US personal incomes jumped 2.6 per cent in December, the biggest monthly increase since 2004, as high earners sought to beat a New Year tax rise. The month was marked by accelerated bonus and dividend payments, the US Commerce Department said. Income tax cuts dating back to George W Bush's presidency were due to expire in the New Year as part of the "fiscal cliff" of tax rises and spending cuts. Despite the boost to incomes, consumer spending rose only 0.2 per cent in the month. "Personal income in November and December was boosted by accelerated and special dividend payments to persons and by accelerated bonus payments and other irregular pay in private wages and salaries in anticipation of changes in individual income tax rates," the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis said.
BUDWEISER brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) wants to buy the Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, which makes Corona, for $US20.1billion ($F35.4b). But the Justice Department said the two firms were responsible for about 46 per cent of the $US80b ($F140.9b) of annual beer sales in the US - too large a share for one company. It has filed a lawsuit in the federal court in Washington DC to try to prevent the deal happening. It said the merger would lead to a lack of competition that would allow beer prices to rise.
POLISH officials have voiced dismay over an EU decision to block nearly 1billion euro ($F2.39b) of funding for Polish road projects amid suspicions of fraud. Ten construction firm managers and a former director of the Polish state road-building agency have been charged with attempting to fix prices. A Polish minister insisted that contracts were awarded efficiently and called the EU freeze "peculiar". Poland is the biggest recipient of EU regional development aid. The European Commission says it has interrupted funding worth 957.2million euro ($F2.29billion) for road-building in Poland. The alleged fraud comes at a sensitive time for Poland, as an EU summit next week will focus on the 27-nation bloc's budget for 2014-2020. The EU is sharply divided over the budget, as the debt crisis has forced governments to make tough public spending cuts. Poland is among the new member states which want current regional funding levels to be maintained or increased.