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FEDERAL RESERVE

Fed pays near-record $76.9 billion to Treasury

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday it had paid $76.9 billion to the U.S. Treasury from its estimated 2011 earnings, mainly income from interest collected on a range of securities.

The amount was only 3 percent less than the 2010 record payment of $79.3 billion and reflected the extraordinary actions the Fed has taken to prop up the economy since the 2008 financial crisis.

Most of the 2011 earnings came from $83.6 billion in interest income on government-linked securities, such as U.S. Treasury securities, the central bank said.

The bank’s balance sheet has ballooned since the Fed launched massive asset purchases to support growth following the 2008 financial crisis that led to the worst recession in decades.

OIL

Benchmark price rises above $102 per barrel

NEW YORK — Oil prices climbed Tuesday on expectations that China’s economy, and its appetite for petroleum, will continue to grow in 2012.

Benchmark crude rose by 93 cents to finish at $102.24 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price foreign oil varieties that are imported by U.S. refineries, rose 70 cents to $113.15 per barrel in London.

Prices rose after China said oil imports grew 6 percent in December when compared to a year earlier. China is the world’s second-biggest oil consumer behind the U.S. Strong demand for oil in China likely will help support higher global crude prices in 2012.

Manufacturers are looking to China and other emerging economies for strong growth this year. Aluminum maker Alcoa on Monday was the first major U.S. company to report fourth-quarter earnings. Although it posted a loss, Alcoa offered a bullish outlook for the year, expecting strong demand from China.

LOUISIANA

Chinese drywall maker will resolve damage claims

NEW ORLEANS — A Chinese drywall manufacturer would pay hundreds of millions of dollars to resolve court claims by thousands of Gulf Coast property owners who say the product wrecked their homes in a deal that has been given preliminary approval by a federal judge.

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