First woman to head Fed faces a big job

With a 56-to-26 vote, the Senate confirmed Janet Yellen as the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve. She and current chairman Ben S. Bernanke have been close partners, and observers don’t expect a change in direction. But they also don’t expect any lessening of pressure from Republicans, who have been vocal critics of the Fed’s “easy money” stimulus policies. Yellen is not known as a political operator; until her confirmation hearing, she had not testified on Capitol Hill in the three years that she was Fed vice chairman. Now dealing with contentious lawmakers will be just one part of an increasingly complex role. As Alice Rivlin, a former Fed vice chairwoman, noted, the Fed chair is “a much bigger job than it used to be.”

Business

Target said that the thieves who stole credit card information during the holiday season also swept up the names, addresses and phone numbers of 70 million customers, putting victims at greater risk of identity theft.

Apple and Samsung, whose court battle over smartphone patents is scheduled to begin in March, have agreed to attend a mediation session by Feb. 19. Legal teams met last week to discuss settlement opportunities as the March trial date approaches.

JPMorgan Chase, the primary banker for jailed financier Bernard Madoff, agreed to pay more than $2 billion to resolve criminal charges that it failed to alert the government about Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Makers of Sensa will return more than $26 million to consumers to settle federal charges that the company deceptively claimed that people could lose weight by simply sprinkling the weight-loss additive on their food. The action is part of a broader crackdown on weight-loss products.

Alcoa agreed to pay $384 million to settle criminal and civil charges that it bribed members of Bahrain’s royal family and other Bahraini officials to lock in lucrative contracts with the Gulf nation’s government-run aluminum plant.

Google was fined $204,000 by France’s data-protection watchdog, known as CNIL, after the U.S. search engine ignored a three-month ultimatum to bring its practices on tracking and storing user information in line with French law. At issue was Google’s practice of combining data collected on individual users across its services.

T-Mobile began offering to pay up to $350 per line to cover early termination fees for subscribers of other wireless services if they would switch.

Macy’s said it is cutting 2,500 jobs as part of a reorganization that will leave its workforce level at about 175,000. The company plans to close five stores and open eight others, leaving it with 844 stores nationwide. Macy’s says the moves will save it $100 million per year.

The Carlyle Group named Julius Genachowski, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, a managing director and partner in its U.S. buyout team.

Bitcoin prices shot up past $1,000 after Zynga, an online gaming company, announced that it would test using the digital currency as payment. Bitcoin hit a high of $1,093 on Mt. Gox, its online trading exchange, though it retreated to around $900 later in the week.

Deals

T-Mobile will pay $2.37 billion in cash to Verizon wireless for spectrum licenses. It will also transfer to Verizon other spectrum licenses valued at $950 million. The deals will give T-Mobile low-band spectrum, which boosts cellular coverage inside buildings and in rural areas, in nine of the top 10 U.S. markets.

Men’s Wearhouse raised its bid to buy Jos. A. Bank Clothiers and began a cash tender offer that would value the suit retailer at $1.61 billion. Both companies have said that a combination of the two largest U.S. retailers of their kind would yield savings and boost profit margins.

Microsoft has reached an agreement to acquire Herndon, Va.-based software firm Parature for an undisclosed amount, according to the company.

Earnings

Samsung Electronics said its fourth-quarter operating profit declined 6 percent over the year before. Analysts said its Galaxy smartphones and Galaxy Gear smartwatches were not as lucrative as before because of higher marketing costs.

Economy

Stanley Fischer, mentor to many economists and former governor of Israel’s central bank, was nominated to become vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. President Obama also announced that Lael Brainard, former Treasury secretary for international affairs, would be nominated as a Fed governor.

The unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent as many people gave up looking for work, the Labor Department reported. The country added a meager 74,000 jobs in December.

Health-care spending decreased as a share of the overall economy in 2012, federal data showed. The decline comes after four years of slow growth in health-care spending.

Service industries grew at a slower pace than expected in December, suggesting that some parts of the U.S. economy are improving in fits and starts.

Retail sales in November and December rose 2.7 percent from the same period in 2012, spurred by last-minute shopping. But foot traffic was down more than 14 percent.

A bipartisan bill that would narrow the Obama administration’s room to negotiate new free trade agreements was proposed by three of the top lawmakers on trade policy. It would require that sensitive issues like currency ma­nipu­la­tion be covered in future treaties and would increase congressional oversight.

Washington

Living Social co-founder Tim O’Shaughnessy announced that he is stepping down from the online deals company, ending a seven-year run.

Washington’s jobless rate dipped to 5.4 percent in November from 5.6 percent the month before, the Labor Department reported.

Sears said it would close its store near the old Landover Mall in March, after selling the site to a development firm that is seeking to build a new FBI headquarters.

The District’s tax on disposable bags has generated revenue but is not cutting down on the bags’ use, a revenue review showed.

Transitions

Alan Mulally ended speculation that he would leave his chief executive’s post at Ford to replace Steve Ballmer, who is stepping down as head of Microsoft.

Twitter said it will use its own service to take questions when it reports its first quarterly results as a public company on Feb. 5. The company’s stock has more than doubled since it went public Nov. 6.

— From news services and staff reports

50.19%
of Congress is millionaires

For the first time in history, most of the representatives and senators on Capitol Hill have an average net worth of more than $1 million, accord to data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s 268 out of the current 534 members.

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