Obama offers new offshore drilling rules

A week shy of the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Obama administration proposed new regulations aimed at strengthening oversight of offshore oil drilling equipment and ensuring that out-of-control wells can be sealed in an emergency. The explosion of the Deepwater rig on April 20, 2010, killed 11 people and dumped as many as 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Federal safety investigators blamed a faulty blowout preventer for the spill and called for stronger regulations of the equipment that prevents oil and gas from rushing to the surface and triggering a spill. The proposed rule would require that blowout preventers in wells have two shear rams, which cut through the drill pipe and allow the well to be sealed in an emergency. In the Deepwater Horizon spill, a single shear ram failed to operate properly. The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal before it is finalized.

Egg execs get jail time in salmonella case

Two former egg industry executives received jail sentences for their roles in a major 2010 salmonella outbreak, representing the latest high-profile victory for government officials hoping to emphasize food safety. The three-month sentences handed down in federal court are noteworthy because only a handful of cases of corporate misconduct end with executives behind bars. The extent of harm caused by the outbreak and the pattern of problems led to the decision for jail time. Austin "Jack" DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, each faced up to a year in jail on misdemeanor charges for shipping adulterated food. They will remain free while appealing their sentences.

Stocks mostly down ahead of big earnings

Investors sent stocks slightly lower ahead of a busy week for company earnings. With little news to move the market either way, major indexes spent the day wavering between slim gains and losses. Stocks started higher in the morning, turned lower shortly after midday, then drifted downward until the closing bell. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 80.61 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 17,977.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 9.63 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,092.43. The Nasdaq lost 7.73 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,988.25. JPMorgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, and Wells Fargo are among the big names turning in quarterly results Tuesday as earnings season gets underway.

Sears, Simon team up in real estate venture

Sears Holdings Corp. has agreed to form a real estate joint venture with Simon Property Group Inc. that will generate $114 million, the department-store chain's latest push to use its extensive properties to shore up its finances. Sears will transfer 10 properties valued at $228 million to a company that it will own jointly with Simon, the companies said in a statement. A leaseback arrangement means Sears will continue to operate stores at the locations. Simon, a real estate company, separately agreed to buy another Sears property at the La Plaza Mall in McAllen, Texas.

GM compensation fund up to 84 deaths

Families of at least 84 people killed in crashes caused by defective General Motors ignition switches will get compensation from the company. Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM to compensate victims, updated the total Monday. It was up from 80 last week. An additional 157 injured people also are eligible for compensation. The fund received a total of 4,342 claims by the Jan. 31 deadline. Of those, 1,136 are still under review. Feinberg says more than half are ineligible or lack documentation.

NEWS SERVICES