrial average, which started the day in the red, added 5.22 points or 0.04 percent to 14,455.28, its seventh consecutive record high and its ninth consecutive day in the black.

The U.S. Commerce Department gave stocks a boost with a retail report that said sales rose 1.1 percent month-to-month with gains beating expectations, which predicted a 0.5 percent increase.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index added 2.04 points, or 0.13 percent, to 1,554.52. The Nasdaq composite gained 2.80 points, or 0.09 percent, to 3,245.12.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,730 stocks advanced and 1,331 declined on a volume of 3 billion shares traded.

The 10-year U.S. treasury bonds fell 1/32 to yield 2.023 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro fell to $1.2958 from Tuesday's $1.3033. Against the yen, the dollar was higher at 96.12 yen from 96.09 yen.

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

In London, the FTSE 100 index shed 0.59 percent, 38.10 points, to 6,472.52.

Nevada refuses to settle with Lehman Bros.

CARSON CITY, Nev., March 13 (UPI) -- A state panel in Nevada declined to vote on a proposed settlement for a lawsuit brought on by the collapsed financial firm Lehman Brothers.

A summary judgment has already been decided in favor of the state, but Lehman Brothers is appealing Judge James Wilson's ruling in District Court, the Las Vegas Sun reported Wednesday.

A settlement judge with the Nevada Supreme Court proposed the deal under discussion, the newspaper said.

"We didn't settle. There was no vote," said Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is the chairman of the state's Board of Finance, which deliberated on the matter behind closed doors for less than a half hour.

The public was barred from the meeting, because it involved a discussion between an attorney and a client.

Lehman Brothers has challenged the state, claiming it broke its contract by pulling its investment from the bank before it was allowed to.

State Treasurer Kate Marshall said Nevada received only 33 cents on the dollar for its $50 million investment with Lehman Brothers, which declared bankruptcy in 2008 and became one of the most recognized symbols of the financial meltdown that threatened many of the world's largest banks.

Marshall said the Board of Finance would re-consider the settlement proposal in 60 days.

Work or basketball? It's a toss up

CHICAGO, March 13 (UPI) -- Chances are fair that U.S. firms will see productivity slide while the NCAA Division 1 college basketball tournament is on the tube, an employment firm said.

The men's Division 1 tournament, an event generally billed as "March Madness" is a major distraction for U.S. workers, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said Wednesday.

In a recent survey, the firm said percentage of worker watching a game during work hours was approaching mass treason.

The firm said one-third of U.S. workers expect to spend three hours per day watching the tournament during work hours.

The firm said the annual survey was "hated by working basketball fans everywhere."

For employers, the survey is a reminder of lost wage and, perhaps, futility.

The firm said $134 million was the value of "lost wages" during the first two days of the tournament alone.

The first round of the tournament begins with 64 teams, which are whittled down to 32, then 16, at which point there is a break before round two begins.

In turn, the second round begins with 16 teams and goes to eight, then four. That means, as the tournament progresses, the impact on productivity diminishes because there are fewer games.

On the other hand, it is likely that interest swells for the "Final Four," weekend, which begins with four and ends with one surviving championship team.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas said three million workers will spend one to three hours watching basketball "instead of working," during the first two days of the tournament.

Putting the event in perspective, "at the end of the day, March Madness will not even register as a blip in the overall economy," said Chief Executive Officer John Challenger.

"Sequestration is going to have a far bigger impact," he said.

Anderson report sees slow, steady growth

LOS ANGELES, March 13 (UPI) -- Economists at the University of California, Los Angeles, predicted Wednesday the U.S. gross domestic product will rise to 3 percent by 2014.

The closely watched UCLA Anderson Forecast said the GDP, which has posted an annual growth rate of 2 percent for the past four years, would be pushed by gains in the housing and automobile sectors. In addition, "renewed growth in business construction and exports" would be positive contributors, the report said.

The economists forecast job growth will hold steady in 2013, continuing the 181,000 jobs per month pace experienced in 2012. By 2014, that number would hit 200,000 jobs per month and rise by another 20,000 jobs per month in 2015, when the economy would gain 220,000 jobs per month, if the forecast holds true.

"As a result, by the end of 2015, the unemployment rate will fall to about 6.5 percent," the UCLA Anderson School of Management report said.

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