Last Update on December 04, 2013 08:29 GMT
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Most Asian stock markets fell today, led by losses in Japan, as investors continued to worry the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon start reducing its monetary stimulus.
Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia said traders and economists are looking to employment figures Wednesday from payrolls company ADP for indications about the strength of hiring in the official U.S. employment report due Friday.
Whether the Fed starts reducing its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases will likely hinge on Friday's report. The Fed's stimulus has shored up global stock markets over the past few years. So-called "tapering" of that stimulus could work the opposite way, even though it would be predicated on an improving U.S. economic outlook.
Benchmark crude oil rose above $97 a barrel. The dollar fell against the euro and the yen.
Slew of reports due Wednesday on housing, trade, local and state economic condition
WASHINGTON -- Several government reports due out later today could shed more light on the state of the economy.
The Commerce Department releases new home sales for September and October and also will put out its monthly report on international trade data.
Later Wednesday, the Federal Reserve releases the Biege Book, its anecdotal snapshop of business conditions around the nation, covering October through mid-November. And the Institute for Supply Management releases its service sector index for November at mid morning. President Barack Obama speaks on the economy at the Center for American Progress and the House Energy and Commerce Committee has a hearing on the health care law and Medicare advantage, the private insurance alternative within Medicare.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A senior Republican lawmaker in Congress says the GOP opposes a push by Democrats to renew jobless benefits averaging less than $300 a week nationwide for the long-term unemployed.
Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma says, quote, "I don't see much appetite on our side for continuing this extension of benefits. I just don't."
Benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed people expire just three days after Christmas. Lawmakers say another 1.9 million people would miss out on the benefits in the first six months of next year.
Democrats are pressing for legislation continuing a program in place since 2008 that gives federally paid benefits to jobless people after their 26 weeks of state benefits run out.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama wants to draw attention to the income gap between rich and poor in an economic address meant to both spur short-term congressional action and help set the agenda for the remainder of his presidency.
The White House says Obama, in a speech later today, will renew his call for increasing the minimum wage, arguing that growing income inequality and stagnant wages threaten upward mobility and retirement security. Polls show the economy remains the single biggest concern for Americans, despite the recent focus on problems with the health care law.
Obama also is expected to call on Congress to make a deal on 2014 spending, pass a farm bill with enough money for food stamps and extend unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed before the end of the year.
EMPLOYERS-CLASS ACTION SUITS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court has ruled that employers can require their workers to sign arbitration agreements waiving all rights to class action lawsuits over workplace grievances.
The ruling from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a National Labor Relations Board decision last year. The board had found that such agreements conflicted with federal law giving workers the right to pursue collective action to complain about workplace conditions.
The court's ruling is a victory for businesses that want to limit legal exposure from the rising cost of class action lawsuits over unpaid overtime and other wage violations. But it's a blow to workers who find it easier to band together when challenging the policies at a large company.
An NLRB spokesman says the agency is reviewing the decision.
BALI, Indonesia (AP) -- Chances of a breakthrough in global trade negotiations dimmed today as India refused to budge on food subsidies that are an obstacle to an eleventh-hour agreement at a World Trade Organization summit.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urged the WTO's 159 member economies to work past their differences to finalize a slimmed-down deal to boost trade.
He says failing to agree "would deal a debilitating blow to the WTO as a forum for multilateral negotiations."
But Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma left little hope for a breakthrough. His government opposes a provision that could endanger subsidies for grains under an Indian policy to feed its poor.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit's two largest unions filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the agency, claiming its board of directors broke state law when it approved a contract without a key provision.
The unions filed the suit in Alameda County Superior Court less than two weeks after BART's board approved a new labor deal but stripped a Family Medical Leave Act provision that the unions and the agency's top negotiators signed off on during contentious talks to end a strike.
The unions say the lawsuit will not affect train service for the nation's fifth-largest commuter rail service with an average weekday ridership of 400,000. They're asking the court to force BART to honor the full contract the parties all agreed to. The attorneys say the BART board's vote is unprecedented as it cannot "cherry-pick" which provisions it wants to honor with a "take-it-or-leave it" attitude.
BART officials say the family leave provision had been inadvertently included.
AT&T pays $3.5M to settle Pa. woman's lawsuit
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A Pennsylvania woman who said AT&T improperly billed the government for millions of dollars in services has settled a federal lawsuit.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1bfZq38 ) reported Tuesday that AT&T Corp. paid $3.5 million to settle the case though the company still denies wrongdoing.
The case was filed in 2010 by Constance Lyttle, a former AT&T employee from western Pennsylvania. She said she was fired because she sought to prevent international con artists from using a service for the hearing impaired.
The Department of Justice later joined the case, alleging the company improperly billed the government for services designed for use by the deaf and hard of hearing who place phone calls by typing messages over the Internet.
Lyttle received $525,000 of the settlement under whistleblower laws.