News Wrap: U.S. economy slows but wages rise

In our news wrap Friday, the government reported that GDP growth slowed significantly in the last part of 2014, but wages and benefits rose at the best pace in six years. Also, former Gov. Mitt Romney announced he will not run for president again in 2016.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The U.S. economy slowed in the fourth quarter of 2014, but American workers did a little better overall. Government data today showed the gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.6 percent, down from previous quarters. A separate report said wages and benefits rose 2.2 percent in 2014, the best pace in six years. And the University of Michigan consumer confidence index was the highest it's been in over a decade.

    Across the Atlantic, the Eurozone reported consumer prices fell over the past 12 months, a further sign of soft demand and general economic weakness. Meanwhile, in Athens, the new leftist leaders of Greece pressed top European Union officials today to ease terms of the Greek bailout.

    But the chair of the Eurozone financial ministers warned Greece against rash decisions.

  • JEROEN DIJSSELBLOEM, President, Eurogroup:

    It's of the utmost importance that Greece remains on a path of recovery. This requires commitment to reform process and to fiscal sustainability. Taking unilateral steps or ignoring previous arrangements is not the way forward.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The German government joined in the warnings. Its foreign minister rejected demands to forgive rescue loans to Greece, and commented — quote — "We are difficult to blackmail," while, in Russia, the Central Bank unexpectedly cut a key interest rate, citing the growing risk of an economic slowdown. The ruble tumbled again in response.

    The day's economic news worried Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 252 points to close below 17165. The Nasdaq fell 48 to 4635. And the S&P 500 slipped 48 to finish at 1995. For the month, the Dow lost 3.5 percent. The Nasdaq fell 2 percent. And the S&P lost 3 percent.

    You can scratch Mitt Romney from the Republican presidential race in 2016. The party's 2012 nominee announced today that he will not make a third run for the White House.

    In a phone call with supporters, Romney said it's time for a fresh face.

    MITT ROMNEY (R), Former Presidential Candidate: I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee.

    In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Romney said he'd been asked if anything might change his mind. He said that seems unlikely.

    Bombings across the Islamic world left scores of people dead today. At least 56 were killed and dozens wounded in southeastern Pakistan when a bomb ripped through a Shiite mosque. The blast struck in the middle of Friday prayers, leaving bystanders and worshipers pulling victims from the rubble. A militant Sunni group claimed responsibility.

    Shiites were also the target of bomb attacks in Iraq. Explosions across Baghdad killed at least 27 people. Most of the victims died in a pair of timed bombings that struck a busy market. To the north, Islamic State fighters attacked near Kirkuk, killing a top Kurdish commander and eight of his fighters.

    There was no word today on the fate of two Islamic State hostages, a Japanese journalist and a Jordanian pilot. The militants had threatened to kill the pilot unless Jordan released a convicted terrorist yesterday. Instead, the Jordanians are demanding proof that the pilot is still alive.

    Britain paid tribute to Winston Churchill today, marking 50 years since the wartime leader's funeral. The same boat that once carried Churchill's coffin retraced its route along the River Thames. Members of Churchill's family joined the journey, and his grandson recalled how the funeral had affected the British public.

    SIR NICHOLAS SOAMES, Grandson of Sir Winston Churchill: I was astonished at the faces of many, many people who were literally contorted with grief, because I think that, for the older people, my grandfather had been a friend. He was someone they knew. And he had led the nation at a very difficult time with them. And they felt part of that. And I think they were — his going was definitively the end of an era.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    On that day in 1965, an estimated one million people lined Churchill's funeral route. As his flotilla passed by, London's dockside cranes were lowered in respect.

    Back in this country, the White House weighed in on vaccinating children for measles. A spokesman said the science is really clear that the immunizations work. About 100 cases of measles have been reported in the U.S. since last month, mostly in California.

    And two men, one American, one Russian, claimed the world record today for long-duration balloon flight. They have now spent 138 hours in the air on a flight across the Pacific. They also surpassed the distance record of 5,209 miles. The pilots lifted off last Sunday in Japan and expect to land in Mexico tomorrow. Once they do, the balloon will have traveled an estimated 6,835 miles.

Listen to this Segment