Obama hosts Hu as world powers seek common ground

Chinese President Hu Jintao waves after an arrival ceremony, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

NEW YORK -- A surprisingly strong report on housing and the prospect of more cash for the International Monetary Fund to fight off a financial crisis powered stocks Wednesday to their highest close since last summer.

The National Association of Home Builders index, a measure of sentiment among builders, rose to its highest level since June 2007. In another upbeat sign, the Federal Reserve said manufacturing rose 0.9 percent from November to December, the biggest gain since December 2010.

Also, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, said the fund wanted to raise $500 billion to lend to countries.

--The Dow finished up 96.88, or 0.8 percent, at 12,578.95.

--The S&P 500 rose 14.37, or 1.1 percent, to 1,308.04.

--The Nasdaq index rose 41.63, or 1.5 percent, to 2,769.71.

Big insider trading ring emerges in crackdown

NEW YORK -- Greed on Wall Street set a record, authorities said Wednesday as they unveiled a nearly $78 million insider trading case that involved at least seven financial-industry professionals and included a hedge fund co-founder who triggered a single trade that earned $53 million in profits, the largest lone transaction ever prosecuted in Manhattan.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said $62 million was earned through tips provided by a Dell employee to a former Dell worker who spread the information among five or more investment firms, including three hedge funds.

Bharara called it "a stunning portrait of organized corruption." It raised to 63 the number of people arrested in a crackdown on insider trading. Fifty-six have been convicted.

FBI assistant director-in-charge Janice Fedarcyk said the arrests were not the last.

Data breach at Zappos triggers federal lawsuit

LAS VEGAS -- Online retailers Amazon.com and Zappos.com are being sued in Kentucky by a woman alleging that she and millions of other customers were harmed by the release of personal account information.

Officials for Zappos and parent company Amazon declined to comment on the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

The case was filed after Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh alerted employees and customers Sunday that names, phone numbers and email addresses of the shoe seller's customers may have been accessed in a hacker attack. The company said credit card and payment information weren't stolen.

Zappos urged customers to reset passwords to accounts and any other websites where they use similar passwords.

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Skype sale, higher revenue drive eBay's net income

SAN FRANCISCO -- EBay said Wednesday its net income grew in the fourth quarter, helped by a gain on the sale of its remaining investment in Skype and higher revenue.

The e-commerce and online payments company said it earned $1.98 billion for the October-December quarter, up from $559 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenue grew 35 percent to $3.38 billion.

TD Bank loses ruling in S. Florida fraud lawsuit

MIAMI -- Toronto-based TD Bank owes an investment group $67 million for its role in a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme operated by former attorney Scott Rothstein, a federal jury decided.

The verdict came in a lawsuit filed by Coquina Investments.

Once a prominent attorney, Rothstein is serving a 50-year sentence after pleading guilty to running a scam involving investments in phony legal settlements.

Testimony and court documents show that he used an account at TD Bank as an integral part of the scheme.

Conspirators allegedly posed as TD employees, and one of Rothstein's associates devised a fake TD website on which fake account balances were posted for investors.