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March 22, 2013 at 12:05 PM
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U.S. stock indexes head higher

NEW YORK, March 22 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes rebounded Friday, with reports from Nike and Tiffany boosting confidence despite uncertainty over a bailout for Cyprus.

Nike reported higher-than expected fourth quarter sales. Earnings at Tiffany beat expectations and the luxury jeweler projected rising revenue for 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Nike shares rose 11 percent, while Tiffany gained 3.7 percent in early trading.

The reports overshadowed worries that Cyprus wouldn't meet the Monday deadline imposed by the European Central Bank for Cyprus to work out a deal to secure a $13 billion international loan to keep its banks in business.

In late morning trading Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 77.03 points, or 0.53 percent, to 14,498.52.

The Nasdaq added 14.07 points, or 0.44 percent, to 3,236.67. The Standard and Poor's 500 gained 8.83 points, or 0.57 percent, to 1,554.63.

Ten-year U.S. treasury bonds fell 5/32 to yield 1.935 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro was at $1.299 from Thursday's $1.2899. Against the yen, the dollar was lower at 94.74 yen from 94.91 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index shed 2.35 percent, 297.16 points, to 12,338.53.

India cuts red tape for acquiring aircraft

NEW DELHI, March 22 (UPI) -- The Indian government has eliminated its committee to approve imports of aircraft, simplifying procedures for airlines to acquire planes.

Disbanding the Aviation Ministry's aircraft acquisition committee means carriers no longer will be required to wait indefinitely to get its approval to expand their fleets, the Times of India reported.

"Airlines decide their fleet size on commercial grounds. No airline will import planes if it does not feel the need to do so and there is no point in coming to us for seeking the nod to do so," Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said when announcing the decision.

"I have decided to cut the bureaucratic red tape surrounding aircraft acquisition that only used to cause delays. The directorate general of civil aviation checks planes for airworthiness, safety and there is no need for any other approvals from the ministry as far as fleet is concerned."

The decision came as various carriers had been complaining about bureaucratic delays at the aircraft acquisition committee. In some cases, the delays resulted in missing business opportunities, they said.

The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been pushing for simplifying the import procedure, the Times said. The government, in its efforts to encourage more foreign direct investments, wants to allow foreign airlines to invest in domestic carriers or launch joint ventures with Indian companies.

Aso casts doubts on bank's inflation goal

TOKYO, March 22 (UPI) -- Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso expressed skepticism Friday about the Bank of Japan's two-year, 2 percent inflation target.

"I believe that it will take considerable time to get out of deflation and move toward inflation, and then push up [prices] to 2 percent," Aso told a news conference.

The central bank's target is in line with the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's stimulus measures to lift the economy out of years of chronic deflation, which pushes prices down affecting economic growth and threatening jobs.

Aso's comment could raise doubts on the ability of the central bank's new leadership to achieve the two-year inflation deadline, Kyodo News reported.

Aso called for more fiscal stimulus and growth strategies so the central bank doesn't have to shoulder the responsibility alone of meeting the inflation goal.

Haruhiko Kuroda, an advocate of bold monetary easing, assumed his new post as governor of the Bank of Japan Thursday, stressing his determination to end deflation, the Japan Times reported.

"I was told to do all I can and bring the Japanese economy out of deflation," Kuroda said after meeting with Abe. "I replied that I will do everything I can together with my two deputy governors."

Kuroda's monetary easing may include buying longer-term government bonds, which would bring huge amounts of yen into the market.

Kuroda said he is optimistic of achieving the inflation target and didn't seem worried about any asset inflation bubble, Kyodo said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Kuroda "is an ideal person who can work in harmony with the government's determination to implement bold monetary policies."

Crude oil heads higher

NEW YORK, March 22 (UPI) -- The price of crude oil added 43 cents to $92.88 Friday in New York but general optimism was held in check by uncertainty in Europe.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, gasoline shed 0.12 cents to $3.0538 per gallon. Home heating oil added 0.56 cents to reach $2.9806 a gallon.

Natural gas gained 3.9 cents to reach $3.973 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.686 Friday, down from Thursday's $3.691, the AAA Fuel Gauge Report said.

European financial leaders are focused on a bailout plan for Cyprus that includes the country doing its part to secure a $13 billion loan from the European Stability Mechanism.

The European Central Bank gave the island nation until Monday to come up with a new plan to raise $7.5 billion to secure the loan which is needed to help the county's banks stay in business.

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