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    U.S. oil well shut-ins start as crude rout batters small producers
    A pump jack is seen at sunrise near BakersfieldCollapsing crude prices are confronting scores of smaller U.S. oil producers with the grim choice of either shutting older high-cost wells or burning through cash in the hope of riding out the downturn. As oil prices fell by more than half over the last six months from more than $100 per barrel, the U.S. oil industry responded by slowing its blistering growth and dialing back expansion plans. Now, with U.S. crude around $46 a barrel, operators are already closing some small old wells, known as strippers, and tens of thousands of similar wells are on the verge of losing money.
    Ocwen calls investor claims baseless
    To match FEATURE USA-HOUSING/Mortgage servicer Ocwen Financial Group said on Monday a group of investors had no basis for claiming it failed to live up to its agreements to collect payments on $82 billion worth of home loans. The investors claim that Ocwen performed worse than other servicers each year from 2009 through 2013 and that the trusts suffered losses of more than $1 billion because of the company's deficient performance, according to a copy of the notice reviewed by Reuters. "Ocwen denies that there is any basis for a default under the trust agreements," attorney Richard Jacobsen, who represents Ocwen, wrote in the letter to Kathy Patrick, a lawyer for the investor group. The investors want "to stop servicers from modifying loans and force them to foreclose on and evict as many struggling homeowners as quickly as possible," Jacobsen wrote.
    Oil steadies after OPEC says prices may have bottomed
    A man fills up his car at a petrol station in RomeBy Florence Tan SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Oil prices were little changed on Tuesday, with Brent holding above $48 following comments from a top OPEC official that prices may have found a floor. OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri said oil prices may have bottomed out and could rise very soon. "Crude oil markets continue to consolidate near term," ANZ analysts said in a note, adding that Brent traded in the range of $48-$50 last week and has shown little direction. "OPEC's Secretary General commented yesterday that prices may have bottomed but there was no imminent prospect of OPEC producers sitting down to discuss cutbacks until mid-year," the analysts said.
    U.S. deficit to dip in 2015 as era of dramatic declines ends: CBO
    The U.S. Treasury building is seen in WashingtonThe U.S. budget deficit will decline slightly to $468 billion this fiscal year, the lowest level since President Barack Obama took office, congressional forecasters said on Monday in a report heralding the end of a brief period of dramatically shrinking red ink. The deficit, down from the $1 trillion-plus levels of Obama's first four years and a $483 billion gap in fiscal 2014, will stay largely flat in 2016, then begin to march upward due to rising costs for debt and caring for fast-retiring Baby Boomers. Estimates by the Congressional Budget Office kick off what promises to be a contentious budget debate in Washington. Republicans now in control of Congress seek to eliminate deficits within 10 years with cuts to social safety net programs while lowering tax rates and boosting military spending.
    Asia shares rise, euro steadies as Fed meets
    An employee of a foreign exchange trading company stands in front of a monitor, showing the graph of the recent fluctuations of the exchange rates between the Japanese yen against the euro, in TokyoBy Wayne Cole SYDNEY (Reuters) - Asian shares moved higher on Tuesday and the euro clung to rare gains, relieved that European markets had weathered Greece's election outcome without much disruption. Bad weather in the United States curbed activity on Wall Street in a busy week for earnings, while investors had reason for caution as the Federal Reserve holds its first policy meeting of the year. Japan's Nikkei firmed 1.2 percent in early trade, while Australia main index added 0.4 percent.
    China's Li says to create 10 million jobs in 2015: China Daily
    China's Premier Li waves to listeners after his speech during The Global Impact of China's Economic Transformation event in the Swiss mountain resort of DavosChina's Premier Li Keqiang pledged to create at least 10 million new jobs in 2015, the state run China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday, despite economic growth that slowed to its weakest pace in nearly a quarter of a century last year. China's economy grew at its slowest pace in 24 years in 2014 as property prices cooled and companies and local governments struggled under heavy debt burdens, pressuring Beijing to take aggressive steps to avoid a sharper downturn. China targeted a registered urban unemployment rate below 4.6 percent last year, although many economists believe the real number may be higher given the difficulty of tracking the country's army of migrant workers. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts China's economy will grow 6.8 percent in 2015, while a median forecast in a Reuters poll sees an expansion of around 7 percent.
    Microsoft profit falls on sluggish Windows, currency pressure
    Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gestures during his keynote address at the company's By Bill Rigby SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp on Monday reported a fall in its quarterly profit that was in line with Wall Street forecasts, as sluggish personal computer sales dampened demand for Windows software and the company struggled with the impact of the strong U.S. dollar. "While currency is a headwind for Microsoft and other large international companies, we would characterize the headline numbers as good enough, although some bulls may have been hoping for a bigger beat," said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. Microsoft's flagship Windows business has been under pressure for three years as PC sales have declined, although the market appears to be stabilizing in recent months. Currency shifts against the strong U.S. dollar also crimped profit in the fiscal second quarter, ended Dec. 31, although Microsoft did not specify by how much.
    Telecom network spending seen rising this year amid 4G boom
    A commuter uses his mobile phone in New YorkNevertheless, overall spending on mobile and fixed networks is expected to grow for a second consecutive year, as operators worldwide seek to improve coverage and add capacity to keep up with rising data traffic from video and smartphones. While construction of 4G networks is largely complete in the United States, Japan and Korea, the technology is just arriving in much of eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa. Investment in fixed networks is set to rise 7.7 percent to $10.33 billion, driven by fiber broadband rollouts, it said. "The 4G story is spreading after the first spurt of rollouts in the U.S., Japan and Korea is behind us," Deborah Kish, an analyst at Garner, said.
    U.S. deficit to dip in 2015, era of dramatic declines ends: CBO
    The U.S. Treasury building is seen in WashingtonThe U.S. budget deficit will decline slightly to $468 billion this fiscal year from $483 billion last year, the Congressional Budget Office said on Monday in a report that marks the end to an era of dramatically falling deficits. After falling from the $1 trillion-plus levels of President Barack Obama's first four years in office, CBO said it expects the deficit to stay largely flat in 2016 and begin a steady march upward in 2017 due to rising costs for servicing the national debt and caring for the retiring Baby Boom generation. The CBO estimates kick off what promises to be a contentious budget debate in Washington this year, as Republicans now in control of Congress seek to eliminate deficits within 10 years while lowering tax rates and boosting military spending. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama and his Democrats have proposed a range of new spending and tax breaks aimed at helping middle class Americans and setting the agenda for the 2016 presidential election.
    S&P downgrades Russia's sovereign credit rating to below investment grade
    People walk past a board showing currency exchange rates in MoscowRatings agency S&P said on Monday it had cut Russia's sovereign credit rating to BB+ or below investment grade with a negative outlook, and said Russia's economic growth prospects have weakened. S&P had warned in late December that it could deprive Russia of its investment-grade credit rating as soon as mid-January, following a rapid deterioration of the country's monetary flexibility and a weakening economy. S&P said in a statement that external and fiscal buffers were likely to deteriorate due to rising external pressure and increased government support to the Russian economy. The downgrade, from BBB- to BB+, marks the first time in more than 10 years that Russian sovereign debt has been rated below investment grade, in what some call 'junk' territory.
    IBM dismisses Forbes report of massive layoffs
    A worker is pictured behind a logo at the IBM stand on the CeBIT computer fair in HanoverSEATTLE (Reuters) - An IBM spokesman dismissed a Forbes magazine report claiming the technology giant was preparing to cut about 26 percent of its workforce. IBM is in the process of layoffs, as disclosed in its latest earnings report last week, but it will affect "several thousand" employees only, according to an emailed statement from IBM to Reuters. (Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
    Soros eyes investing in auto dealer groups - report
    Soros, Chairman of Soros Fund Management, speaks during the session 'Recharging Europe' in the Swiss mountain resort of DavosBillionaire financier George Soros wants to invest in or buy a large automotive dealership group, potentially following in the footsteps of Warren Buffett, Automotive News reported. Two representatives of Soros Fund management, which Soros chairs, attended the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco over the weekend to research the industry and find potential investing opportunities, the industry trade publication said, citing four sources familiar with the situation. A deal by Soros would follow a similar move last year by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc , which announced the purchase of the Van Tuyl Group auto dealership. Soros is interested in the car business as a way to diversify his fund's holdings and cash flow opportunities, and buying a large dealership group was one option, the sources told Automotive News.

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