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SEC charges 3 mortgage execs


Federal regulators Tuesday charged three top executives of what was once one of the nation's biggest mortgage companies with civil accounting fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission said the now-defunct Thornburg Mortgage Inc. aimed to conceal disastrous conditions as the housing market collapsed and the financial crisis loomed. The three executives conspired to overstate Thornburg's income by more than $400 million in 2007, the SEC said in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Albuquerque. Two of the executives disputed the charges and said they will contest them in court. Thornburg's $36.5-billion bankruptcy filing in May 2009 was among the largest in U.S. history. The three are former Thornburg chief executive Larry Goldstone, ex-CFO Clarence Simmons and ex-chief accounting officer Jane Starrett.



Fed sees some bright spots


The Federal Reserve sketched a mildly brighter view of the economy Tuesday after a burst of hiring since its last meeting in January. It took no further steps to aid the recovery and repeated its plan to keep short-term interest rates near zero through 2014. After a one-day policy meeting, the Fed said unemployment should continue to decline gradually as the economy expands. It also noted that consumer spending and business investment have picked up. And it took a more hopeful view of Europe's debt crisis. Though the crisis still threatens the global economy, the danger has eased, the Fed said.



Job openings dip in January


The number of U.S. job openings fell in January from a 31/2 year high. The modest decline suggests hiring could continue at its healthy pace but may not accelerate. The Labor Department said Tuesday that employers posted 3.46 million job openings in January. That's down from 3.54 million advertised in December, the most since August 2008. The department revised data back to January 2007. The figures follow a government report Friday that showed the economy added 227,000 net jobs in February. It was the third straight month of strong job gains. There were still 12.8 million unemployed people in January. That means an average of 3.7 people competed for each open job that month, the lowest ratio in three years. Still, the ratio is usually around 2 to 1 in healthy job markets.



Tablet computer sales on rise


Thanks to strong demand for Apple's iPad and competing devices such as Amazon's Kindle Fire, worldwide shipments of tablet computers are likely to grow faster than expected this year, according to a revised forecast from a leading market-research group. IDC said shipments in 2011's last quarter were higher than expected. The research group now projects shipments of 106 million in 2012, up from previous forecasts of 88 million. The new figure represents a 54 percent increase from the nearly 69 million devices shipped in 2011. Since the iPad's debut in 2010, millions of people have flocked to these easy-to-use, easy-to-carry devices.



China warned over minerals


President Barack Obama warned China Tuesday that it would not be allowed to gain a competitive advantage in world trade by "skirting the rules." Making an election-year pitch to American workers, and businesses as well, Obama announced Washington has brought a new trade case against Beijing. The goal is to pressure China to end its restrictions on exports of key materials used to manufacture hybrid car batteries, flat-screen televisions and other high-tech goods. "If China would simply let the market work on its own, we'd have no objection," Obama said. The United States, together with the European Union and Japan, asked the World Trade Organization to facilitate talks with China over its curtailment of exports of what's known as rare earth minerals. Obama cast the action against China as part of a broader push to level the playing field for U.S. companies. -- AP


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