Morning Report: Financial Reform Gains Steam, Jobless Claims Up

It may be easier said than done but the U.S. Senate and White House negotiators are close to an agreement on a key element of regulation reform, the New York Times reported late Wednesday.

The administration and Senate leaders have reportedly agreed on formation of a council of regulators to be led by the Treasury secretary that would be responsible for identifying systemic risk to the financial system.

The creation of a council would diminish the authority of the Federal Reserve, which has borne waves of criticism for allowing the crisis to get out of hand. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has reportedly said he would not object to a Treasury-led council.

Senators have not reached agreement on the question of whether the council would have the authority to impose its own rules on large financial institutions, the report said.

"The idea of having a council, with the secretary of the Treasury as chair, and the Fed chairman or his designee as vice chair, is that you're getting an early-warning system," said Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

The Labor Department's weekly report Thursday showed initial claims for jobless benefits rose by a much higher-than-expected 31,000 to 473,000 in the week ended Feb. 13, while the previous week's level was revised upward to 442,000 from 440,000.

Meanwhile, U.S. wholesale prices rose a seasonally adjusted 1.4% in January on double-digit increases in gasoline and home heating oil, the Labor Department estimated Thursday. Core prices of finished goods - which exclude food and energy goods - rose 0.3% in January, led by higher prices for light trucks and other capital goods.

The core rate of 0.3% was also higher than the 0.1% gain expected. The producer price index is up 4.6% in the past year, the largest year-over-year gain since the financial crisis began in late 2008. The core PPI is up 1% in the past year.

The International Monetary Fund called for a "vigorous" restructuring of Dubai's state companies, including giving up nonviable businesses, as the debt-laden city-state seeks to renegotiate its borrowings.

While market sentiment has improved since Dubai received financial support last year from the wealthier neighboring emirate of Abu Dhabi, "uncertainties remain," the Washington- based lender said in an e-mailed report today.

The economy of Dubai, which accounts for about 40 percent of the United Arab Emirates' gross domestic product, has been battered by the global crisis as credit markets seized up, trade declined and real estate prices plummeted.

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