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News Wrap: Jobless Claims Boost Confidence on Wall Street

March 5, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news Friday, positive unemployment numbers from Labor Department helped Wall Street rally, and General Motors announced it will reinstate 600 dealerships it had planned to close.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The jobs report boosted optimism on Wall Street that the economy is improving, and that sparked a broad-based rally. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 122 points to close at 10566. The Nasdaq rose 34 points to close at 2326, the highest in 18 months. For the week, the Dow gained more than 2 percent; the Nasdaq rose nearly 4 percent.

General Motors has announced it will reinstate 600 dealerships that were slated to be closed. The decision is a compromise meant to head off congressional action. Last year, GM told 2,000 dealers that they would lose their franchises. It was part of a corporate plan to save money. About 1,100 of the affected dealers appealed to the automaker to reconsider.

In Greece, the parliament today approved $6.5 billion in budget cuts and new taxes to defuse a debt crisis. But opponents of those austerity measures protested again in Athens and fought with police.

We have a report from John Sparks of Independent Television News.

JOHN SPARKS: Here’s how bad things are in Greece right now, workers, civil servants and the unemployed involved in a series of street battles this week, as the prime minister, George Papandreou, through his third emergency budget, his government trying both to slash the country’s deficit and please fellow E.U. leaders.

Even pensioners were throwing themselves against the barricades yesterday. And, today, it was the turn of the Communist Party. Mr. Papandreou’s government has cut pay, whacked up taxes, raised the retirement age, and the people of Greece don’t like it.

The Greek prime minister went to Berlin today, looking for a friend. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, was supportive. Greece is dealing with difficult problems, said Mr. Papandreou, but he stopped short of asking for financial aid. Still, many think that’s just a matter of time.

SIMON TILFORD, Center for European Reform: This economy is in very, very deep trouble. It has a huge budget deficit. It has very poor growth prospects, a very high level of indebtedness. Investors are skeptical that the government can get the economy growing. And, unless it can get the economy growing, it’s going to be impossible to put public finances on a sound footing.

JOHN SPARKS: Fear not, however. Greek singer Nana Mouskouri will pitch in. She’s donating her pension earned when she served as an MEP to the country she loves — a harmonious end, then, to a very difficult week.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, comes to Washington next week to meet with President Obama. We will have an interview with him on Monday night.

Singapore has raised its terror threat level after warnings of a plot to attack oil tankers and other ships off its coast. The warning focused on the Malacca Strait, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Millions of barrels of oil pass through there every day. The government says it’s increasing security at border crossings, airports, seaports, and other high-risk targets.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted today the decision to invade Iraq was justified. He testified in London at a public inquiry into Britain’s role in going to war. Tony Blair was the prime minister in 2003, when British forces joined the U.S.-led invasion. Brown was then in charge of the British treasury.

Today, he backed his former boss.

GORDON BROWN, British prime minister: I believe we were making the right decision for the right cause. I believe I had sufficient information before me to make a judgment.

Of course, I wasn’t trying to do the job of the foreign secretary or trying to second-guess something that had happened at other meetings. I was looking at the issue on its merits. And, as I have said to you before, I was convinced of the merits of our case.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Brown also criticized U.S. officials over postwar planning. He said the Bush administration failed to focus on how to secure and rebuild Iraq.

Six people were killed when a passenger bus crashed south of Phoenix, Arizona, early this morning. At least 16 others were hurt, including three children. Police said the bus rear-ended a pickup truck, then veered out of control, rolled over, and landed on the side of the road. The roof of the bus was crushed, and the windows knocked out. The bus was traveling from Central Mexico to Los Angeles.

Investigators searched for a motive today after a man opened fire at the Pentagon subway last night. Two police officers were wounded and briefly hospitalized. The shooter, John Patrick Bedell, was killed at the scene when the officers returned fire. Bedell had driven from California after leaving anti-government messages on Internet message boards.

His parents had warned police that their son was unstable and might have a gun. Authorities said Bedell had a history of mental illness.

A series of powerful aftershocks rocked Chile this morning, nearly a week after a devastating earthquake. One registered a magnitude of 6.6 and hit the city of Concepcion right after dawn. Also today, government officials indicated more than 270 reported deaths were double-counted. That would lower the official death count to about 540.