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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Business) -- Wall Street gaining confidence in international markets while passing a milestone in the process.

The Dow up 81 to 12-4-71. The Nasdaq gained 15 to close at 31-22. The S&P scored a five-year high, reaching 14-72 with 11 points. That's the highest the Standard & Poor index has risen since December of 2007.

Investors liked what they heard from Europe and Asia, both with reports of rebounding from a tough economy.

That, combined with strong fourth-quarter earnings reports so far this week and clues that corporations might start making payments out to shareholders instead of retaining cash to wither another economic storm.

Walmart says its going in with the state of Arkansas on a new health initiative. The Bentonville retailer says it will invest $670-thousand into the program designed to reward doctors and hospitals who keep a lid on health care costs while providing high-quality care.

The money will go to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement to develop a tracking system for the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative, which will collect quality information and costs for procedures, such as a knee replacement or a pregnancy.

The system will provide payments for episodes rather than the traditional "fee-for-service" model that generates revenue for every patient contact and every procedure performed.

With the tracking system in place, Walmart officials say they'll be able to keep closer tabs on what the company pays for in health costs.

Walmart also the target of a Congressional investigation into its Mexican bribery scandal.

Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and Henry A. Waxman

released documents that they obtained from a confidential source that indicate Walmart CEO Mike Duke and other senior officials were informed about bribery allegations multiple times, before the bribes were made public.

They said they have sent a letter to Duke to discuss the documents.

Rep. Davy Carter of Cabot is leaving his job at Centennial Bank, a subsidiary of Home BancShares Inc. of Conway.

Carter, who is the first Republican Speaker of the Arkansas House in over a century, had been Centennial's division president. The announcement comes as the 89th General Assembly prepares to convene on Monday.

Carter will remain on the bank's regional board of directors.

And finally, Arkansas barbecue lovers will soon have another choice of restaurants on their plate.

Fast-casual restaurant chain Dickey's Barbecue of Dallas plans to open five new restaurants in Arkansas within the next two years.

Two of the restaurants should open this summer, one in Rogers and one in Searcy.

Franchisees also lined up for restaurants in Bentonville, Fayetteville and Little Rock.

The restaurants, currently with two locations already in Northwest Arkansas, feature free ice cream everyday for dine-in guests and free kids meals on Sundays.

(Source: Arkansas Business)

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