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Updated: Feb 9 2013, 07:27am hrs
Moodys, S&P being probed by NY over 2008 accord

Moodys Investors Service, Standard & Poors and Fitch Ratings are being investigated by the New York Attorney General over whether they breached a 2008 settlement with the state, a person familiar with the matter said. The companies reached an agreement with then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo that required them to adopt changes to their operations. Eric Schneiderman, the current attorney general, is probing whether they complied with the agreement, said the person, who wasnt authorized to speak publicly about the probe. The US justice department and state attorneys general this week sued S&P, accusing the company of inflating ratings on mortgage-backed securities during the housing bubble. New York wasnt one of the states that sued. Michael Adler, a Moodys spokesman, and Dan Noonan, a Fitch spokesman, didnt immediately respond to e-mails on Thursday after regular business hours seeking comment about the New York probe.

US jobless claims point to healing in labour market

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week and a trend reading hit a near five-year low, signs a grinding recovery in the labour market remains on track. Other reports on Thursday showed many top US retailers had strong sales in January even as customers were hit with higher taxes, while productivity at businesses slumped in the fourth quarter. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000, the labour department said. That was enough to pull down a four-week moving average of new claims, a gauge of the trend in layoffs, by 2,250 to 350,500, its lowest since March 2008. The labour market is improving, but certainly not at a robust rate by any means, said Russell Price, an economist at Ameriprise Financial in Troy, Michigan. While employers have pulled back on layoffs, they have only added jobs at a lackluster pace. Economists say the tepid labour market recovery means the Federal Reserve is likely to keep buying bonds into next year to keep US borrowing costs low.

France floats Peugeot stake buy option

The French government floated the possibility of buying a stake in PSA Peugeot Citroen after the ailing automaker announced second-half writedowns of 4.13 billion euros ($5.53 billion) amid Europes plunging auto sales. Lets be clear: this company cannot, must not disappear, French budget minister Jerome Cahuzac said on RMC radio on Friday. Well have to do what we have to do to save this company. Buying a holding is not currently on the agenda, a representative for Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, said. Peugeot, which is Europes second-biggest automaker and currently employs more than 100,000 people in France, is trying to stem losses that a union leader said last week are 7 million euros per day. Peugeot plans to eliminate 17% of its French workforce and close a factory near Paris in response to the biggest slump in EU auto sales in 19 years.

Shareholder Southeastern unhappy with Dell buyout

Dell Incs largest independent shareholder, Southeastern Asset Management Inc, has told the computer maker that a $24.4 billion buyout bid undervalues it, adding to a chorus of investor dissatisfaction with the landmark deal to take it private, two sources close to the situation said. Southeastern has privately told the company that it is disturbed by a $13.65 per share offer for the third-largest PC maker by a consortium led by founder and CEO Michael Dell, and instead believes Dell is worth $20 per share, the sources said on Thursday. The Memphis, Tennessee-based fund, which owns a 7.5% stake in Dell, did not return calls seeking comment. Southeastern has not commented publicly since the deal was announced on Tuesday, but chief executive Mason Hawkins said in a September 30 filing that the fund believed the company's shares were worth in the low 20s even if Dells personal computing business was valued at nothing. Dell was not available for comment. Sources said the buyout consortium has no plans to raise its current bid. Southeasterns reservations could create new uncertainty about the deal. Over the past few days, some other Dell shareholders have indicated they will vote against the deal.