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WALL STREET

Stocks settle down after big swings on Ukraine

NEW YORK (AP) — Calm appears to have returned to the stock market after two days of volatile trading.

Stocks plunged Monday, then surged to a record high on Tuesday as tensions in Ukraine flared, then eased.

Yesterday, the S&P 500 index traded within a range of about five points, or about a quarter of a percentage point for the whole day, before ending a fraction lower. Investors weighed a tepid hiring survey, some strong company earnings and falling oil prices.

The index fell 0.10 point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,873. Its close Tuesday of 1,873. was a record high.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 36 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,360. The Nasdaq rose six points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,357.

Energy stocks were the biggest losers yesterday. They fell after the price of oil dropped for a second day as tensions eased in Ukraine and the threat of economic sanctions against Russia appeared to recede.

WORLD MARKETS

Asia stocks up as Ukraine tensions continue to ebb

TOKYO (AP) — Shares were mostly higher in Asia today as the standoff over Ukraine between Russia and the West continued to ease.

Investors are still monitoring developments in Ukraine, but the focus is shifting to a slew of economic news late this week, culminating with Friday's U.S jobs report for February.

Investors are looking for potential policy changes from China's annual national legislative session, which began Wednesday.

Today's monthly policy meeting of the European Central Bank is another potential market catalyst. Few economists think the bank will ease policy further, given recent upbeat economic data for the 18-country euro currency union.

The dollar gained against the yen and was little changed against the euro.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell to just above $101 per barrel.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

Major business and economic events scheduled for today

UNDATED — Wall Street today will be keeping a sharp eye on the government's weekly jobless claims number.

Other government reports scheduled for release today involve fourth-quarter productivity data and January's factory orders.

Also, Freddie Mac will release weekly mortgage rates.

On Capitol Hill today, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee will hold a hearing on railroad safety.

Also today, several chain retailers will release February sales comparisons.

Two companies report quarterly earnings. Kroger reports before the market opens and H&R Block reports after the closing bell.

CHINA-ECONOMY-JOBS

China says priority is jobs, not growth target

BEIJING (AP) — China's finance minister says the government's priority is creating jobs and economic growth below the official target of 7.5 percent might be considered acceptable.

Lou Jiwei said Thursday the economic target announced this week is "about 7.5 percent," which could mean growth might be lower than that.

He said the employment target of 10 million new urban jobs announced Wednesday by Premier Li Keqiang is more important. He said the economy might be able to create as many as 13 million new jobs.

Lou said "employment is our most important goal" at a news conference during the annual meeting of China's legislature.

EUROPEAN CENTRAL ANKS

European Central Bank seen holding rates steady

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The European Central Bank is expected to keep its main interest rate on hold at a record low of 0.25 percent at its monthly meeting Thursday.

The central bank for the eurozone's 18 countries is likely to be encouraged by recent upbeat economic indicators and stabilization in the inflation rate.

Investors will pay close attention to new economic forecasts by the ECB, in particular its inflation expectations. Some economists worry the eurozone might fall into deflation, a sustained drop in prices that can choke growth, though the ECB has said it doesn't expect that.

Tom Rogers, senior economic adviser to EY, expects "the ECB will continue to underline it has options for further easing, but hold off using them unless the recovery takes a turn for the worse.

EUROPE-UKRAINE SANCTIONS

EU sanctions target Yanukovych, closest aides

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union says the asset freezes it has imposed against 18 people held responsible for embezzling state funds in Ukraine include the country's ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.

The 28-nation bloc revealed the names of those targeted by its sanctions early Thursday.

The list includes what appear to be Yanukovych's closest aides, including a former interior minister, justice minister, the prosecutor general, the head of the security services and Yanukovych's son.

The sanctions also target former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his son.

The EU said Wednesday it was freezing assets of Ukrainian officials held in the EU but did not name them pending the publication in the official legal journal Thursday.

GENERAL ELECTRIC-EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

General Electric's CEO's pay dips 7 pct to $19.2M

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) — General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt's compensation fell 7 percent last year to $19.2 million primarily because of a change in the way that the company pays some of its bonuses.

General Electric paid Immelt a lump sum of $12.1 million in 2012 as an award for three years of work. In a regulatory filing, GE says Immelt got a $2.4 million installment for the results produced during the first year of a new three-year rating period.

The Associated Press' calculation of executive compensation includes counts salary, bonuses, perks and stock and options awarded to the executive during the year.

PROCTER & GAMBLE-GREENPEACE PROTEST

Ohio judge says Greenpeace protest 'reckless'

CINCINNATI (AP) — Greenpeace says nine activists arrested in an eye-catching protest at Procter & Gamble Co. headquarters in Cincinnati have posted bond and been released from custody.

The nine face burglary and vandalism charges in what an Ohio municipal court judge called "a reckless and ill-advised stunt." The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the judge has set bond at $50,000 each.

The group was protesting the consumer products company's use of palm oil from a supplier Greenpeace says is tied to tropical forest destruction in Indonesia. The activists used a zip line to unfurl giant banners Tuesday from P&G's two towers, while a helicopter filmed them.

P&G says it's committed to achieving a 100 percent sustainable supply of palm oil by 2015. Palm oil is commonly used in shampoo, cosmetics and other products.

NUKE REPOSITORY-RADIATION

DOE: No health risks for exposed nuke dump workers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Department of Energy says further testing shows employees who were exposed to radiation during a leak at the nation's only underground nuclear waste dump aren't likely to experience any health effects.

The agency and the contractor that operates the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad made the announcement yesterday.

Initial testing indicated potential low-level exposure for 13 workers. Testing done on samples taken from the workers came back negative for plutonium and americium, the two radioactive isotopes detected in the preliminary tests.

Officials say the samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for validation.

Testing is also underway on other employees who were at the repository after the radiation release.

DOE officials also say monitoring around the site has turned up no significant contamination.

AUSTRALIA-QANTAS

Australian lawmakers vote to relax Qantas rules

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government has taken a step toward relaxing foreign ownership restrictions on Qantas Airways by passing legislation through the House of Representatives.

But the opposition Labor Party and Greens party plan to use their majority in the Senate to keep the national carrier Australian-owned.

The conservative government's dominance of the lower chamber of Parliament ensured the legislation to repeal limits on foreign stakes in Qantas was passed. The bill passed on Thursday 83 votes to 53.

Cabinet ministers decided Monday to allow more foreign ownership of Australia's largest airline to help it raise capital.

TALENT AGENT'S PLEA

Calif. talent agent pleads guilty in $500K theft

NEW YORK (AP) — A California talent agent for film, television and Broadway actors has pleaded guilty in New York to stealing over a half million dollars from clients after spending lavishly on himself.

Peter Strain of Studio City, Calif., pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan to interstate transportation of stolen property. Prosecutors say he repeatedly lied to three actors in television shows about payments for their acting so he could use the money himself.

The government said Strain siphoned money owed to clients between 2011 and 2013. Strain faces up to 10 years in prison at an April 30 sentencing.

Prosecutors say he used clients' money to buy more than $161,000 in jewelry, $310,000 in artwork and $57,000 in luxury goods. A defense lawyer didn't immediately respond to a message for comment.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Associated Press

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