Falling commodity prices send stock indexes down

Falling commodity prices punished materials and energy companies Wednesday, pushing Wall Street’s major stock indexes to a lower close.

Crude oil lost nearly $2 to $105 a barrel, hurting energy stocks. Peabody Energy fell 3.4 percent, Chevron 1.1 percent and Exxon 0.9 percent.

Materials fell the most among the 10 industry groups in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. fell 2.6 percent. The only stock in the Dow Jones industrial average that lost more was heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc., which dropped 3.5 percent.

All three major indexes lost a half-percent. The Dow closed down 71.52 points at 13,126.21. The broader S&P 500 index lost 6.98 to 1,405.54. The Nasdaq composite index, heavy with technology stocks, fell 15.39 to 3,104.96.

One bright spot was the strong debut of Annie’s Inc., a company that sells prepared organic foods. In its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Annie’s leapt 89 percent to $35.92. The company, based in Berkeley, Calif., had priced its shares at $19 late Tuesday.

The broad declines came in spite of a government report that orders for durable goods rose strongly in February – 2.2 percent – a sign that businesses continue to invest.

Bank of America’s CEO got raise to $7.5 million last year

NEW YORK — Bank of America gave its CEO a pay package worth $7.5 million last year, six times as large as in 2012. 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 CEO Brian 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 figures are according to an Associated Press analysis of a regulatory filing Wednesday. In 2010, Moynihan’s pay package totaled $1.2 million.

The board said the stock award to Moynihan was justified because the bank turned a profit after losing $2.2 billion in 2010, and because it ended the year with a stronger balance sheet. Moynihan, 52, took over as CEO in 2010.

Bank of America’s stock lost 58 percent of its value in 2011, and it lost the title of No. 1 bank by assets to JPMorgan Chase.

Agency seeks public views on sea floor seismic testing

NORFOLK, Va. — The U.S. Interior Department said Wednesday it is seeking public comment on a plan to allow energy companies to begin seismic testing to find oil and natural gas reserves in the Atlantic Ocean.

Officials have released a programmatic environmental impact statement on seismic testing for public review. The surveys involve ships that use ‘airgun arrays’ to emit high-decibel explosive impulses in order to map the sea floor, sometimes injuring fish and mammals.

The testing would be used to determine how much oil and natural gas is available and identify the best places to drill, among other things. The studies also help identify archaeological and geologic hazards to avoid.

Supporters of drilling argued that there needs to be a plan in place soon to sell drilling leases to make the seismic testing valuable. Environmental groups said seismic testing could harm wildlife, even before any drilling begins.