Business recap

The Federal Reserve will continue its extraordinary efforts to prop up the nation’s recovery with billions of dollars in stimulus, officials said, essentially declaring the economy too weak to stand on its own. Stock markets soared to record highs as investors welcomed the unexpected announcement of more stimulus. But the Fed’s message about the recovery was not so rosy, and officials again cut their forecasts for economic growth. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke warned that the impending showdowns over the federal budget and the debt ceiling could have dire consequences for the economy. He cautioned that higher mortgage rates could choke the housing recovery. And although he cited “meaningful progress” in getting Americans back to work, he acknowledged that much of the decline in the jobless rate was the result of people giving up looking for jobs.

Business

JPMorgan agreed to pay $920 million in fines and admitted that its handling of London trading losses violated securities law.

(Susan Walsh/Associated Press) - Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke warned that the impending showdowns over the federal budget and the debt ceiling could have dire consequences for the economy.

Walgreens said it is moving 160,000 workers to a new health-insurance model, joining a growing list of large employers seeking to control costs by pointing employees to the private marketplace for insurance.

The U.S. Treasury has sold another block of shares in General Motors, reducing its stake to 7.3 percent as it moves toward exiting its holdings in the automaker by the end of March. The Treasury sold more than 110 million shares between May 6 and Sept. 13, raising more than $3.82 billion.

Britain’s investment authority said it has begun the privatization of the Lloyds banking group, one of several British banks bailed out during the financial crisis. It sold 6 percent of Lloyds’s shares — bringing its stake to 32.7 percent.

Federal judges upheld California’s first-in-the-nation mandate requiring fuel producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The low-carbon fuel standard is part of California’s landmark global warming law, AB 32, and is meant to cut the state’s dependence on petroleum by 20 percent and account for one-tenth of the state’s goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Volkswagen is leaning toward building a seven-passenger crossover-utility vehicle in Chattanooga, Tenn., rather than in Mexico, a U.S. executive of the German automaker said.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg lobbied members of Congress on immigration reform. Comprehensive reform, Zuckerberg said, is as vital to the U.S. economy as changing the rules to allow highly skilled people to work in the United States. He declined to note where he falls in the political spectrum, saying he is “pro-knowledge economy.”

All Things D, the technology Web site led by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, and the Wall Street Journal are parting ways at the end of the year. Gerard Baker, the Journal’s managing editor, said both parties decided not to renew the agreement when the contract expires.

LinkedIn, owner of the world’s most popular professional-networking Web site, was sued by customers alleging it appropriated their identities for marketing the site without their consent by hacking into their external e-mail accounts and downloading contacts’ e-mail addresses.

U.S. mortgage lending increased by 38 percent last year, boosted by significant refinancing activity, with white and Asian borrowers continuing to see greater access to credit for purchases than blacks or Hispanics, regulators said. “The total number of originated loans of all types and purposes reported increased by about 2.7 million, or 38 percent, from 2011, in part because of a 54 percent increase in the number of refinancings,” the report said.

Wells Fargo plans to lay off 1,800 more employees from its mortgage department after cutting about 2,300 jobs from the same unit in August. The bank said fewer people than it expected are refinancing mortgages.

The creator of Beanie Babies stuffed animals, H. Ty Warner, has been charged with federal tax evasion for allegedly failing to report income earned in an offshore account, and he has agreed to pay a penalty of more than $53 million.

Safeway adopted a plan to prevent a hostile takeover after learning of a significant accumulation of its stock by an investor. “Poison pill” plans allow existing shareholders to acquire more stock at a discounted rate to discourage a takeover by an outside entity. In an SEC filing, Jana Partners disclosed that it had amassed a 6.2 percent stake in Safeway’s outstanding shares. Safeway’s plan is exercisable if a person or group acquires 10 percent or more of its common stock, or 15 percent by an institutional investor.

Microsoft said that its board approved a 22 percent increase in the company’s quarterly dividend, to 28 cents, along with a new $40 billion stock buyback program.

Google is investing in a new company focused on health and well-being called Calico. It will address the challenges of aging and related diseases.

FriendFinder Networks, the company that owns Penthouse magazine and a host of online dating and adult Web sites, filed for bankruptcy protection. Last month, FriendFinder’s stock was delisted from the Nasdaq Stock Market because it failed to trade above $1. It is now sold over the counter.

Economy

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde urged the United States not to “put a brake on this beginning of recovery” by failing to resolve an impasse over the budget and cutting back government spending too deeply. The fights between the White House and Congress over the budget and raising the debt ceiling are potentially destabilizing, Lagarde said.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union, unveiled draft legislation to regulate financial benchmarks that are used in transactions worth trillions of dollars globally, an effort to prevent market manipulations such as the one involving Libor, an interest rate banks use to borrow from one another. Under the proposal, possible rigging or conflicts of interests could be investigated and fines issued of up to 10 percent of a firm’s revenue.

U.S. existing-home sales hit a six-year high in August, up 13 percent from a year earlier.

The averaged fixed rate on a 30-year mortgage fell to 4.50 percent from 4.57 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage slipped to 3.54 percent from 3.59 percent.

U.S. factories increased output in August by 0.7 percent, the most in eight months, helped by a robust month at auto plants. Automakers increased production 5.2 percent, after a 4.5 percent decline in July.

Washington

The House passed a short-term spending plan that would continue funding government operations through mid-December but withhold funding for President Obama’s signature health-care law, firing the opening salvo in what promises to be a contentious 10 days of debate on Capitol Hill over extending government operations by only three months.

The SEC narrowly approved a plan that would require companies to disclose how much more their chief executives are paid than their other employees, advancing an initiative that has been years in the making.

House Republicans approved a plan to cut food-stamp funding by $39 billion and shift the burden of aid to state governments.

Transitions

Hiroshi Yamauchi, who ran Nintendo for more than 50 years and led the Japanese company’s transition from traditional playing-card maker to video-game giant, died at age 85.

A “like” on Facebook is protected as a form of free speech, a federal appeals court ruled.

— From news services and staff reports

$2 trillion

Wealth of America’s richest

The annual Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans list showed that total wealth climbed 19 percent in the past year, up from $1.7 trillion, with an average net worth per individual of $5 billion. It takes $1.3 billion in assets to get on the list. No. 1 for another year was Bill Gates, 57, who is worth $72 billion. Next was Warren Buffett, who despite giving away about $1 billion last year, was the biggest gainer, adding $12.5 billion to bring his fortune to $58.5 billion.

 
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