Morning Business Memo

Despite all the fears about Europe, look what’s happening to crude. Oil prices have become a barometer for the global economy.

Crude oil is up today to a three-month high, $98 a barrel. Stronger demand for energy is a key economic indicator. Crude is up 30 percent in a little more than a month. Markets are growing more hopeful that Europe will be able to keep its debt problems from creating an international crisis.

Stock futures are up. Asian stocks closed higher. The Dow rose 1 per cent Thursday, up 113 points after Wednesday’s plunge.

Italy’s Senate votes today on economic changes aimed at reducing the deficit and making a start on reducing the debt mountain. The 10-year borrowing rate for Italian bonds dropped this morning to 6.6 percent after spiking above 7 percent Wednesday. Italy is moving closer to forming a national unity government with a new prime minister.

Facebook about face. The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is close to a settlement with the U.S. government on charges it misled users about what happens to their personal information. The case raises fresh questions about Internet privacy, and how much social networking firms can observe people’s behavior online, and profit from the personal information they collect

Where’s the money? Federal regulators have ordered a review of all U.S. futures trading firms, about 120 in all. This comes after hundreds of millions of dollars went missing in the collapse of MF global. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission says it wants to make sure trading companies are playing by the rules.

Customers’ money should be kept separate from the firms’. MF Global might have mixed up its accounts. The biggest traders include major Wall Street banks. Traders and investors who parked their money with MF Global don’t know what will happen to their funds.

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