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Opening Bell: 03.18.11

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G-7 Sells Yen as Japan Seeks Post-Quake Currency Floor (Bloomberg)
Japan began the effort, with Europe’s central banks following up in their markets, sending the currency down the most against the dollar since 2008. Japan’s Vice Finance Minister Fumihiko Igarashi said in an interview that he hoped the action would put a floor under the dollar-yen rate. G-7 finance chiefs said in a joint statement after a conference call they will “provide any needed cooperation” with Japan. Japan’s central bank repeated its pledge to pursue “powerful monetary easing” as policy makers sought to reduce the threat of the world’s third-largest economy sinking into a recession.

Japan weighs need to bury nuclear plant (Reuters)
Japanese engineers conceded on Friday that burying a crippled nuclear plant in sand and concrete may be a last resort to prevent a catastrophic radiation release, the method used to seal huge leakages from Chernobyl in 1986.

Libya Announces a Cease-Fire (Reuters)
"We decided on an immediate ceasefire and on an immediate stop to all military operations," Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said on Friday. "(Libya) takes great interest in protecting civilians," he said, adding that the country would also protect all foreigners and foreign assets in Libya.

Gaddafi threatens retaliation in Mediterranean as UN passes resolution (Guardian)
As the security council vote was taking place, Gaddafi called it a "flagrant act of colonisation". He told Portuguese TV: "If the world gets crazy with us, we will get crazy too. We will respond. We will make their lives hell because they are making our lives hell."

Fed Poised To Ease Grip On Banks (WSJ)
The Fed will now allow financial institutions that have passed a fresh round of stress tests to run their businesses independent of crisis-era restrictions imposed in 2008. That will permit banks to raise dividends and buy back shares, which the government has largely prohibited in the past few years to ensure that lenders preserve enough capital to weather turbulent times.

Woman Hides Heroin, Loose Change Inside Herself (STT)
After searching her for weapons, Officer Baumann found three bags of heroin in Ms. Mackaliunas' jacket. But as the officer drove her to Scranton police headquarters to charge her for drug possession, Officer Baumann noticed Ms. Mackaliunas fidgeting in the backseat of the cruiser. After a struggle with Officer Baumann during a more thorough search at headquarters, Ms. Mackaliunas asked to speak with Sergeant Michael Mayer and told him she had hidden more heroin in her vagina. A search of Ms. Mackaliunas by a doctor at Community Medical Center turned up 54 bags of heroin, 31 empty bags used to package heroin, 8.5 prescription pills and $51.22.

Honda Uncertain On Restarting Japan Plants (WSJ)
Honda and several other Japanese auto makers have halted production in Japan due to the chaos caused a week ago. None have given a target date for when production will restart. Honda said Friday that it is exploring the possibility of resuming production of parts from Monday.

Executive Bonuses Bounce Back (WSJ)
CEO bonuses at 50 major corporations jumped a median of 30.5%, the biggest gain in at least three years, according to a study of the first batch of corporate CEO pay disclosures by consulting firm Hay Group for The Wall Street Journal.

Survey: Economic Fears Spike as Gas, Food Prices Rise (CNBC)
The survey of 800 Americans, from across the nation, income groups and ages, finds the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get worse in the next year spiking to 37 percent, a 15 point gain from December. It’s now just five points below the all-time high in the series of 43 percent in June 2008, which came in the midst of a surge in gasoline prices. Those negative attitudes were registered just before the disaster in Japan and, if anything, could have worsened since then.