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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
The Dow breaks records for a second day, private companies add more jobs than expected, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
The markets are killing it for the second day in a row. 
The markets are killing it for the second day in a row. 
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

1. STOCKS PUSH FARTHER INTO RECORD TERRITORY
The Dow Jones Industrial Average set an intraday record for the second straight day early Wednesday, fueled by fresh, unexpectedly strong hiring data. The benchmark stock index — which tracks 30 blue-chip companies including Walmart and General Electric — on Tuesday sailed past its old record, set in 2007 before the recession hit. The gains capped a five-year bull market and marked a doubling of the Dow since it bottomed out in March 2009. Tuesday's record close might also be generating enthusiasm among investors, pushing stocks farther into uncharted territory. "It may be bringing people in off the sidelines," says FAM Equity-Income Fund co-manager Paul Hogan. [Reuters]
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2. PRIVATE COMPANIES ADD MORE JOBS THAN EXPECTED
U.S. companies hired more people than expected last month, payroll firm Automatic Data Processing Inc. reported on Wednesday. Private businesses added 198,000 jobs in February, down a bit from January but about 10 percent more than the average forecast. "The job market remains sturdy in the face of significant fiscal headwinds," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, which produces the report. Analysts said the news suggested that the slow improvement in the labor market seen at the end of 2012 was continuing in early 2013. [MarketWatch]
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3. EUROPEAN REGULATORS FINE MICROSOFT, AGAIN
The European Commission on Wednesday fined Microsoft $732 million, saying the company had failed to honor a settlement agreement to let Windows users choose their web browser, instead of pushing them toward Microsoft's Internet Explorer. With the new penalty, EU antitrust regulators have now hit Microsoft with $2.92 billion in fines over a decade. Microsoft said the latest problem was due to a technical error, for which it has apologized. "We have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake — or anything similar — in the future," the software giant said. [New York Times]
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4. PESSIMISTIC ANALYSTS DRAG DOWN APPLE SHARES
Apple's stock dropped by one percent early Wednesday after Citigroup cut its price target for the company's shares because it believes iPad and iPhone sales are slowing down. In a note to clients, Citi analysts said that due to the softening in demand for Apple's flagship gadgets they were reducing their forecast for the company's share price from $500 to $480 in the March and June quarters. [MarketWatch]
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5. VENEZUELA'S OIL INDUSTRY IN FLUX AFTER CHAVEZ DIES
After Hugo Chavez's death on Tuesday, energy industry experts say his successor will have to review the late Venezuelan president's oil policies, which they say reduced the South American nation's output from 3.5 million barrels a day to 2.5 million over 14 years. Chavez limited investment in his country's Orinoco oil field, which could contain reserves bigger than Saudi Arabia's. He also expelled U.S. drillers, and let $233 billion in improvements to Venezuela's fields, pipelines, and refineries fall behind schedule while he battled cancer for 21 months. Analysts expect Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who now assumes power, to continue Chavez's policy of tapping the country's oil wealth to pay for social programs. [Bloomberg, Washington Post]

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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