Among the stories for Thursday from The Associated Press:
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's jobs council expires Thursday, removing a source of input from the business community just as fresh concerns emerge about the health of the economy. When Obama in January 2011 formed his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, unemployment was hovering above 9 percent. Two years later, it's at 7.8 percent, with more than 12 million people out of work — a marked improvement, but one that both parties agree is not good enough. By Josh Lederman.
— OBAMA-ECONOMY — Just as President Barack Obama is pushing new initiatives on gun control and immigration, the gloomy old problem of a sluggish economy is elbowing its way back into prominence. AP photo.
— DEBT LIMIT — The Senate is poised to permit the government to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to meet its obligations, putting off one Washington showdown even as others loom in coming weeks. AP photos.
DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-BLACKBERRY 10 FIRST LOOK
NEW YORK — An early look at the new BlackBerry Z10, which runs Research in Motion's new operating system, BlackBerry 10. By Peter Svensson.
— DIGITAL LIFE-TECH TEST-BLACKBERRY SPECS
MARKETS & ECONOMY:
WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers increased their spending in December at a slower pace, while their income grew by the largest amount in eight years. Income surged because companies rushed to pay dividends before income taxes increased on high-earners. The Commerce Department says that consumer spending rose 0.2 percent last month. By Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger.
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week but remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring. The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits leapt 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000. By Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber.
NEW YORK — Stocks are little changed after the government released new data on consumer spending and unemployment and some earnings reports disappointed investors.
— OIL PRICES — Oil prices are hovering near $98 a barrel, close to four-month highs, as traders waited for more economic indicators from the U.S.
— MORTGAGE RATES — The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week to its highest level in four months but remains low by historical standards.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.53 percent. That's up from 3.42 percent last week and the first time the rate has exceeded 3.50 percent since September.
UPS is reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $1.75 billion because of a $3 billion accounting charge for pension liabilities.
MasterCard says that its net income rebounded strongly in the fourth quarter as its overseas business continued to expand. By Business Writer Daniel Wagner.
MIDLAND, Mich. — Dow Chemical saw significant deterioration in key markets during the fourth quarter, particularly in China, and it posted a wider fourth-quarter loss.
— EARNS-AETNA — Aetna's fourth-quarter earnings sank 49 percent as the health insurer's medical costs climbed and it absorbed costs for litigation and the purchase of another insurer, among other expenses.
— EARNS-ALTRIA GROUP — Marlboro maker Altria Group's fourth-quarter profit rose about 32 percent as it commanded higher prices for cigarette and smokeless tobacco and expanded its industry-leading share of the U.S. market. By Tobacco Writer Michael Felberbaum.
NEW YORK — Hostess has picked a lead bidder for its famous Twinkies. The bankrupt company says that it has selected a joint offer from two investment firms — C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management LLC — as the lead bid for its Twinkies and other snack cakes. By Food Industry Writer Candice Choi.
NEW YORK — Frito-Lay wants a bite of Taco Bell's popular Doritos Locos Tacos. The snack food giant plans to roll out its Doritos in a "Taco Bell" flavor as a limited-time product this spring, aiming to capitalize on the popularity of the Doritos-flavored tacos introduced by the fast-food chain last year. By Food Industry Writer Candice Choi.
— FOOD AND FARM-ETHANOL FROM SCRAPS — After decades of talk, the ethanol industry is building multimillion dollar refineries in several states that will use corn plant residue, wood scraps and even garbage to produce the fuel additive. AP photo.
— FISHING CRISIS — New England fishermen say their industry is facing ruin after regulators approved massive cuts in cod catch limits. AP photos.
TOKYO — Japan's All Nippon Airways is prepared to recoup from Boeing whatever damages it suffers from flight cancellations and other costs caused by the worldwide grounding of 787 jets, a senior executive says. By Business Writer Yuri Kageyama.
WASHINGTON — With thousands of civilian contractors remaining in Iraq and Afghanistan, Justice Department officials want Congress to resolve a legal issue they say obstructs efforts to prosecute any such workers who rape, kill or commit other serious crimes abroad. By Eric Tucker.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The founder of a brokerage who hid his theft of customer funds for 20 years is about to face the moment he always wanted to avoid: being sentenced to prison. A federal judge in Iowa will sentence Peregrine Financial Group chairman Russ Wasendorf Sr. on Thursday. Federal prosecutors are asking for the maximum 50-year prison term.
— SCIENTIFIC GAMES-WMS — Instant-win lottery ticket company Scientific Games is buying gaming equipment company WMS Industries Inc. for about $1.42 billion in order to broaden its product offerings.
— TRI POINTE-IPO — Shares of TRI Pointe Homes climbed more than 14 percent in the home builder's first day of trading.
— GENERAL MOTORS-BOARD MEMBER — General Motors is expanding its board to include former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen. By The Associated Press.
— GM-EUROPE-OPEL— General Motors has appointed the former head of Volkswagen's China business to try and turn around its lossmaking European division, Opel.
TECHNOLOGY & MEDIA:
NEW YORK TIMES-HACKING
BEIJING — Chinese hackers repeatedly penetrated The New York Times' computer systems over the past four months, stealing reporters' passwords and hunting for files on an investigation into the wealth amassed by the family of a top Chinese leader, the newspaper says.
NEW YORK — Viacom Inc. says that its net income rose sharply in its fiscal first quarter versus results depressed by a large accounting charge a year ago. But its revenue and adjusted earnings fell because of a drop at its Paramount studio business and lower advertising revenue at its television channels.
— JAPAN-NINTENDO — Nintendo's president says he has ruled out price cuts for its new Wii U home console as a way to boost sales. AP photos.
— SWEDEN-EARNS-ERICSSON — Wireless equipment maker Ericsson posts a $1.02 billion loss in the fourth quarter due to a massive one-time charge.
— GRAND THEFT AUTO-RELEASE DATE — Video game publisher Take-Two says the next installment of the long-awaited "Grand Theft Auto" series will launch worldwide on Sept. 17.
— BRITAIN-NAOMI CAMPBELL — Model Naomi Campbell accepted libel damages from British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, over a story that falsely claimed she was planning an elephant polo match in India for her partner's birthday.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — It's just before first light and the bird-catcher strings nets among the orange, pomegranate, fig and carob trees in his orchard. The sound of chirping emanates from inside a massive carob — a trick sent from speakers to attract tiny songbirds. By mid-morning, the man disentangles about a half-dozen blackcaps, snaps their necks with his teeth and drops them in a bucket. For centuries, the migratory songbirds have been a prized delicacy among Cypriots. They are also an illegal one, as entry into the European Union forced Cyprus to ban the tradition of catching the creatures, some endangered, in nets or on sticks slathered with a glue-like substance. By Menelaos Hadjicostis.
BEIJING — Chinese companies plan to step up investment this year in Europe, which some see as more welcoming than the United States, a European business group says. By Business Writer Joe McDonald.
RIGA, Latvia — Latvian lawmakers have passed a law necessary for adopting the euro in January 2014 despite widespread opposition to the country's adoption of the troubled European single currency.
— GERMANY-ECONOMY — The number of Germans without jobs increased in January but analysts say the labor market still looks strong when the effects of the winter weather are taken into account.
— GREECE-FINANCIAL CRISIS — Public transport workers in the Greek capital walked off the job in a 24-hour strike, snarling traffic around Athens, while a doctors' strike has left hospitals functioning with emergency staff.
— EU-RYANAIR — The European Union's top court says that Irish low-cost airline Ryanair has to pay out compensation to passengers that were stranded due to the 2010 volcano eruption in Iceland.
— BRITAIN-FSA INVESTIGATION — The Financial Services Authority says that it is reviewing practices of the U.K.'s big retail banks after finding serious problems with the sale of interest rate hedging products to small businesses.
— JAPAN-ECONOMY — Japan's industrial production picked up pace in December from the month before, in a sign the world's third-largest economy may be stabilizing. AP photo.
— INDONESIA-BANKRUPT AIRLINE — Indonesia's commercial court has declared budget carrier Batavia Air bankrupt just months after AirAsia, Southeast Asia's top low-cost airline, aborted a deal to invest in it, officials say.
— BANGLADESH-FACTORY FIRE — Police in Bangladesh have arrested two owners of a garment factory where a fire killed seven workers last weekend.
— NETHERLANDS-EARNS-SHELL — Royal Dutch Shell PLC says that it plans to continue investing aggressively in new projects in the coming years, as it sees a bright future for the oil and gas industry despite ongoing economic uncertainties around the world.
— GERMANY-EARNS-DEUTSCHE BANK — Reducing the value of assets and lawsuit expenses pushed Deutsche Bank into a big and unexpected fourth quarter loss of $2.91 billion.
— BRITAIN-EARNS-DIAGEO — Distiller Diageo PLC, whose brands include Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Guinness, says its net profit rose to $2.43 billion in the six months ending on Dec. 31.
— JAPAN-EARNS-HONDA — Honda's quarterly profit surged nearly 63 percent as production recovered after disruptions from natural disasters.
— BRITAIN-EARNS-ASTRAZENECA — Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC warns about expiring patents on its medicines as the company announced a 37 percent fall in full-year net profit.