Finance news. My opinion.

April 30, 2011

Droid Charge delayed by 24-hour Verizon 4G-LTE outage

Filed under: marketing, money — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 1:40 am

Verizon’s latest 4G-LTE smartphone launch was delayed after the new, ultra-fast network suffered a major outage Wednesday and Thursday morning.

The Samsung Droid Charge, which was supposed to go on sale Thursday, was unavailable at stores or online. Verizon Wireless confirmed that the Droid Charge’s availability had been delayed, but it didn’t give a specific date for when it would go on sale.

The company said it would update its customers about the new smartphone’s availability soon. Meanwhile, customers can provide store representatives with their contact information, and they will be notified when the phone is available for purchase, according to Brenda Raney, spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless.

The wireless giant confirmed via Twitter at 11 a.m. ET that the network was up and running. It first acknowledged the outage Wednesday morning at 9:21 a.m., also on Twitter.

The Droid Charge will be the second phone to operate on Verizon’s 4G network, which was launched in November. The first phone, the HTC Thunderbolt, went on sale in March, and Verizon sold a quarter million of them in two weeks.

The launch will be closely watched by analysts, because the smartphone will retail at $300 with a new two-year contract — $100 more than most high-end 3G smartphones.

Most of the Droid Charge’s features are similar to other top-of-the-line Android-based smartphones, except that the new Samsung device has the ability to download data at a speed of 5 megabits to 12 megabits per second. That’s about 10 times faster than most 3G connections.

Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) has placed a big bet on its 4G-LTE network, building out an entirely new — and extremely costly — infrastructure. It’s a risky gamble, since the company is requiring users to buy more expensive devices to use the new network, and 4G is not yet available in most locations.

The new 4G network only covers 46 metropolitan areas and 110 million customers, compared to the 290 million customers that receive Verizon’s 3G coverage. Verizon doesn’t expect 4G to reach nationwide coverage until 2013, at the earliest.

AT&T (T, Fortune 500) is also expected to launch its 4G-LTE network this year, and the company said it will be able to achieve nationwide 4G coverage if it is allowed to purchase T-Mobile. Sprint (S, Fortune 500) is widely believed to be exploring an LTE option, even as it continues to promote its 4G option called WiMax, which operates on a different network standard.

Verizon said through Twitter that it had discovered the cause of its outage, but has not yet explained the reason. While the 4G network was unavailable, customers were still able to access the 3G network, and Thunderbolt customers were still able to make phone calls.  


April 28, 2011

Merck board approves $5 billion in stock buybacks

Filed under: management, term — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:36 am

Merck & Co. Inc. said Wednesday its board of directors approved the buyback of up to $5 billion in common stock for the drug developer’s treasury.

The company, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said the program has no expiration. Overall, the company is now authorized to buy back up to $6.4 billion in common stock.

Merck has about 3.08 billion shares of common stock outstanding.

The move comes ahead of the company’s scheduled release of its first-quarter financial results on Friday.

“Merck has a history of leadership in returning cash to shareholders,” President and CEO Kenneth C. Frazier said in a statement. “Together with our strong dividend, today’s action reflects our confidence in Merck’s strategy and demonstrates our commitment to delivering shareholder value no fax payday loans.”

On Monday, the company’s development pipeline got a boost when the Food and Drug Administration posted a review of the potential hepatitis C drug boceprevir. The review said the drug appears to cure more patients in less time than established drugs that have been used for 20 years. But the agency has questions about how the drug should be combined with older medicines for the maximum effect.

The agency is holding a public meeting Wednesday to consider whether to approve the drug candidate.

Shares of Merck closed at $35.06 Tuesday. The stock has traded between $30.70 and $37.68 over the past year.


April 26, 2011

Europe stocks shrug off Greek deficit, await data

Filed under: Uncategorized, house — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 8:04 pm

European stocks rose moderately Tuesday as traders returned from the Easter holiday to face a big week of economic data and shrugged at the latest bad budget news from crisis-stricken Greece.

After being closed since Thursday last week, Germany’s Dax rose 0.4 percent to 7327.12. The FTSE 100 index in London was up 0.4 percent at 6042.88, while France’s CAC-40 was up 0.4 percent at 4,038.61. Asian shares fell on disappointing U.S. corporate earnings.

U.S. stock futures rose ahead of the New York open, with the Dow up 0.3 percent at 12,462 and the Standard & Poor’s up 0.4 at 1,336.4.

Greece’s struggle with its heavy debt burden produced more downbeat news, with the European statistics agency saying the country’s budget deficit rose last year to 10.5 percent of GDP, above the forecast 9.6 percent.

A sharper revision of Greece’s budget deficit had launched Europe’s debt crisis in late 2009, but this one was largely reported ahead of time in news media and priced in by the markets. The country has been bailed out by the European Union and the IMF and is still struggling to avoid having to restructure its debts.

Analysts at Credit Agricole said this revision’s impact was lessened by improvements in Greece’s formerly lax statistics keeping and by announcement of more cutbacks to address the increased deficit.

“On the bright side, now that Eurostat and IMF experts have labeled Greece’s public finances data as more reliable, one could expect this revision to be the last of a long series, and the Greek government already announced additional austerity measures to offset the corresponding fiscal shortfall,” they said.

While the trading week in Europe is shortened by the holiday, markets could face mixed signals from heavy data flow that includes a two-day U.S. Federal Reserve meeting beginning Tuesday, the key Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller housing survey and U.S. consumer confidence figures. Meanwhile Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has earnings from Deutsche Bank AG, Daimler AG, Bayer, Merck, and SAP toward the end of the week.

The Fed meeting will be watched for confirmation the central bank will end its $600 billion program to expand the money supply through its bond purchase program known as quantitative easing.

April U.S. consumer confidence is expected to increase, although higher oil prices are limiting gains in optimism and willingness to spend, while markets expect the Case-Shiller index to show a continued slack housing market that has weighed on the U.S. recovery.

In Asia, mixed U.S. corporate earnings sent Asian stocks lower as traders waited for the Fed’s updated outlook on the world’s biggest economy.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was down 1.1 percent to 9,568.27, with investors unloading blue chip shares ahead of what is expected to be a punishing earnings season. Nintendo Co. Ltd. announced Monday that its annual profit dropped for the second straight year as sales of its gaming devices fell.

Other major Japanese companies reporting this week include Canon Inc., Honda Motor Co., and Komatsu Ltd., the world’s second-largest construction machinery maker after Caterpillar Inc. Canon shares were down 1 percent. Honda dropped 1.6 percent and Komatsu fell 1.5 percent.

Toyota Motor Corp. slumped 2.4 percent, a day after announcing its car production in Japan plummeted a staggering 62.7 percent in March due to a parts supply crunch following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi was down 0.6 percent to 2,204.51, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.1 percent to 23,865.91. Mainland China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.9 percent to 2,937.73. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines were also down.

Weak earnings on Wall Street propelled stocks lower on Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.2 percent to close at 12,479.88. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 0.2 percent to 1,335.25. The Nasdaq composite edged up 0.2 percent to 2,825.88.

Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kleenex and Huggies, dropped 2.7 percent after missing earnings estimates. The company also lowered its earnings forecast for the full year. Johnson Controls fell 2.8 percent, after saying it expects revenue to drop by $500 million in the third quarter because of the earthquake in Japan.

Benchmark crude for June delivery was down 9 cents to $112.37 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The euro rose to $1.4624, up 0.3 percent on the day. The yen slipped 0.06 percent to 81.76 against the dollar.


April 25, 2011

Yen, Dollar Decline on Outlook for Japan, U.S. Rates to Remain Near Zero - Bloomberg

Filed under: loans, marketing — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 4:36 am

The yen and dollar fell versus most of their major peers on speculation the central banks in Japan and the U.S. will this week keep interest rates near zero, while policy is being tightened elsewhere.

The euro rose toward a 16-month high versus the dollar on prospects European Central Bank officials will signal that further rate increases will be necessary to contain inflation. Australia’s dollar climbed to a record as rising gold prices boosted the outlook for the nation’s resource exports, spurring demand for higher-yielding assets.

“Japan and the U.S. are the countries that can’t steer toward monetary tightening, so the yen and dollar will be weak,” said Daisaku Ueno, president of Research Institute Ltd. in Tokyo, a unit of Japan’s largest currency margin company. “The yen will continue to depreciate as long as the global economy is recovering gradually.”

The yen dropped to 119.75 per euro as of 9:08 a.m. in Tokyo from 119.24 in New York last week, while declining to 82.08 per dollar from 81.88. The euro bought $1.4593 from $1.4561 after reaching $1.4649 on April 21, the highest level since December 2009. The Australian dollar, known as the Aussie, touched $1.0776, the strongest since it was freely floated in 1983.

The Dollar Index, which IntercontinentalExchange Inc. uses to track the greenback versus the currencies of six major U.S. trading partners, slid 0.2 percent to 73.972 after touching 73.735 on April 21, the lowest since August 2008.

The Federal Open Market Committee announces its policy decision on April 27 and will hold the benchmark rate in a range of zero to 0.25 percent, according to all 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Most of the 50 analysts in a Bloomberg survey last month said they expect the Fed will keep its bond portfolio stable for some time after its $600 billion purchase program ends in June.

“What’s behind the dollar’s weakness is the difference in monetary policy in the U.S. from other major economies excluding Japan,”’s Ueno said.


April 23, 2011

Obama pumps plan to develop renewable energy

Filed under: economics, house — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 2:12 pm

President Barack Obama says one answer to high gasoline prices is to spend money developing renewable energy sources.

“That’s the key to helping families at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil” in the long term, he said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.

Obama raises the issue of rising fuel prices during almost every public appearance and says that he understands the strain higher fuel costs are putting on some family budgets.

He announced Thursday during an event in Reno, Nev., that the Justice Department will begin looking for cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets, even though Attorney General Eric Holder suggested a variety of legal reasons may be behind the surging gas prices.

As he has before, Obama said Saturday there is no “silver bullet” that will slash gas prices immediately. But he said there are things government can do to help make a difference in the long term. They also include boosting U.S. oil production, rooting out any illegal activity by traders and speculators and ending $4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies no faxing payday loans.

“Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow’s,” Obama said.

In the weekly Republican address, Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns focused on jobs and said lawmakers who are serious about creating them need to cut spending and the bureaucracy that he and others say burden small businesses and keep them from hiring more.

“If everyone is serious about job creation, in addition to reducing the debt, let’s reduce burdensome regulations that serve no purpose other than to insert more government into the lives of citizens,” he said. “We can’t tie up small businesses in needless red tape and regulations and expect them to create jobs and boost the economy.”


April 21, 2011

Nasdaq OMX Group 1Q net income climbs 71 pct.

Filed under: debt, prices — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:44 pm

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., which is still pursuing its joint bid for the New York Stock Exchange, says its first-quarter net income surged 71 percent as derivative trading and clearing revenues soared.

The company earned $104 million, or 57 cents per share, for the period ended March 31. That’s up from $61 million, or 28 cents per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings rose to 61 cents per share from 43 cents per share.

Revenue climbed 15 percent to $415 million, topping Wall Street expectations of $409.7 million.

On Tuesday Nasdaq OMX and IntercontinentalExchange Inc. sweetened to offer for NYSE, saying that financing had been lined up for the unsolicited $11.3 billion takeover bid and the companies offered pay NYSE a hefty sum if regulators reject the deal.


April 20, 2011

Missouri showing sizable job gains

Filed under: house, marketing — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 8:12 am

Payrolls rose in 38 states in March, indicating that improvement in the labor market is broadening.

Texas, with a 37,200 increase, and Missouri, at 24,300, showed the biggest gains in employment from February, according to figures released Tuesday by the Labor Department. The jobless rate fell in 34 states, with the largest decline in New Mexico, where it fell by 0.6 percentage point to 8.1 percent.

The report is consistent with government figures released April 1 that showed the nation added 216,000 workers in March, the most since May 2010, and unemployment dropped to a two-year low of 8.8 percent. Improvement in hiring across a wider swath is helping sustain consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy.

“We’re seeing a broadening out in the jobs recovery,” said Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York. “It gives us more confidence that the labor market is shifting gears.”

Florida, North Carolina and Oklahoma rounded out the top five states with the largest increases in employment last month. California, Connecticut, Louisiana and Maryland were among the states with the biggest payroll decreases.

North Dakota had the lowest unemployment in the nation, falling to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent the prior month payday loan.

Unemployment rose in seven states, including Louisiana and Connecticut. Nevada remained the state with the highest jobless rate at 13.2 percent.

Most districts reported that labor market conditions were generally stronger than in their last reports, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book report released April 13.

Central bank policymakers will likely keep interest rates near zero and maintain plans to buy $600 billion in Treasury securities by June to boost the pace of growth.

Cutbacks at state and local governments will restrain the recovery. States face projected deficits totaling $112 billion in the next fiscal year because revenue hasn’t bounced back from the recession while spending on unemployment and Medicaid has swelled.

State and local employment data are derived independently from the national statistics, which are typically released on the first Friday of every month. The state figures are subject to larger sampling errors because they come from smaller surveys, making the national figures more reliable, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


April 18, 2011

Moscow tax official’s $39 million fortune revealed

Filed under: marketing, online — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 5:16 pm

A Moscow tax official who approved a fraudulent $230 million tax return in 2007 has bought luxury real estate in Moscow, Dubai and Montenegro and wired money through her husband’s bank accounts worth $39 million, a U.S. investor said Monday.

All that was done with an average annual household income equivalent to $38,000, according to documents released by William Browder, an American-born investor barred from Russia.

Browder has been campaigning against Russian corruption since 2009 when his lawyer died a year after being sent to prison. Authorities have not explained why Browder was himself expelled as a security risk in 2005 in the first place.

Browder, who used to head up Hermitage Capital Management in Moscow, a multibillion-dollar fund, is seeking to get justice for lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, who discovered the alleged fraud involving the Interior Ministry.

Magnitsky, who died in prison in 2009 after being charged with tax evasion linked to his defense of Hermitage, had discovered that officers at the Interior Ministry had seized ownership documents for three of the fund’s subsidiaries, then used those documents to register their own people as owners and directors.

They then reportedly filed a tax claim, saying they made a much smaller profit than originally described and asked for a tax return, according to Hermitage.

The $230 million refund was made in one day.

Magnitsky’s former employers, including Browder and Jamison Firestone, the head of the law firm where Magnitsky worked, revealed an array of documents Monday, which they said described the wealth of the tax official allegedly involved in the fraud.

The two are working together to expose the officials they believe are responsible for Magnitsky’s death and the tax fraud. More than a year later, Magnitsky’s death remains uninvestigated.

Browder and Firestone said the family of Olga Stepanova, who headed Moscow’s district tax office No. 28 until January this year, had incurred $39 million in expenses in the past few years.

Copies of bank account statements and property registration papers show Stepanova’s husband, an employee of a small construction firm, wire money through Switzerland’s Credit Suisse to build a $8 million luxury house west of Moscow and buy a vacation home in Montenegro and multi-million dollar properties on the Palm Jumeriah in Dubai in the name of his 85-year-old mother cash advance flexible payments.

These transactions were allegedly made several weeks after Stepanova’s tax office authorized the $230 million tax refund.

Firestone on Monday sent the documents to Russia’s chief investigator and petitioned him to open a criminal probe against Stepanova and her colleagues.

Meanwhile, Browder said in a letter to Switzerland’s attorney general that criminal proceeds from the tax fraud may be held on various accounts in Credit Suisse.

The Interior Ministry has acknowledged the fraud but said it has been unable to locate the funds. The ministry said its officials had no part in the fraud and insisted the tax authorities were also innocent and had simply been deceived by the criminals.

Over the past year, authorities have turned down scores of petitions by Magnitsky’s former employers and human rights groups to investigate the Interior Ministry officials that Magnitsky believed were involved in the tax fraud.

Magnitsky posthumously received a prestigious anti-corruption award from Transparency International, an international anti-corruption watchdog.

Browder told the Associated Press on Monday that the documents came from a person who worked with Stepanova and her partners. Browder would not identify the person.

“This information is so complete and so damning that the Russian government will lose any legitimacy it has left in bilateral relations with the West if it doesn’t act and prosecute the officials who killed Sergei Magnitsky and stole $230 million from their own people,” Browder said.


On the Web:


April 17, 2011

Ford comes up short in meeting its goal

Filed under: loans, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 2:04 am

Ford Motor Co., after increasing its share of the U.S. light-vehicle market for the last two years, is falling short of its retail goal this year, which may put pressure on the automaker to offer larger discounts.

Ford in the first quarter had 13.6 percent of the U.S. retail auto market, which excludes sales to fleet buyers, according to researcher That trailed the 14.1 percent target Ford’s board set for executives to match or exceed this year, according to the automaker’s government filings.

Ford’s share slipped as General Motors Co. increased sales incentives 11 percent in the first three months of the year, according to Autodata Corp. Ford, which reduced discounts by 9.1 percent in the first quarter, saw its total U.S. market share fall to 16.2 percent from 16.8 percent a year earlier, Autodata said.

“We believe Ford’s management could be forced to become more aggressive with incentives to avoid additional market share loss,” Joseph Amaturo, an analyst with the Buckingham Research Group who rates Ford “neutral,” said Tuesday. “We are increasingly concerned about net-price erosion.”

Chief Executive Alan Mulally, who has emphasized profits over market share, said Ford will maintain pricing discipline.

“The most important thing about our plan is profitable growth, so that leads us to tremendous discipline on everything about the business,” Mulally said Wednesday.

“The number one thing is to match the production capacity to the real demand.”

Ford, which earned $6.56 billion last year, failed to achieve its market share targets globally and in the Americas, according to its proxy statement filed this month. Ford achieved 44 percent of its corporate market-share goal and 58 percent of its target for the Americas, it said.

Ford has said its market share in Europe fell to 7.6 percent last year from 8.9 percent in 2009 as it resisted matching competitors’ discounts.

The automaker said its retail market share in the U.S. last year was 14.1 percent, trailing the board’s 14.2 percent target.

Mulally said Ford will continue to avoid the heavy, profit-eroding discounts that U.S. automakers used in the past to keep factories running.

“We will always be very disciplined about our production and our pricing and have the pricing reflect the real demand and inherent value of the product,” he said.


April 15, 2011

Business digest: Post Office raising some rates

Filed under: Uncategorized, online — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 11:00 am

Post office raising some prices

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