News Wrap: Iran Nuclear Negotiations Get Reboot
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street bounced back today. Stocks rose after news that new home sales in January were the best since July of 2008. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 116 points to close at 13,900. The Nasdaq rose 13 points to close at 3,129.
J.P. Morgan Chase will cut some 4,000 jobs this year, about 1.5 percent of its work force. The bank’s announcement today said the reductions will come mainly through attrition, but there will be layoffs as well. Meanwhile, profits at U.S. banks grew 37 percent from October through December, compared to a year ago. It was the best fourth-quarter showing in six years.
The second blizzard in a week paralyzed parts of the country from Oklahoma to the Great Lakes today. More than 100,000 homes and businesses lost power, and Kansas City declared an emergency. The storm had already battered the Texas Panhandle. Winds there reached hurricane-force, and piled drifts more than two feet high in some places.
Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program restarted today for the first time in eight months. The two-day talks opened in Kazakhstan. The U.S. and other world powers offered to ease some international sanctions, if Iran will limit activities that could lead to nuclear weapons. .
MICHAEL MANN, Spokesman, European Union: The offer addresses international concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, but it’s also responsive to Iranian ideas. And we hope very much that Iran will seize this opportunity and come to the talks with flexibility and a commitment to make concrete progress towards a confidence-building step.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In response, Iran said it will make a counteroffer during the talks.
In Egypt, at least 19 people were killed in one of the deadliest ballooning accidents ever. A hot air balloon carrying tourists caught fire over the ancient city of Luxor and crashed in a field. The dead were from Europe and Asia. In addition, the Egyptian pilot and one British man were hospitalized with burns.
Italy’s politicians searched for a way forward today after an election that left a political stalemate. That, in turn, generated new fears of economic fallout.
We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: The news from Rome has sent shockwaves across Europe, a rebellion against austerity, a rebellion, too, against their fossilized politicians.
This man has upturned the old order: Beppe Grillo, a comedian, pitching a 20-hour working week, tax cuts and a referendum on the euro. a clown-turned-potential-kingmaker here, after polling 25 percent of Italy’s vote. This taxi driver backed him. “It was a protest vote,” he told me. “Grillo might be a comedian, but he can’t be worse than what we have got.”
The extraordinary success of Beppe Grillo’s grassroots movement has taken Italy by complete surprise. And if you’re looking for a party headquarters for him here in Rome, well, you won’t find one. All there is, is this staff room in the basement of a Rome hotel.
And if its politicians won’t do the job, Italy is at risk of becoming ungovernable. The Milan stock market tumbled almost 5 percent today and any halt to economic reform here endangers the rest of the Eurozone. Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, now urging Italy to form a stable, functioning government and to do it quick.
The center-left leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, says he will try to do that. He won the lower house of parliament. But whether he can now form a grand coalition to run the country is anyone’s guess. And it could be political suicide to strike a deal with Silvio Berlusconi, who staged a political comeback from the dead last night and who today hinted at compromises for the sake of Italy.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Google and the government of Spain went before Europe’s highest court in a privacy fight that could have far-reaching implications. The case involves whether Google can be forced to erase search results that people feel violate their privacy. The company says it shouldn’t have to delete lawful content which it didn’t create. A ruling is expected by the end of the year.