Feb. 17 - Summary of business headlines: American lawmakers approved the extension of a payroll tax holiday until the end of the year; Consumer prices rise swiftly in January; Oil closes at 9-month high; Fake U.S. government bonds found in Switzerland; Stocks end mostly higher. Conway G. Gittens reports.
American lawmakers in both the House and Senate approved the extension of long-term unemployment benefits and more importantly an extension of a payroll tax holiday through the end of the year. The extension puts real cash in the hands of some 160 million workers. For example: a married couple filing jointly, with a gross income of $70,000, would keep more than $2100 in their paychecks this year, according to White House estimates. Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger SOUNDBITE: ALAN KRUEGER, CHAIRMAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I agree completely with what the President said that the extension of the payroll tax cut and the extension of the continuation of unemployment benefits helped to provide a measure of insurance, give families some cushion in case they do have an increase in their costs." But as the White House giveth, inflation taketh away. Higher prices at the pump means Americans had to dig deeper into their pockets in January. Even without food and energy costs, consumer prices over the last 12 months have risen at their fastest pace in more than three years. And that trend may continue as oil prices rise. Crude oil was up for the third day in row, closing above $103 a barrel; its highest close in nine months. $6-trillion dollars in fake U.S. Treasury bonds were seized in Switzerland, as part of joint effort by Italian and Swiss authorities. The gains were real on Wall Street, with the Dow closing roughly 50 points shy of 13,000. For the week: blue chips rallied 1.2 percent and the Nasdaq gained 1.7 percent. European shares saw a sharp upturn on hopes a Greek debt deal could be announced before markets open on Monday. Conway Gittens, Reuters