- - Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sen. John F. Kerry, nominated by President Obama to be the next secretary of state, has started meeting with diplomatic staff to prepare for his confirmation, the State Department said Thursday.

Mr. Kerry was at the department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters Wednesday, where he received “a huge pile of briefing materials,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. He will report to the State Department regularly starting Friday.

Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, is expected to easily win confirmation in the Senate, where he is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Ms. Nuland said the department is working with committee to pick a hearing date.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Fed has some concerns on bond purchases

The Federal Reserve will keep buying bonds indefinitely to try to keep long-term borrowing costs low. It’s just not clear how long indefinitely will be.

Minutes of the Fed’s last policy meeting show that officials were divided about when to halt the purchases.

Some of the 12 voting members thought the bond purchases would be needed through 2013. Others felt they should be slowed or stopped altogether before year’s end. This group worries that the bond buying is keeping rates so low for so long that it could ignite inflation or encourage speculative buying.

The Fed last month ended up approving open-ended purchases of $85 billion a month in Treasurys and mortgage bonds to replace an expiring bond-purchase plan and maintain its level of purchases.

The minutes cover the Fed’s Dec. 11-12 meeting. In a statement after the meeting, the Fed said it planned to keep a key interest rate at a record low even after unemployment falls close to a normal level — which it said might take three more years.

LABOR

Jobless aid applications rise to 372,000

More Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, though the holidays likely distorted the data for the second straight week.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications rose by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 in the week that ended Dec. 29. The previous week’s total was revised higher.

Many state unemployment offices were closed this week for the New Year’s holiday and did not submit complete data for last week. As a result, the department relied on estimates for nine states. Two weeks ago, the department used estimates for 19 states because of Christmas closings.

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