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News Wrap: Republicans Vote in Miss., Ala., Hawaii; Complaint Filed on China

March 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Deep South was the big target today in the Republican presidential nomination race. Alabama and Mississippi held primaries and accounted for 90 of the 107 delegates at stake today.

Rick Santorum hoped to win the two Southern states and emerge as the main rival to Mitt Romney. By most accounts, Newt Gingrich needed a strong showing in at least one of the states. And Romney was making a late run to try to score an unexpected Southern victory. Republicans in Hawaii and American Samoa were also voting today.

Wall Street roared ahead on improving economic news and a rally in bank stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 218 points to close at 13,177. The Nasdaq rose 56 points to close near 3,040. It was the first time the Nasdaq has finished above 3,000 in more than 11 years.

The fight over China’s curbs on exporting rare earth metals heated up today. The metals are critical to everything from advanced batteries to hybrid cars, and China has been cutting its exports. The U.S., Japan, and the European Union filed a complaint today with the World Trade organization.

At the White House, President Obama warned against trying to skirt the rules of international trade.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Being able to manufacture advanced batteries and hybrid cars in America is too important for us to stand by and do nothing. We’ve got to take control of our energy future and we can’t let that energy industry take root in some other country because they were allowed to break the rules.

HARI SREENIVASAN: China accounts for 97 percent of the world’s production of rare earth minerals.

Four of the largest U.S. banks have failed a new round of stress testing by the Federal Reserve. Citigroup, the nation’s third largest bank, was among them, according to results released today. Ally Financial, SunTrust, and MetLife also failed the annual tests. The Fed said 15 other banks would have enough capital to weather a future financial shock.

Rebels in Syria have suffered another defeat. The army today recaptured most of Idlib after a three-day operation. The city had been a rebel stronghold since last summer, but witnesses said the fighters had begun to run out of ammunition. Today, civilians huddled in basements in Idlib to stay safe. Above ground, remaining rebel fighters patrolled the streets, and families dodged snipers, trying to get out.

The worst Israeli-Palestinian violence in more than a year came to an end today. Egyptian officials brokered a truce, ending four days of fighting. But leaders on each side said the burden is on the other to keep the peace.

SHIMON PERES, Israeli president: The Palestinians need to stop shooting. It leads to nowhere. The Palestinians could have gained a great deal by peace, by — far more than by shooting. The hope resides in peace.

FAWZI BARHOUM, Hamas spokesman (through translator): We don’t trust the Zionist enemy at all, because he only thinks of killing more Palestinians. But we trust the Palestinian resistance and its leaders. And, of course, we trust the Egyptians. They can force the Zionist enemies to be committed to the truce.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The violence started on Friday after the Israelis killed a militant commander in Gaza. In all, at least 24 Palestinians died in airstrikes. Israeli police say militants fired more than 200 rockets into Israel, but no one was killed there.

Pakistani officials reported two more missile attacks by U.S. drone planes today, killing 15 more suspected militants. The Pakistanis said the dead included two senior commanders of the Pakistani Taliban. Both strikes occurred in the Waziristan tribal area along the rugged border with Afghanistan.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.