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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

Repurchasing of stock rises for 5th straight quarter

BOSTON (AP) -- Companies are using extra cash built up during the recession to repurchase stock, moves that are likely to please investors who see the value of their shares rise.

But the buyback surge may not please President Obama, who is urging companies to instead use surplus cash to hire more workers, hoping to generate jobs to sustain the economic recovery.

Standard & Poor's reported Monday that stock repurchases by S&P 500 companies more than doubled to $79.6 billion in the July-to-September period from $34.9 billion in last year's third quarter.

It was the fifth consecutive quarter of increasing buyback activity among the 500 largest publicly traded companies, many of them with substantial cash holdings built up during and after the recession that officially ended in mid-2009.

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Short-term T-bill rates rise

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills fell in Monday's auction with rates on three-month bills dropping to the lowest level in six weeks.

The Treasury Department auctioned $29 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.130 percent. That's down from 0.140 percent last week. Another $28 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.185 percent. That's down from 0.190 percent last week.

A discount rate reflects that the bill is selling for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,996.71 and the six-month price was $9,990.65. That would equal an annualized rate of 0.132 percent for the three-month bills and 0.188 percent for the six-month bills.

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Ernst & Young may face suit

NEW YORK (AP) -- Accounting firm Ernst & Young LLC may face civil fraud charges in New York for its alleged role in the demise of Lehman Brothers, according to a report.

The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, said in a Monday article that State Attorney General and New York Gov.-elect Andrew M. Cuomo may file the lawsuit this week, with the state possibly seeking fines and other penalties. The case alleges that Ernst & Young did not act in the appropriate manner, while Lehman misled investors about its financial condition.

Lehman was one of Ernst & Young's biggest clients before the investment bank's collapse in 2008 when the financial crisis intensified. The report says Ernst & Young made about $100 million in fees from 2001 through 2008 for its auditing work.

An Ernst & Young spokesman declined to comment on the report.

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'Net neutrality' OK likely

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the Federal Communications Commission has enough support to pass controversial new rules that will prohibit phone and cable companies from discriminating against or favoring Internet traffic flowing over their broadband networks.

More than a year after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski pledged to put in place so-called "network neutrality" regulations, the agency is poised to adopt those rules today.

Although the two Republicans who sit on the five-member commission are firmly opposed to the plan, Genachowski's two Democratic colleagues have both said they will vote to let the proposal pass.

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Toyota to pay $32 million

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to pay the government a record $32.4 million in additional fines to settle an investigation into its handling of two recalls at the heart of its safety crisis.

The Transportation Department said Monday the civil penalties will settle investigations into how Toyota dealt with recalls over accelerator pedals that could get trapped in floor mats and steering relay rods that could break and lead to loss of control.

The company said it agreed to the penalties without admitting any violations of U.S. laws. However, that does not free Toyota from potential civil and criminal penalties in private lawsuits and other federal investigations.

The latest settlement comes on top of a $16.4 million fine Toyota paid earlier in a related investigation.

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