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Business in brief: Federal Reserve signals interest rates will stay low

Washington – The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would leave its benchmark interest rate at near zero, where it has been for the last 12 months, and keep it there for an “extended period.”

Fed policymakers acknowledged at the conclusion of their two-day meeting, the last of this year, that economic activity was continuing to pick up, noting that the housing sector was showing improvement and that consumer spending “appears to be expanding at a moderate rate.”

But Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues said they continue to believe that “economic activity is likely to remain weak for a time.” And as in the past, they raised concerns about tight credit and the labor situation.

Los Angeles Times

Microsoft settles with EU, yielding on browser issue

Brussels, Belgium – After a decade of complaints leading to 1.7 billion euros in fines against Microsoft Corp., European regulators have ended their last pending antitrust case against the U.S. software maker as the company agreed to let European computer users choose from a menu of Web browsers that compete with its Internet Explorer.

Microsoft said it will start sending updates in March to Windows computers in Europe so that when PC users log on, they will see a pop-up screen asking them to pick one or more of 12 Web browsers to download and install. People who buy new PCs will see the screen when they start up for the first time.

Associated Press

Bank of America picks CEO from its own ranks

Charlotte, N.C. – Bank of America said retail banking head Brian Moynihan will replace Ken Lewis as CEO on Jan. 1.

The bank’s naming of an internal executive on Wednesday follows unsuccessful attempts to hire an outside star banker for the top job. Those negotiations were stymied by pay restrictions imposed by government pay czar Kenneth Feinberg.

Moynihan, 50, joined the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank as part of its 2004 purchase of FleetBoston Financial Corp. Over the past year he has served as BofA general counsel, head of global wealth management and consumer bank chief.

Associated Press

Treasury delays sale of its Citigroup shares

San Francisco – The Treasury Department backed off a plan to sell some of its Citigroup Inc. shares late Wednesday, dealing a blow to the government’s efforts to reduce its involvement in the financial-services industry.

Citi shares dropped on heavy volume in after-hours trading Wednesday.

Citi said it raised roughly $20.5 billion selling new common stock and tangible equity units to help the financial-services giant extricate itself from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.