Stocks little changed as trader watch budget talks

Stocks are opening mixed on Wall Street as traders keep a close eye on budget talks in Washington as a deadline approaches for reaching a deal.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up two points at 13,354 shortly after the opening bell Wednesday.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was flat at 1,447 and the Nasdaq composite index edged up five points to 3,060.

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Gold Tumbles Most in Three Weeks on Fiscal-Cliff Concerns

Gold futures fell the most in three weeks as pessimism on a U.S. budget resolution eroded demand for commodities.

On the Comex in New York, gold futures for February delivery tumbled 1.5 percent to settle at $1,718.80 an ounce at 1:38 p.m., the biggest drop for a most-active contract since Nov. 2. In the first 30 seconds of floor trading, 7,700 contracts traded, according to PVM Futures Inc.

The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index of 24 raw materials fell as much as 1.4 percent, erasing this year’s gain. Erskine Bowles, the co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s 2010 fiscal commission, said that a deal with Congress to avert the so- called fiscal cliff is unlikely by the end of this year.

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Ikea apologizes for use of forced prison labor

Swedish furniture giant Ikea Group apologized Friday for using components made by forced prison labor, including political prisoners, in the former East Germany during the 1980s, according to The New York Times on Friday. Ikea issued the apology after a company-commissioned report by auditors Ernst & Young confirmed that some of Ikea’s suppliers used political prisoners as laborers, and that certain Ikea employees were aware of the situation.

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Rhode Island sues Curt Schilling, 38 Studios to recoup losses

Rhode Island on Thursday sued Curt Schilling and his bankrupt company, 38 Studios LLC, in an effort to recoup the $75 million in loans the state guaranteed to lure the video game maker from Massachusetts.

The suit, filed with the Rhode Island Superior Court, names Schilling, several 38 Studios executives, the company’s bankers and Keith Stokes, the former director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp., who resigned earlier this year over the 38 Studios deal.

In a detailed, 97-page complaint, the state alleged the Schilling and others engaged in financial misconduct, neglect, fraud, and conspiracy to deceive officials about the company’s prospects. The suit also alleges that Stokes, who led the Economic Development Corp. for about two years, helped mislead his board to secure the bonds for 38 Studios.

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Goldman Sachs Op-Ed Wasn’t a ‘Betrayal,’ Smith Tells 60 Minutes

Greg Smith, who resigned from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) with a March 14 opinion piece criticizing the firm’s treatment of clients, told “60 Minutes” that he doesn’t think he betrayed the bank.

“I don’t view it as a betrayal,” Smith said in a portion of the interview released by CBS Corp. (CBS) before the program airs Oct. 21. “I actually think the leaders of Goldman Sachs today don’t have the long-run interests of the institution at heart. The idea of the op-ed was not to do any destruction.”

About $2.15 billion was wiped from Goldman Sachs’s market value the day the New York Times published Smith’s article, which threatened to reignite political and popular distrust of Wall Street in general and Goldman Sachs in particular. Goldman Sachs responded by saying that surveys found most employees believed the firm treated clients well. The stock price, which recovered within a week as the company promised to investigate Smith’s assertions, is up 38 percent this year to $124.42.

“As we looked into his claims I was very pleased to see there wasn’t merit,” Edith Cooper, 51, Goldman Sachs’s global head of human capital management, said today on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers” with Erik Schatzker andStephanie Ruhle. “My biggest disappointment in this is that Greg Smith didn’t come forward and speak to us.”

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IKEA gets slammed for — cultural sensitivity?

If a Saudi company were advertising its home goods in the United States, we would expect its marketing materials to include photos of both men and women, and we would expect most of the women not to have their bodies and hair hidden in the photos. Though there is plenty of diversity in this country, those are the cultural norms. And chances are that because this is a country of ethnic diversity as well, we’d expect the company’s catalogs and so forth to show some of that as well.

So I am puzzled about the criticism of furniture giant IKEA. If the criticism were for replacement parts that aren’t available when pieces break, as they almost inevitably do, or the lightweight quality of the furniture that accompanies its lightweight prices, it would be understandable — even if it seems almost impossible to furnish a college student’s room without a stop at the giant warehouse to consider whether the GAVIK or FILLSTA would make a better table lamp.

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Chinese Company to Acquire DNA Sequencing Firm

Complete Genomics, a struggling DNA sequencing company in Silicon Valley, said on Monday that it had agreed to be acquired for $117.6 million by BGI-Shenzhen, a Chinese company that operates the world’s largest sequencing operation.

The price of $3.15 a share represents an 18 percent premium to Complete Genomics’ closing price on Friday and a 54 percent premium to the closing price on June 4, the day before the company announced that it would fire 55 employees to save cash and that it had hired an adviser to explore strategic alternatives.

The deal, which will be carried out by a tender offer, is the latest sign of consolidation in the rapidly changing and fiercely competitive market for DNA sequencing. The price of determining the DNA blueprint of a person is tumbling and sequencing is starting to be used for medical diagnosis, not just for basic research.

In 2010, Life Technologies acquired Ion Torrent, and earlier this year, Illumina, the leading manufacturer of sequencing machines, successfully fought off a $6.2 billion hostile bid from Roche.

Complete Genomics, based in Mountain View, Calif., pioneered a new model, offering sequencing as a service instead of selling sequencing machines to laboratories that would do the work themselves.

While Complete Genomics gained a good reputationand charged low prices of around $5,000 per human genome for large orders, it never was able to make money at that price.

The company lost $39.1 million, or $1.16 per share, in the first half of 2012. Revenue was $12.6 million, about even with the first half of 2011, owing in part to problems Complete experienced in scaling up its operations. The stock is well below the $9 price of its initial public offering in November 2010 and the company said in regulatory filings that it might not be able to continue as a going concern.

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Peter Madoff Pleads Guilty But Says He Knew Nothing About A Ponzi Scheme

Peter Madoff, the brother of convicted felon Bernard Madoff, pleaded guilty today to charges but says he knew nothing about the Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of $20 billion.

The former chief compliance officer of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities was in court in Manhattantoday and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of falsifying records.

He will be sentenced on October 4 and has agreed to a 10-year prison term. He will remain free on $5 million bail until then.

“I was in total shock,” Madoff said. “My world was destroyed. I lost everything I worked for,” he added.

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Post Pedophile Scandal, Habbo Hotel Is Opening For Business Again

Sulake, the developers behind the children’s virtual world Habbo Hotel, is preparing to reopen its chatrooms once again after a week in which it was exposed for hosting inappropriate sexual content on the site, prompting the company to close down all conversations — “mute” them in Habbo terminology — while it sorted out the mess.

He also notes that some users have been holding silent candle-light vigils on the site while waiting for it to re-open. Some 60 percent of users on the site are registered to be between the ages of 13 and 16 — although as we pointed out when the story first emerged, it’s quite easy to write whatever age you want at registration.

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What will happen to the guy who sold the iPad prototype?

A man sold a prototype of the first-generation iPad earlier this week for $10,200, but now that there’s a likelihood he came across the item after it was stolen, it poses the question: What will Apple do about it?

The seller, who posted the unique two dock-connector iPad on Ebay on Memorial Day, said he bought the device from a colleague but doesn’t know how he came across the item.

“I don’t know if it was stolen from Apple, or if the person who was working with it kept it,” the man told Wired. “Judging by how Apple works, it’s most likely stolen, but I’m not sure about that.”

The seller, who did not reveal his identity to the publication to protect himself from Apple, said he purposely chose Memorial Day weekend to sell the item.

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