NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks rose Thursday after a Reuters report said major central banks were preparing for coordinated action if the results of Greek elections on Sunday strain global financial markets. The Dow added 156 points to close at 12,652, up 1.2 percent. T
Investors are on edge ahead of Greece's election this weekend because parties opposed to the terms of the country's financial bailout could take control of the government. If that happens and the country leaves the euro, many fear the currency union could be torn apart and European banks could fail.
The S&P added 14 points to 1,329. The Nasdaq added nearly 18 points to 2,836.
Gauge of output due
WASHINGTON (AP) — One economic report is due out before the opening bell on Wall Street.
The Federal Reserve releases May industrial production figures. Analysts are looking for a slight increase in output.
Asia stocks rise amid hopes for central bank help
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets are mostly higher as investors wade back into riskier assets amid hopes that central banks in the U.S. and elsewhere are gearing up for action to help their beleaguered economies.
A U.S. employment indicator Thursday led investors to speculate that the U.S. Federal Reserve was preparing to pump more money into the economy to breathe fresh life into the recovery. The Labor Department said unemployment benefit applications rose 6,000 to 386,000 last week, a sign that hiring remains slow.
Analysts have expect the Fed might renew its "Operation Twist" under which it sells shorter-term securities and buys longer-term bonds to keep their rates down. The current program expires at the end of June.
Japan's Nikkei fell slightly, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up as way Australia's benchmark index. South Korea's Kospi was lower, but benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and New Zealand rose.
Oil prices have been rising. Benchmark crude for July delivery rose 72 cents to $84.65 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.29 cents to finish at $83.91 per barrel on the Nymex yesterday.
AIG pays off last of bailout loans to New York Fed
NEW YORK (AP) — Beleaguered insurance giant American International Group has repaid all of its bailout loans from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The New York Fed says that AIG has repaid loans totaling more than $53 billion, with interest.
The government stepped in with a nearly $183 billion package to rescue New York-based AIG from collapse in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008. It was the largest bailout in history. The Treasury Department provided $68 billion under its financial bailout program, and the New York Fed gave AIG a $114 billion lifeline, part of it in loans.
The repayment of loans by AIG represents a turnaround for an insurance company that many had given up for dead during and even after the financial crisis. The insurance company has slimmed down its operations, closed down many of its loss-making divisions and has been profitable for two years.
The Treasury Department, meanwhile, still owns about 60 percent of AIG's common stock and has been selling its shares in chunks. Treasury has recovered $18 billion of the $68 billion it gave to AIG.
The Fed also still owns some investments it acquired from AIG, which it plans to sell over time.
Moody's downgrades ratings of 5 Dutch banks
Moody's has cut the credit ratings of five Dutch banks including ING and ABN AMRO as business is likely to remain difficult due to falling house prices and the European debt crisis.
The ratings agency said difficult conditions for banks in the Netherlands are likely to continue throughout 2012 and possibly beyond.
Moody's said all the downgraded banks have large mortgage books and high reliance on raising funds from other banks.
It cut the long-term debt and deposit ratings for Rabobank Nederland by two notches to Aa2. ING Bank and ABN AMRO Bank were cut by two notches to A2.
Ratings for LeasePlan Corporation and SNS Bank were also cut. All the banks were given stable outlooks, which means the ratings are unlikely to change again in the near term.
United Technologies to sell more businesses
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The chief financial officer of United Technologies Corp. is saying that the industrial conglomerate will sell more businesses.
The Hartford, Conn., parent company of jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney, Otis elevator, Sikorsky Aircraft and other companies, is selling several units to raise as much as $3 billion to help finance its $16.5 billion purchase of airplane parts manufacturer Goodrich Corp.
UTC announced in March that it will sell its rocket fuel and wind power companies and three industrial units of its aerospace parts maker Hamilton Sundstrand.
Chief Financial Officer Greg Hayes, speaking at an investor analysts conference in Chicago, said United Technologies is now looking at "strategic alternatives" for UTC Power, the company's fuel cell business, and a "couple other" subsidiaries.
UTC Power, based in South Windsor, Conn., is among the smallest United Technologies units with 405 employees.
It's the second time in as many months that a top executive of United Technologies signaled that UTC Power will likely be unloaded.
AP NewsBreak: FAA felt offshore wind farm pressure
BOSTON (AP) — Internal documents indicate Federal Aviation Administration employees felt political pressure to approve a wind farm planned off Cape Cod.
The papers, obtained by opponents of the Cape Wind project, indicate it was approved amid internal disagreement over the best way to stop the turbines from interfering with radar and compromising airplane safety.
One FAA engineer wrote he doubted air traffic control could stop certain small aircraft flying nearby from hitting a turbine.
But the FAA says employee opinions expressed in internal documents aren't agency policy. It says its evaluations on how obstructions will affect air traffic are based on safety and the available ways to reduce risks.
A Cape Wind spokesman says extensive FAA review in the 11 years since the project was proposed shows it doesn't pose aviation hazards.
Microsoft to make 'major' announcement on Monday
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft is being secretive about a "major" announcement it plans to make in Los Angeles on Monday.
The company invited media to an afternoon event, but it says it won't divulge the location until that morning. In an email, the company says, "This will be a major Microsoft announcement — you will not want to miss it."
Microsoft declined further comment.
The location suggests it has to do with the entertainment industry.
In recent months Microsoft Corp. has made more TV programming available on its Xbox 360 video game console. Netflix Inc. is among the offerings on the Xbox, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is on Microsoft's board.
Microsoft is also preparing to release a new operating system, Windows 8, which works across laptop computers, tablets and even televisions.
VIDEO GAME SALES
US retail sales of video games fell for 6th month
NEW YORK (AP) — A new study says U.S. retail sales of video-game hardware, software and accessories fell 28 percent in May to $517 million. It's the sixth-consecutive month of decline.
Sales of console and portable software -- the video games themselves -- fell 32 percent from a year earlier to $255 million, while sales of hardware fell 39 percent to $139 million. That was offset partly by a 7 percent increase in sales of accessories, to $122 million.
Market tracker NPD Group issued the report Thursday. It tracks sales of new physical products -- about 50 percent to 60 percent of the total spending. Excluded are sales of used games and rentals as well as digital and social-network spending.
The top-selling game in May was Activision Blizzard Inc.'s "Diablo III" for PCs.
FDA urges markets to pull shellfish from SKorea
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is urging food distributors, retailers and food service vendors to remove from the market oysters, clams, mussels and scallops imported from South Korea because of possible contamination with human waste and norovirus.
The decision follows an FDA evaluation that determined that the Korean Shellfish Sanitation program no longer meets adequate sanitation controls. The federal agency is in discussions with South Korean authorities to resolve the issue.
An FDA spokesman, Curtis Allen, said Thursday the decision to call for the removal of the mollusks from the market began with norovirus outbreaks in November and December.
Curtis said no illnesses from eating the shellfish have been reported this year. Four norovirus illnesses, including three in Washington state, were reported in 2011. Norovirus causes vomiting or diarrhea.
EPA sets tighter standards for soot pollution
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new air quality standards that would lower the amount of soot allowed from diesel trucks, buses, power plants and other sources.
The long-delayed rule, to be made public Friday, responds to a court order that required the Obama administration to update air quality standards under the Clean Air Act. Administration officials described the rule to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it has yet to be announced.
Eleven states, including New York and California, filed suit earlier this year to force a decision. The states and the American Lung Association say current standards jeopardize public health. Soot has been linked to thousands of premature deaths each year, as well as aggravation of respiratory illnesses, heart attacks and strokes.