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Disasters’ global cost fell in 2012

Natural disasters cost insurers $65 billion last year, with the U.S. accounting for 90 percent of the bill and Superstorm Sandy prompting payouts of $25 billion, a leading insurance company said Thursday.

However, Munich Re AG said that total insured losses worldwide were down from a record $119 billion in 2011, when devastating earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand cost the industry dearly.

The company said total economic costs in 2012 from natural disasters worldwide – including uninsured losses – amounted to $160 billion, compared with the previous year’s $400 billion.

Ohio workers can sue GM, union for back pay

A group of General Motors workers in northeast Ohio who say they were wrongly hit with a pay cut can move forward with a lawsuit against both the automaker and the United Auto Workers.

Nearly 30 workers at GM’s Lordstown factory argue that they were improperly classified as temporary employees after losing their jobs and then being rehired.

The union and company’s request to dismiss the lawsuit was turned down late last week. U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson rejected their claim that too much time had passed and that most of the workers had not gone through the union’s appeal process.

Arab channel officially buys Gore’s Current TV

With its $500 million purchase of Current TV, which was founded in 2005 by former Vice President Al Gore and Joe Hyatt, the pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera will soon be seen in tens of millions of U.S. homes.

The purchase will create a news channel called Al-Jazeera America, coming to American homes 90 days from now.

The deal already had its first casualty.

The nation’s second-largest TV operator, Time Warner Cable Inc., dropped Current after the deal was confirmed late Wednesday, saying the network didn’t have enough viewers.

Gore and Hyatt each had a 20 percent stake in Current TV.

Job market resilient despite budget fight

The U.S. job market showed resilience in three reports Thursday, suggesting it may able to withstand a federal budget battle that threatens more economic uncertainty in coming months.

A survey showed private hiring increased last month, while layoffs declined and applications for unemployment benefits stayed near a four-year low.

The most encouraging sign came from payroll provider ADP. Its monthly employment survey showed businesses added 215,000 jobs last month, the most in 10 months and much higher than November’s total of 148,000.

Fed panel frets about effects of bond-buying

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