Last Update on June 20, 2013 07:33 GMT
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A couple of private reports headline the day's economic data.
The National Association of Realtors releases May numbers on existing home sales this morning, while the Conference Board releases its index of leading indicators for May.
The Labor Department provides its weekly report on jobless claims. And Freddie Mac releases an update on mortgage rates.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Asian stock markets plummeted today after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it could start scaling back its huge economic stimulus program later this year.
The announcement Wednesday in Washington drew sharp reaction in financial markets, showing just how dependent investors have become on the Fed's easy money policies.
The Fed has been buying $85 billion worth of bonds each month to keep long-term interest rates low to boost borrowing and spending. On Wednesday, however, the Fed said the U.S. economy was strengthening, and Chairman Ben Bernanke said the bank's purchases will likely slow down this year and end next year.
Normally, stock markets go up when the economic outlook improves.
Benchmark crude oil fell below $97 per barrel. The dollar gained against the euro and the yen.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve policymakers have voted to continue the pace of its bond-buying program for now, but chairman Ben Bernanke ended weeks of speculation by saying the Fed will likely slow the program this year and could end it by the middle of 2014.
The Fed has upgraded its outlook for unemployment and economic growth, saying the economy's "downside risks" have diminished since fall. At a news conference Wednesday, Bernanke likened any move to slow bond purchases to easing off the gas pedal rather than applying the brakes, saying the reductions would occur in "measured steps."
The Fed's purchases of Treasury and mortgage bonds have helped keep long-term interest rates at record lows. A pullback in the $85 billion-a-month program would likely mean higher rates on mortgages and other consumer and business loans.
Bernanke stressed that even after the Fed ends its bond purchases, it will continue to maintain its vast investment portfolio, which will help keep long-term rates down.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House has voted to cut food stamps by $2 billion a year.
The chamber rejected 234-188 a Democratic amendment to a wide-ranging farm bill that would have maintained current spending on food stamps and cut farm subsidies instead. The bill cuts the $80 billion-a-year program by about 3 percent and makes it harder for some people to qualify.
The Senate passed a farm bill last week that would make much smaller cuts to the food stamp program, which has doubled in cost since 2008.
The House is debating 103 amendments to the five-year, half-trillion dollar bill as backers are trying to shore up votes for final passage. Democrats are opposing it because of the food stamp cuts, while some conservatives say the cuts aren't deep enough.
HONG KONG (AP) -- A survey shows manufacturing in China contracted this month on weakening demand, adding to fears about the strength of the recovery in the world's second-biggest economy.
HSBC said Thursday that the preliminary version of its monthly purchasing managers index fell to a nine-month low of 48.3 in June. That's down from 49.6 in May. Numbers below 50 indicate a contraction.
June factory output decreased, a reversal from gains in the month before. New export orders decreased at a faster rate.
HSBC said manufacturing sectors are being weighed down by deteriorating external demand and moderating domestic demand.
The preliminary PMI is based on responses from 85 to 90 percent of 420 manufacturing companies polled each month.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senior White House economic adviser Michael Froman has been confirmed by the Senate to be the next U.S. trade representative.
The law school classmate of President Barack Obama takes over the post as the administration seeks to advance major trade deals with Pacific Rim and European nations.
The Senate vote was 93-4 to confirm Froman to succeed Ron Kirk, the former Dallas mayor who resigned as trade representative in February. Obama nominated Froman in May to be the administration's top trade negotiator.
As trade representative, the 50-year-old veteran of the Clinton and Obama administrations will be responsible for advancing an ambitious trade agenda that includes wrapping up a 12-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal and initiating negotiations on a trade liberalization agreement with the European Union.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Stratasys, a leading maker of 3-D printers, is buying another 3-D printer manufacturer, MakerBot, for $403 million in stock.
Stratasys Ltd. says the acquisition will enable it to offer affordable desktop 3-D printers.
MakerBot's owners will receive 4.76 million newly issued Stratasys shares and are eligible for another 2.38 million through the end of 2014 if certain performance targets are met. That could raise the purchase price by about $201 million based on Wednesday's stock price.
The merger is expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year.
Stratasys is based in Eden Prairie, Minn., and Rehvot, Israel. It shares rose nearly 2 percent in after-hours trading to $86. New York-based MakerBot is privately held.
DALLAS (AP) -- A government analyst says the merger of American Airlines and US Airways would reduce competition on more than 1,600 routes traveled by more than 53 million passengers.
A researcher for the Government Accountability Office said Wednesday that the loss of competition would be greater than occurred in the 2010 merger of United and Continental airlines.
American and US Airways executives have defended their combination, noting that they overlap on only 12 nonstop routes. But the GAO also considers connecting routes -- those with at least one stop.
GAO researcher Gerald Dillingham says that competition would decline with the American-US Airways merger because there would be one less airline flying those connecting routes.
The Department of Justice is still studying the merger.