Regulators ease provision of Volcker rule

Federal regulators bent to the will of the banking industry and some lawmakers and revised a rule that would have forced community banks to take write-downs on a security that many had invested in before the financial crisis. The revision to the Volcker rule, announced late Tuesday, would permit banks to continue to hold on to a special type of collateralized debt obligation. The Volcker rule, approved by regulators in December, would have forced banks to rid themselves of CDOs backed by trust-preferred securities. The provision set off an uproar from the banking industry, which said it violated the intent of the Volcker rule, which was meant to rein in risk-taking by big Wall Street banks and not to result in a financial hit to smaller ones.

GM's global sales likely to fall short of Toyota

General Motors sold 9.71 million cars and trucks last year, probably not enough to beat out Toyota for the global sales crown, but about 200,000 better than Volkswagen. Toyota, the sales champion in 2012, will report its sales next week. It only needs to show a little growth to beat GM again. GM said Tuesday that sales of light vehicles worldwide grew 4 percent in 2013, led by growth in China and the United Kingdom. The company's sales in China rose 11 percent to set a record. U.S. sales were up 7 percent, slightly below the market's growth of nearly 8 percent. Volkswagen said Monday that it sold 9.5 million light vehicles last year, setting a company record.

Mulally: Cars' gadgetry needs privacy rules

The automotive industry needs legislation to protect drivers' privacy as more cars utilize data for location tracking and other services, Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Alan Mulally said. Ford is "supportive and participating" in talks with regulators who are considering such laws, Mulally said at the Detroit auto show. The second-largest U.S. automaker has countered comments made last week by its global marketing chief, who said Ford knows when drivers of its vehicles violate traffic laws through its global-positioning system data. "It's just really important that we have boundaries and guidelines to operate," Mulally told reporters.

World Bank sees global economy picking up

The global economy is slowly picking up steam, led by advanced economies appearing to turn the corner after five years of financial crises and recession and a continued good performance by China, the World Bank said. However, it says growth prospects remain vulnerable to rising interest rates and potential volatility in capital flows as the U.S. Federal Reserve eases up on the extraordinary stimulus it has been providing to the U.S. economy, the world's largest. The bank's report says global growth is expected to firm from 2.4 percent in 2013 to 3.2 percent this year and 3.4 percent in 2015.

Inventories grew 0.4 percent in November

U.S. companies built up their stockpiles in November as their sales improved. Continued growth in inventories suggests businesses believe consumers will increase spending in the months ahead. The Commerce Department said that business stockpiles grew 0.4 percent in November. That follows a strong 0.8 percent gain in October. Sales increased 0.8 percent in November after a 0.5 percent gain the previous month. Rising stockpiles should help keep economic growth solid in the October-December quarter.