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A key gauge of U.S. economic activity rose 0.8 percent in January, reversing three consecutive monthly declines and signaling unexpected resilience in the U.S. economy.

The New York-based Conference Board said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose to 109.4 last month, evidence that the economy is steering clear of recession.

"With the 0.8 percent rise in January, the overall signal remains one of moderation in the pace of economic activity, with no recession looming on the horizon," said Ken Goldstein, economist for the Conference Board.

The rise in the January index was the largest increase in over two years, but does not offset the declines of recent months, the Conference Board said. Last month's increase followed a 0.6 percent drop in December, the largest decrease in five years.

, CEO only made $22.5 million
, NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group cut the compensation of its top executives last year, reflecting the decision by the biggest stock underwriter to reduce the amount it paid in employee bonuses.

Chief Executive Henry Paulson earned $22.5 million last year, a 12 percent cut. He received less than CEOs at Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Lehman Brothers Holdings and Bear Stearns Cos., who won average raises of 23 percent.

Paulson, 54, earned $600,000 in salary and a $14 million cash bonus, down from $16 million. He also received restricted stock worth $3.9 million and options now valued at $3.9 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

, GM to test online car sales
, DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors Corp. said Wednesday it has hired Internet vehicle-seller to regionally test the automaker's idea of selling autos online with guaranteed, dealer-set prices.

The three-month trial run is tentatively set to begin May 1 in an undisclosed U.S. metropolitan area. Terms were not disclosed.

, Regional power bidding sought
, ALBANY (AP) -- New York state's chief utility regulator proposed Tuesday that states between Maine and Maryland work together more closely to save electric consumers money and guarantee a steadier supply of power.

Maureen Helmer said the Independent System Operators, or their equivalents, in each state should work cooperatively every day to buy and sell electricity, thereby creating a "seamless, regional market."

"This will help the region avoid the rolling blackouts and wild price spikes that have affected California, encourage more competition and provide the potential for greater consumer savings through an expanded market for competitively priced generation," Helmer said.

, Ford praises UPS delivery
, DETROIT (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday its year-old partnership with a United Parcel Service subsidiary has trimmed its shipping time of new vehicles by 26 percent, helping to cut costs.

Launched in March 2000, the alliance between the world's second-largest automaker and UPS Logistics Group has pared by four days the average transit time of new Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands.

Ford said the improved efficiency has resulted in annualized savings of $1 billion in vehicle inventory and more than $125 million in inventory-carrying cost.

, Kraft sues pizza competitor
, MARSHALL, Minn. (AP) -- Kraft Foods is suing its biggest competitor in the frozen pizza market, accusing Schwan's Sales Enterprises of using stolen trade secrets to go after a bigger slice of the industry's $2.4 billion pie.

Kraft, the maker of Tombstone and DiGiorno brands, said Schwan's, which makes Red Baron and Tony's pizza, improperly obtained trade secrets by hiring a Kraft consultant with intimate knowledge of the company's marketing strategies.

Kraft alleges that Timothy Cauley, who managed research for A.C. Nielsen under contract with Kraft, took a comprehensive financial analysis of the Tombstone brand, among other documents.

, In other business news
, The Labor Department said the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 4,000 last week.

The yield on two-year Treasury notes fell in Wednesday's auction to 4.685 percent, down from 4.760 percent at the last auction on Jan. 24. It was the lowest yield since two-year notes sold for 4.575 percent on Jan. 27, 1999. The notes will carry a coupon interest rate of 4 5/8 percent with each $10,000 in face value selling for $9,988.70.

The Security Traders Association asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to extend the April 9 deadline for the Nasdaq Stock Market to implement decimal pricing by at least four months, saying the automated market needs more time to make the switch.

The Home Depot said Arthur M. Blank, 58, co-founder and co-chairman, will retire from the company and not seek re-election to its board of directors when his term ends May 30.

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