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Source : AP
Last Updated: Fri, Jan 18, 2013 23:30 hrs

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Overcharging batteries eyed in Boeing 787 fires

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's likely that fires on two Boeing 787 Dreamliners were caused by overcharging lithium ion batteries, aviation safety and battery experts said Friday, pointing to developments in the investigation of the Boeing incidents as well as a battery fire in a business jet more than a year ago.

An investigator in Japan, where a 787 made an emergency landing earlier this week, said the charred insides of the plane's lithium ion battery show the battery received voltage in excess of its design limits.

The similarity of the burned battery from the All Nippon Airways flight to the burned battery in a Japan Airlines 787 that caught fire Jan. 7 while the jet was parked at Boston's Logan International Airport suggests a common cause, Japan's transport ministry said.

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Transcripts show Fed underestimated crisis in 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve officials in 2007 badly underestimated the scope of the approaching financial crisis and how it would tip the U.S. economy into the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, transcripts of the Fed's policy meetings show.

The meetings occurred as the country was on the brink of its worst financial crisis since the 1930s. As the year went on, Fed officials shifted their focus away from the risk of inflation as they slowly began to recognize the severity of the problem.

Beginning in September 2007, the Fed cut interest rates and took extraordinary steps to try to ease credit and shore up confidence in the banking system. Throughout the year, the housing crisis deepened, home prices weakened and subprime mortgages soured.

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China's growth rebounds but still vulnerable

BEIJING (AP) — China's economy is finally rebounding from its deepest slump since the 2008 global crisis but the shaky recovery could be vulnerable to a new downturn in global trade.

Growth rose to 7.9 percent in the three months ending in December, up from the previous quarter's 7.4 percent, data showed Friday. For the year, the economy grew by 7.8 percent, which was China's weakest annual performance since the 1990s.

Retail spending and factory output rose, but analysts say China could suffer a setback if exports weaken or the government fails to maintain investment spending that is propping up the recovery.

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Government: Food allergies may be disability under law

WASHINGTON (AP) — Allergic to gluten? What about peanuts? Federal disabilities law may be able to help.

The Justice Department said in a recent settlement with a Massachusetts college that severe food allergies can be considered a disability under the law. That gives those who suffer from such allergies a new avenue in seeking menus that fit their diet. But some say it goes too far.

The decision leaves schools, restaurants and other places that serve food more exposed to legal challenges, if they fail to honor requests by people with food allergies.

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GE earnings rise on emerging market growth

NEW YORK (AP) — General Electric Co. has been re-energized.

Performance at all of the conglomerate's industrial segments is improving thanks to cost cutting, a shift in strategy and growth in emerging markets.

GE, based in Fairfield, Conn., reported an operating profit per share of 44 cents, a penny higher than analysts polled by FactSet expected. Perhaps more importantly for shareholders, GE's revenue rose by 4 percent to $39.3 billion and beat Wall Street expectations.

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Morgan Stanley's profit surges, stock soars

NEW YORK (AP) — Profits roared back at investment bank Morgan Stanley in the fourth quarter, reversing a loss in the same period a year ago, when results were weighed down by a costly legal settlement.

Earnings increased sharply across the bank's business lines, and its stock jumped about 8 percent. Morgan Stanley's investment bank underwrote more stock and bond offerings and brought in more fees from advising companies on mergers and other deals. Financial advisers in the wealth management unit, who work with individual investors, generated more revenue per worker.

The bank is transforming itself to adapt to a post-financial crisis world. Like other investment banks, Morgan Stanley has traditionally focused on doing business with companies, governments and other big organizations. But the bank is adapting its strategy ahead of new regulations, which are eliminating some of the practices that the bank used to rely on for revenue, such as trading for its own profit.

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Toyota settlement may signal future legal strategy

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Legal observers say recent settlements by Toyota Motor Corp. may signal the Japanese automaker would rather fight its battles behind closed doors instead of in a courtroom.

The company has been chipping away at settling lawsuits over sudden-acceleration issues. It has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to resolve economic loss and some wrongful-death claims.

But the question remains whether attorneys who sued Toyota could prove to a jury there was a design flaw responsible for the dangerous problem.

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Venture investments declined in 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — A new study shows that funding for business startups declined in 2012, for the first time in three years, as venture capitalists spent less money on fewer deals.

Capital-intense sectors like clean technology and life sciences were among the hardest hit, according to a MoneyTree study released Friday. It was conducted by PriceWaterHouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters.

In all of 2012 startup investments fell 10 percent to $26.52 billion from $29.46 billion. There were 3,698 deals completed, down 6 percent from 3,937 in 2011. Venture investments also declined 13 percent in the final quarter of the year, to $6.4 billion from $7.38 billion a year earlier, though the number of deals was the same in both quarters at 968.

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Algeria: 12 hostages have died in the siege

PARIS (AP) — The bloody three-day hostage standoff at a natural gas plant in the Sahara took a dramatic turn Friday as Algeria's state news service reported that nearly 100 of the 132 foreign workers kidnapped by Islamic militants had been freed.

That number of hostages at the remote desert facility was significantly higher than any previous report, but it still left questions about the fate of over 30 other foreign energy workers. It wasn't clear how the government arrived at the latest tally of hostages, which was far higher than the 41 foreigners the militants had claimed previously.

Algeria's state news agency also reported late Friday that a "provisional toll" shows 12 hostages have been killed since the start of the Algerian military operation to free workers kidnapped by militants at the plant. The APS news agency quoted an unidentified security source for the new death toll and said the fatalities include both Algerian and foreign workers.

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Jobless rates fall in less than half of US states

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment rates fell in less than half of U.S. states last month, as steady but slow hiring is making gradual improvement in the job market.

The Labor Department said Friday that rates fell in 22 states in December and rose in 16. They were unchanged in 12.

The department's monthly report also shows that steady hiring nationwide in the past two years has lowered the unemployment rate in many parts of the country. The rate is now below 7 percent in 25 states. And some of the states hardest hit in the recession have seen solid gains.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 53.68 points to end at 13,649.70. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.04 points to 1,485.98, while the Nasdaq composite fell 1.29 points to 3,134.71.

Benchmark oil for February delivery rose 7 cents to finish at $95.56 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 79 cents to finish at $111.76 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Natural gas rose 7 cents on Friday to end at $3.57 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to end at $2.80 a gallon. Heating oil rose 3 cents to finish at $3.05 a gallon.

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