Obama wants export agency, closing of Commerce Department
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will ask Congress on Friday for authority to close the Commerce Department and create a new export agency, an overhaul that could save $3 billion and help inoculate him against Republican election-year charges that he is a big-government liberal. White House budget official Jeffrey Zients told reporters the reorganization would fold together the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and other trade bodies now spread across Washington, giving businesses a single point of contact and ensuring federal spending goes further to boost exports.
JPMorgan profit falls, but sees hope in economy
(Reuters) - The drag of the European debt crisis on investment banking weighed on JPMorgan Chase & Co's fourth-quarter profit, sending financial stocks tumbling even as the bank provided evidence that the domestic economy is strengthening. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said the New York-based bank was seeing signs of improvement in credit quality as well as loan demand from corporations and consumers in the United States.
Consumer sentiment perks up while trade gap widens
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consumer sentiment picked up more steam in early January, rising to the highest in eight months as Americans grew more optimistic about job prospects, a survey released on Friday showed. Separate data earlier in the day showed the trade deficit widened in November to its largest in five months, suggesting imports weighed on economic growth a bit more than expected during the fourth quarter.
S&P to cut some euro zone countries on Friday: sources
BERLIN (Reuters) - Standard & Poor's is set to downgrade the credit ratings of several euro zone countries later on Friday, but not those of Germany and the Netherlands, a senior euro zone government source said. Another source confirmed "several" countries would be hit.
KABUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A video showing what appears to be American forces urinating on dead Taliban fighters prompted anger in Afghanistan and promises of a U.S. investigation on Thursday but the insurgent group said it would not harm nascent efforts to broker peace talks. The video, posted on YouTube and other websites, shows four men in camouflage Marine combat uniforms urinating on three corpses. One of them jokes: "Have a nice day, buddy." Another makes a lewd joke.
Tea Party may get rebuffed in tax cut showdown
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Speaker John Boehner, hoping to spare fellow Republicans a second embarrassing defeat over payroll tax cuts, is prepared to navigate around rebellious Tea Party-aligned lawmakers to get a deal, according to congressional aides. Republicans in the House of Representatives got a public drubbing from critics within and outside the party in December for initially refusing to approve a Senate plan to extend the tax break for 160 million Americans through February.
Iran clerics urge unity as nuclear scientist buried
TEHRAN (Reuters) - The Tehran funeral on Friday of a nuclear scientist blown up by a hitman saw the ruling clergy urge Iranians to rally behind it at a forthcoming election and face down Western threats against Iran's nuclear program. In a mood of high emotion in a city increasingly beset by U.S. and European sanctions and fears of war with Israel and the West, hundreds of chanting mourners carried the flag-draped coffin of Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, killed Wednesday by a motorcycle assassin in rush-hour traffic.
Italy bond auction fails to match Spanish success
MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's three-year debt costs fell below 5 percent but its first bond sale of the year failed to match the success of a Spanish auction the previous day, reflecting the heavy refinancing load Rome faces over the next three months. Italy raised the maximum planned amount of 4.75 billion euros at the auction but did not live up to market expectations raised by a Spanish tender on Thursday where Madrid raised 10 billion euros, twice the planned amount, at lower rates.
Exclusive: TPG willing to invest $1 billion in Olympus
TOKYO (Reuters) - Private equity firm TPG Capital is willing to invest about $1 billion in Japan's Olympus Corp in a joint deal with Sony Corp or another suitor circling the scandal-hit firm, a person familiar with TPG's thinking said. TPG has informed executives at Sony, Canon Inc, Fujifilm Holdings and Panasonic Corp of its interest in providing capital and expertise to help revive the maker of medical equipment and cameras, the person said.
Novartis cuts 2,000 U.S. jobs after drug setback
ZURICH (Reuters) - Novartis AG plans to axe nearly 2,000 of its U.S. workforce ahead of the patent loss of top-selling blood pressure drug Diovan there and will take a $900 million charge after another of its key drugs failed to live up to expectations. Novartis is the latest in a long line of global drugmakers to cut its sales force as the industry faces its biggest wave of patent expiries ever.