HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. economy gained a little ground late in 2011, according to new government data. The 2.8 percent growth for the last three months of 2011 was the fastest pace since the spring of 2010. But economists said that number would have to be much higher to bring down unemployment.
The tepid economic news meant stocks on Wall Street finished the day mixed. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 74 points to close at 12,660. The Nasdaq rose 11 points to close above 2,816. For the week, the Dow lost half-a-percent; the Nasdaq rose more than 1 percent.
A new Justice Department unit officially launched today with the mandate to investigate fraud and wrongdoing in the housing market. The unit will link federal and state resources to focus on residential mortgage-backed securities. They were the bundled investment packages of what ended up being nearly worthless mortgages that helped spur the financial crisis.
At a news conference in Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder said 11 civil subpoenas have already been issued to financial institutions as part of the effort.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: We are looking now at a specific area in which we have found great harm that was done to the economy, and continues to do great harm to the economy and to consumers in this nation. We are bound and determined and will hold people accountable in this sector.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Obama administration has been under pressure from labor unions, consumer advocates and political activists to do more to probe the mortgage lending practices of more banks.
At least 33 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq today. The bomb went off in southeastern Baghdad during a funeral procession through a largely Shiite neighborhood. The force of the explosion shattered windows in nearby buildings, including the local hospital. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Today's attack is the latest in a wave of sectarian violence that has killed 200 people this year. French troops may be leaving Afghanistan a year earlier than planned by the end of 2013. French President Nicolas Sarkozy made that proposal today in Paris after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Sarkozy also said he and Karzai agreed to ask NATO to hand over all combat missions to the Afghan military by the end of 2013, instead of the end of 2014. Sarkozy said the proposal would be brought up at a NATO meeting in Brussels next week.
A cruise ship operator has offered to pay passengers who were on board the Costa Concordia, the ship that ran aground off the coast of Italy two weeks ago. Costa Cruises offered $14,500 to 3,200 uninjured passengers as compensation for lost baggage and psychological trauma. Some passengers have already refused the offer.
Meanwhile, the search for 16 people who are still missing resumed today. A team of divers was able to inspect an unexplored area of the ship.
Those are some of the day's major stories.