Last Update on December 18, 2013 18:26 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Investors are waiting to see whether one of Ben Bernanke's final acts as chairman of the Federal Reserve will be to announce a pullback in the Fed's bond purchases.
The monthly purchases totaling $85 billion have been intended to keep long-term loan rates low to spur economic growth.
Most economists think the central bank will announce that it's maintaining that pace after concluding its latest policy meeting this afternoon. One factor in that thinking is the historically low inflation rate. For the 12 months ending in October, consumer inflation was just 0.7 percent, well below the Fed's target rate of 2 percent.
Still, analysts think the Fed will start trimming its bond purchases at one of its next two meetings, either in January or March.
Bernanke will also give his final quarterly news conference this afternoon. His second four-year term as chairman ends Jan. 31, when Vice Chair Janet Yellen will likely succeed him. The Senate is expected to approve Yellen's nomination this week.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. builders broke ground on homes at the fastest pace in more than five years, evidence the housing recovery is accelerating despite higher mortgage rates.
The Commerce Department says developers began construction on houses and apartments in November at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million. That's the fastest pace since February 2008, just a few months after the recession began.
Construction of single-family homes jumped 21 percent to an annual pace of 727,000, also the highest in more than five years. Apartment construction soared 26 percent to a 354,000 annual pace.
Permits for future building slipped 3 percent to just over 1 million, down from 1.04 million in October. The drop reflected a decline in apartments, which can be volatile. Permits for single-family homes rose.
HEALTH OVERHAUL-DEADLINE EXTENDED
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The health insurance industry says consumers will get an extra 10 days to pay their first month's premium under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
With tight deadlines around the holidays, plus lingering problems with federal and state sign-up systems, the voluntary decision Wednesday by the board of America's Health Insurance Plans does more than give extra time:
It also reduces the risk that consumers switching plans could suffer an interruption in coverage due to technology woes.
Consumers still must select a plan by Dec. 23 -- next Monday. But instead of having to pay their first month's premium by New Year's Eve, they now have until Jan. 10. That would let them get coverage retroactive to Jan. 1.
The industry trade group represents about 90 percent of health insurers.
GULF OIL SPILL-INDICTMENT
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A former BP drilling engineer has been convicted of one charge that he deleted text messages from his cellphone to obstruct a federal probe of the company's massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A jury acquitted him of a second charge.
A federal jury deliberated for more than nine hours before reaching a verdict on Kurt Mix's case Wednesday. The count of obstruction of justice carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Prosecutors argued that the 52-year-old resident of Katy, Texas, was trying to destroy evidence when he deleted messages to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor. Mix's lawyers said their client didn't hide anything.
Mix was one of four current or former BP employees charged with crimes related to the spill. His case was the first to be tried. Sentencing is scheduled for March 26.
DISABLED CRUISE SHIP
MIAMI (AP) -- Documents filed in the past few days in federal court in Miami indicate Carnival Cruise Lines knew about a risk of leaks from engine fuel hoses and recommended precautions before the ill-fated voyage of the Carnival Triumph.
A lawsuit filed in February on behalf of dozens of passengers argues the cruise line and its parent Carnival Corporation were negligent in maintenance, allowing Triumph to sail from Galveston on Feb. 7.
A Feb. 10 fire disabled the ship. Passengers endured a nightmarish tow to Mobile, Ala.
CNN first reported on the newly filed documents.
Carnival said in a response filed Tuesday that the ship's engines passed inspection before departing for the four-day cruise and its own recommendation to install spray shields on flexible fuel lines was beyond any required safety measures.
UNDATED (AP) -- JPMorgan is suing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to recover more than $1 billion. It says the FDIC failed to make good on the promises it made to induce the bank to buy Washington Mutual when it failed in 2008.
The New York bank says in a federal lawsuit that the FDIC's failure to honor obligations under the Washington Mutual agreement has subjected JP Morgan to massive liability.
The FDIC became the receiver for Washington Mutual, during the largest bank failure in U.S. history. JP Morgan Chase & Co. says the FDIC then declined to acknowledge that claims against JP Morgan for Washington Mutual's conduct should have been claims against the receivership.
The FDIC did not immediately return a call seeking comment from The Associated Press early Wednesday.
CREDIT SUISSE SECURITIES-LAWSUIT
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- The state of New Jersey is accusing Credit Suisse Securities and two affiliates of misrepresenting the risks involved in the sale of more than $10 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the state said Credit Suisse did not disclose to investors that underwriting guidelines had been abandoned in the sales.
The suit says investors were also not told that numerous loan originators had poor track records and that some had even been suspended from doing business with Credit Suisse.
New York State filed a similar suit last year.
New York-based Credit Suisse Securities is a subsidiary of Zurich-based Credit Suisse and operates as an investment bank in the United States.
Credit Suisse spokesman Drew Benson says the complaint is without merit and uses inaccurate and exaggerated figures.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A prominent business group is challenging government rules that require federal contractors to display posters telling workers they have a legal right to form a union.
The National Association of Manufacturers filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday that asserts the Labor Department regulations violate the free speech rights of employers.
Earlier this year, a federal appeals court struck down a similar rule from the National Labor Relations Board that would have affected a much wider swath of business. The Labor Department rules, which have been in place since 2010, cover about 22 percent of U.S. businesses that have federal contracts.
Businesses complain the rules unfairly force them to promote unionization or risk being debarred from federal contracts. Federal officials say the posters simply inform workers of their legal rights.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Rate increases helped FedEx Corp. post net income that was 14 percent higher than a year earlier, when superstorm Sandy hurt business.
However, the second-quarter profit of $1.57 per share was lower than the $1.64 per share expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.
Its shares fell 2 percent in premarket trading.
Revenue rose 3 percent to $11.4 billion, about what analysts were expecting.
FedEx raised its full-year profit outlook slightly.
Customers continued to shift toward cheaper ground deliveries and away from overnight air. FedEx's ground unit saw volume grow 8 percent, while volume declined slightly in the U.S. for its air freight unit.
FedEx also noted that shipments for online orders after Thanksgiving will fall into a later quarter this year compared to last year.
DETROIT (AP) -- Ford says it expects 2013 to be one of the best financial years in its history with a pretax profit of about $8.5 billion.
The automaker expects 10 percent revenue growth, improved market share in all regions except Europe and stronger cash flow than a year ago.
The company released its forecast Wednesday ahead of a presentation to analysts by Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks.
Ford also expects next year to be solid. It plans to launch the highest number of new vehicles in a single year in more than a century.
CELLPHONES ON PLANES-DELTA
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Delta Air Lines says it won't allow passengers to make voice calls from its planes.
CEO Richard Anderson says the airline's frequent fliers believe that voice calls in the cabin would disrupt the travel experience. Delta says a majority of customers in a survey last year said the ability to make voice calls would make their experience worse, not better.
Anderson also says Delta employees, particularly in-flight crews, are against allowing calls during flights.
The Federal Communications Commission is thinking about lifting its ban on voice calls on planes. However, the Transportation Department is thinking about instituting a ban of its own.
ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND-HEADQUARTERS
CHICAGO (AP) -- Archer Daniels Midland Company has made it official: It is moving its global headquarters from Decatur in central Illinois to Chicago.
In a news release issued Wednesday morning, the company says that Chicago is the best location to provide access to global markets while maintaining "close connections" to farmers and customers.
The company says it intends to have about 50 to 75 employees in the new corporate office.
On Tuesday, people with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press about the move but Wednesday's announcement was the first official confirmation.
The company says a decision has not been made on where it will locate a new Information Technology and support center, where about 100 people will work.