56° Good Afternoon
56° Good Afternoon

Wednesday business briefs

Obama touts stimulus

addition of 2 million jobs

President Barack Obama is trumpeting a new White House estimate that his top economist calls "stunning": His stimulus plan has already created or saved up to 2 million jobs. The analysis is part of the administration's quarterly report to Congress on the controversial $787-billion package of spending and tax cuts he signed weeks after taking office. Republicans have denounced the stimulus plan as an expensive flop, pointing to a national unemployment rate stuck at 10 percent and December figures showing the economy shed 85,000 more jobs.

Fed: Recovery spreading

but 15 million out of work

The economic recovery is spreading to more parts of the country but has yet to spur companies to ramp up hiring. A new Federal Reserve survey, released Wednesday, underscores the duality of the economic turnaround. Even as the economy grows and the recovery extends its reach geographically, more than 15 million people remain unemployed. The Fed observed that although "economic activity remains at a low level, conditions have improved modestly further." However, the Fed also noted that "labor market conditions remained soft" in most of the Fed's 12 regions as the new year started. The unemployment rate held steady at 10 percent only because more than a half-million people abandoned their job searches and left the workforce. If they didn't drop out, the unemployment rate would have jumped to 10.4 percent, analysts say.

Warning: Take away kids'

cheap metal jewelry

The country's top product safety regulator is warning parents and caretakers to take cheap metal jewelry away from children for fear they may be exposed to toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium. Inez Tenenbaum, chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, writes in a blog, "Do not allow young children to be given or to play with cheap metal jewelry, especially when they are unsupervised." She cites an Associated Press investigation that reported high cadmium levels in items including bracelet charms from Walmart and Claire's.

GM exec sees China as

world leader in car sales

China has probably passed the United States for good as the world's largest auto sales market, GM's top executive in China said Wednesday. Kevin Wale, president of the Detroit automaker's China Group, said China saw huge auto sales growth last year and that further growth will create a gap too large for the United States to close. Boosted by government stimulus programs, China's total vehicle sales soared 45 percent last year to an estimated 13.6 million, the China Passenger Car Association said. U.S. sales of cars and light trucks plunged 21 percent in 2009 to 10.4 million as a shaky economy kept buyers away from showrooms.

Stocks up slightly

The stock market closed higher yesterday, led by gains in shares of banks and drugmakers. Treasury prices fell, pushing interest rates higher, after jumping on Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 53.51, or 0.5 percent, to 10,680.77. The index traded above 10,700 for the first time since Oct. 3, 2008. The S&P 500 index rose 9.46, or 0.8 percent, to 1,145.68; the Nasdaq rose 25.59, or 1.1 percent, to 2,307.90.

From wire reports

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