OPERATIONS

Illinois lawmakers reach deal to keep Sears HQ in state

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Chicago –Illinois House leaders have agreed to pass tax breaks in order to keep Sears Holdings Corp. from abandoning its Hoffman Estates, Ill., headquarters in search of a new out-of-state home, according to Reuters.

The deal is also designed to keep Ill.-based securities and commodities trading company CME Group in-state as well.

The House had previously shot down the tax package.

"We have come to an agreement on a jobs package that will give some relief to a broad base of businesses in our state," said House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R).

The agreement appears to pave the way for relief for the companies, which had threatened to leave the state over heavy tax burdens.

The Illinois House voted in November against a plan that would have given $100 million in tax relief to Sears and CME. The state Senate had previously voted in favor of the package.

The Illinois House is expected to vote on Monday and the Senate on Tuesday.

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Wal-Mart launches internal probe into overseas compliance

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Bentonville, Ark. –Wal-Mart Stores Inc. revealed Thursday it has launched an internal investigation into whether its overseas operations complied with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in matters including permitting, licensing and inspections.

Few details about the internal probe have been released, but the retailer revealed the investigation in a quarterly report filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The law in question deals with bribery and accounting rules when companies are doing business overseas.

Wal-Mart said that it doesn’t believe the issue will have a material impact on its business.

Wal-Mart said it launched the investigation after reviewing policies, procedures and internal controls tied to its global anti-corruption program, which raised questions about whether some of its actions may have violated U.S. anti-corruption laws.

The filing didn’t reveal where the actions took place. Wal-Mart has hired legal counsel and other advisers to assist in the probe.

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U.S. consumer confidence holds at recession levels

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — A report released Thursday said that consumer confidence in the U.S. was little changed for a second week, holding at a level typically reached during past recessions.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index was at minus 50.3 in the period ended Dec. 4, after a reading of minus 50.2 the prior week. The gauge has been at minus 50 or worse for 11 of the past 12 weeks.

An unexpected decline in unemployment last month coupled with growing payrolls may be preventing household confidence from sinking even deeper. “Consumer confidence appears to be stabilizing, albeit near historically low levels,” said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg L.P. in New York. “However, that stabilization is quite tenuous.”

The Bloomberg comfort index, which began in December 1985, has averaged minus 46.8 this year compared with minus 45.7 for all of 2010 and minus 47.9 in 2009, the worst full-year reading on record, the report showed.

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