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December 18, 2013 | By Don Lee and Jim Puzzanghera
WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve took its first step toward curtailing its unprecedented efforts to boost the economic recovery - a sea change in policy that over time will result in interest rates drifting higher for businesses and consumers alike. After months of skittishness among policymakers and intense anticipation across the globe, the central bank said Wednesday that it would pare its large bond-buying stimulus program by $10 billion a month, beginning next month. The decision marks what is expected to be the start of a gradual unwinding of the Fed's historic efforts to revive an economy debilitated by the financial crisis six years ago. The announcement was greeted with cheers on Wall Street and by many others in the financial industry.
December 17, 2013 | By Ricardo Lopez
Led by positive data on sales of new single-family housing, home-builder confidence ticked up in December, reaching its highest reading in four months. The gauge of the National Assn. of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index reached 58 last month. Figures above 50 signal that builders are optimistic. “This is definitely an encouraging sign as we move into 2014,” said Rick Judson, NAHB's chairman and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “This indicates that an increasing number of builders have a positive view on where the industry is going.”   The housing market has recently cooled, a trend that begin this summer.
December 17, 2013 | Bill Plaschke
Kobe Bryant has this thing he does, just when the Lakers are moments from being flattened by an oncoming train, he smiles and says, "What whistle?" Call it the no-look quote. Bryant has been doing this for years, his normal confidence level going into beast mode whenever his team is truly in peril. The swagger he brings into the final minutes of a game is wildly heightened when his team is in the final minutes before a meltdown. In Bryant's world, it's always dawn before the darkest.
December 13, 2013 | Elaine Woo
Barbara Branden, who wrote a definitive biography of philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand after a close association that ended in a disastrous tangle of relationships, died Wednesday in a rehabilitation center near her home in West Hollywood. She was 84. Her death from a lung infection was confirmed by longtime friend Wallis Grover. Branden was the author of "The Passion of Ayn Rand," a 1986 biography that earned wide praise for its insights into the writer best known for novels "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged.
December 12, 2013 | By Lance Pugmire
Andre Ward said he's confident he'll return to the boxing ring in the early spring despite the lawsuit he filed Monday attempting to break from his longtime promoter, Dan Goossen. “The legal process that I'm going through right now should have no bearing on my getting back in the ring as soon as possible,” Ward said in a statement emailed to The Times on Wednesday morning. “And I'm hoping to fight some time in March or April. " Ward, 29, is 27-0 with 14 knockouts after cruising to a unanimous decision over Edwin Rodriguez last month in Ontario.
December 12, 2013 | By Glenn Whipp
Josh Brolin plays an escaped convict who reawakens the sensual side of a withdrawn single mother (Kate Winslet) in Jason Reitman's lovely romance, "Labor Day," which will play a one-week awards qualifying run starting Dec. 27 before opening in theaters Jan. 31. Over a leisurely lunch, Brolin, one of Hollywood's great interviews, talked about the role and its challenges and being considered for "Batman. " Reitman says he had to "re-learn" his filmmaking process for "Labor Day," moving from relying on talk to an emphasis on stillness.
December 11, 2013 | By Michael A. Memoli and Lisa Mascaro
WASHINGTON - In an uncharacteristically forceful tone, House Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday lambasted the conservative advocacy groups that helped bring his party to power, saying their opposition to a bipartisan budget proposal amounted to an effort to manipulate Republicans and the American people "for their own goals. " The rare outburst from the often poker-faced speaker, a reversal of his past approach toward influential conservative groups, underscored long-simmering tensions between them and mainstream Republicans, who appear to be moving to reestablish their control over the party's agenda.
December 6, 2013 | By Ricardo Lopez
Consumer confidence unexpectedly rebounded in December to a five-month high after slumping in recent months partly due to the partial government shutdown, according to a Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary reading.  The widely watched gauge of consumer sentiment reached 82.5, up from a November reading of 75.1 The boost is likely to be welcomed by retailers, who have reported weak holiday sales compared with last year. On Thursday, data firm Retail Metrics reported that same-store retail sales -- excluding figures from the Gap and Zumiez chains -- rose an anemic 1.9% last month, missing expectations for a 3% year-over-year increase.  PHOTOS: Richest and poorest cities in America November's weak sales disappointed retailers who had gone all-out in their efforts to lure consumers.
November 28, 2013 | By Mark Magnier
NEW DELHI - Thailand's prime minister easily survived a no-confidence vote Thursday, but hundreds of protesters continued to besiege ministries in the capital as her embattled government sought a way out of its political crisis. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's ruling Pheu Thai party prevailed in parliament by a vote of 297 to 134. The opposition hoped to unseat the government but members of Yingluck's party held firm in their commanding majority to blunt the challenge. Footage showed her smiling broadly dressed in a dark suit and gold necklace as the vote was announced.
November 22, 2013 | By Jim Puzzanghera
WASHINGTON -- President Obama's standing with global investors plummeted over the last two months amid fiscal fights and the flawed roll-out of the healthcare reform website, with just 38% of respondents in a new poll viewing him favorably. The figure in the Bloomberg Global Poll, released Friday, was down sharply from a 50% favorable rating in mid-September. The drop echoes Obama's plunging approval rating in other polls in recent weeks after problems with the new website that launched Oct. 1. QUIZ: How well do you understand the Fed stimulus?
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