Stocks higher...Fed sticking to stimulus...Freddie Mac suing big banks

Wednesday - 3/20/2013, 3:30pm EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks remain higher in afternoon trading after the Federal Reserve said it would stick to its stimulus policy even as the economy strengthens. The Dow had been about 50 to 60 points higher at midday and appears to be edging upward. The broader indexes also are higher.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve says the U.S. economy has strengthened after a pause late last year but still needs the Fed's extraordinary support to help lower high unemployment. In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed says it's standing by its plan to keep short-term rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent, as long as the inflation outlook remains mild. The Fed forecasts unemployment will remain high into 2015.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Freddie Mac is suing 15 big international banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, accusing them of rigging a key interest rate and causing huge losses for the government-controlled mortgage giant. The banks named in the lawsuit set the London interbank offered rate, known as LIBOR, which provides the basis for trillions of dollars in contracts around the world, including mortgages. U.S. and British regulators have fined two big British banks and Switzerland's largest bank for manipulating LIBOR.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Some of the nation's biggest energy companies and environmental groups have agreed on a voluntary set of standards for gas and oil fracking in the Northeast. The Center for Sustainable Shale Development will work a lot like Underwriters Laboratories, which puts its UL seal of approval on electrical appliances that meet its standards. In this case, drilling and pipeline companies will get the group's blessing if an independent review finds they are taking steps to protect the air and water.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Yahoo has bought another Silicon Valley startup, not for its services, but for its brainpower. Jybe is a mobile service that gathers people's recommendations about food and entertainment. But, it'll be closing down so that all five employees can focus on other projects at Yahoo. The five engineers all used to work at Yahoo. The deal marks Yahoo's fourth such acquisition in the past five months.

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