Fewer workers file jobless benefits claims

Claims for unemployment insurance payments fell last week, returning to levels seen in the second half of 2012. Those applications dropped 5,000 to 366,000 in the week ended Saturday, according to the Labor Department. Claims, after seesawing in prior weeks as the government had trouble adjusting the data for seasonal swings, are settling at a level that signals there is little change in the pace of firings from last year. The data come after a report last week indicated employers are boosting payrolls at a faster pace as demand holds up. “It could be better, but you’re still seeing improvement in other labor market data,” JPMorgan Chase economist Daniel Silver said.

Consumer borrowing up 5th straight month

Consumer borrowing rose in December for a fifth straight month as nonrevolving credit surged by the most in 11 years. The $14.6 billion gain followed a revised $15.9 billion advance in November, the Federal Reserve said. Nonrevolving debt, such as financing for college tuition and auto purchases, jumped $18.2 billion in December, while credit-card borrowing fell. Rising home values and job creation are boosting the ability and willingness of households to borrow, laying the foundation for an acceleration in consumer spending.

First Buffett backing since ’09 sells risky debt

Warren Buffett’s first repayment guarantee on a municipal bond since 2009 showed that the billionaire’s imprimatur can help sell even the riskiest debt to investors hungry for income with yields at a generational low. A Texas development agency sold $106.9 million of taxable securities Wednesday for the Colony, a city north of Dallas. Proceeds will finance construction of a Nebraska Furniture Mart that the company says will be the nation’s largest home furnishings store. The venue, anchoring a $1.5 billion retail development, will be the third for the chain, owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. By buying these so-called dirt bonds, sold for real estate developments, investors are wagering on Texas’ improving finances and a strengthening national economy.

UBS owes nothing to ‘tax cheats’ who sued

UBS owes nothing to former U.S. clients who filed a “travesty” of a lawsuit against the Swiss bank over penalties and interest they paid to the Internal Revenue Service for offshore accounts, an appellate court ruled. The lawsuit claimed that UBS, the largest Swiss bank, had a duty to inform three former clients that they had to declare their accounts to the IRS and pay any taxes owed. All three avoided prosecution.

Administration to stay course on ethanol

President Obama won’t abandon the nation’s ethanol program and will encourage Congress to maintain it, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at the National Ethanol Conference in Las Vegas. The Renewable Fuels Standard, passed in 2007, requires the U.S. to use 13.8 billion gallons of renewable fuels such as ethanol this year and 15 billion gallons by 2015. The Agriculture Department estimated this month that 42 percent of this year’s corn crop will go toward making the fuel.

Korean Air’s building to be tallest in L.A.

A $1 billion office-and-hotel tower being developed by Korean Airlines in downtown Los Angeles will be the tallest building in the western U.S. upon its completion in four years, according to the project’s architect. The foundation of the 1,100-foot tower will be poured at the end of this year, with a grand opening planned for March 2017, said Chris Martin, chief executive of the architecture firm AC Martin Partners. The building will rise higher than downtown’s 1,018-foot U.S. Bank Tower, currently the tallest in the western U.S.

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