CEO Pay Boost - Morning Business Memo

How much is too much? Bank of America gave its CEO Brian Moynihan a pay package worth $7.5 million last year, six times as large as the year before. It happened while the company's stock lost more than half its value and the bank lost its claim as the biggest in the country.

The package for Moynihan included a salary of $950,000, a $6.1 million stock award and about $420,000 worth of use of company aircraft and tax and financial advice. The board said the stock award to Moynihan was justified because the bank turned a profit after losing money in 2010, and because it ended the year with a stronger balance sheet.

USA Today reports the average big company CEO made $9.6 million last year. The estimate was based on 138 Standard & Poor's 500 companies that have reported CEO pay.

Global oil prices fell again this morning. Published reports say the United States and other large oil-buying nations are discussing the possible release of emergency reserves. Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister says his government will help bring prices down. Writing in the Financial Times, Ali Naimi said, "The bottom line is that Saudi Arabia would like to see a lower price. It would like to see a fair and reasonable price that will not hurt the global economic recovery." West Texas crude fell from $108 earlier this week to less than $105 today.

After months of gains, a change of direction for the stock market, at least for now. The averages have been down five out of the past seven trading days. Asian shares fell sharply overnight. European averages are lower this morning. The Dow fell 72 Wednesday. All this follows disappointment over the latest U.S. and overseas economic numbers. Wednesday's gain in durable goods orders was smaller than expected. Recent housing sales numbers came in on the low side.

The European Union plans to boost its bailout fund to keep another debt crisis from freaking out the financial markets. Finance ministers might decide Friday to boost its anti- crisis buffer with a new temporary fund. The moves follow growing concerns that Portugal could be the next Greece as it struggles with debt.

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