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A year after IPO, Facebook aims to be ad colossus

NEW YORK (AP) — It was supposed to be our IPO, the people's public offering.

Facebook, the brainchild of a young CEO who sauntered into Wall Street meetings in a hoodie, was going to be bigger than Amazon, bigger than McDonald's, bigger than Coca-Cola. And it was all made possible by our friendships, photos and family ties.

Then came the IPO, and it flopped. Facebook's stock finished its first day of trading just 23 cents higher than its $38 IPO price. It hasn't been that high since.

Even amid the hype and excitement surrounding Facebook's May 18 stock market debut a year ago, there were looming doubts. Investors wondered whether the social network could increase advertising revenue without alienating users, especially those using smartphones and tablet computers.

Despite its disappointing stock market performance, the company has delivered strong financial results. Net income increased 7 per cent to $219 million in the most recent quarter, compared with the previous year, and revenue was up 38 per cent to $1.46 billion.

The world's biggest online social network has also kept growing to 1.1 billion users. Some 665 million people check in every day to share photos, comment on news articles and play games. Millions of people around the world who don't own a computer use Facebook, in Malawi, Malaysia and Martinique.

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Falling yen to make Japan's goods more affordable

Attention, bargain-hunters around the world: Japanese goods — from cars to televisions — are going on sale.

Credit Japan's drive to pump cash into its economy to stimulate growth. The extra money flooding its financial system is helping shrink the value of the yen. A U.S. dollar now buys about 100 yen. Last fall, it bought fewer than 80.

When the yen's value falls, many Japanese goods become less expensive worldwide. Toyotas become cheaper in Germany, the United States and South Korea. So do Sony electronics. For tourists, Tokyo doesn't cost so much to visit.

By contrast, goods made in Europe, Asia and the United States become pricier compared with Japanese products. And as sales of Japanese products grow, Japan's economy benefits.

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GM stock rises above $33 for first time in 2 years

DETROIT (AP) — Shares of General Motors reached an important milestone on Friday, closing above their initial public offering price of $33 for the first time in more than two years.

GM shares reached $33.77 Friday before slipping back to close at $33.42, up 3.2 per cent. The auto giant sold shares to the public for $33 in a November 2010 IPO, but they've traded below that price since May 4, 2011.

GM's business is getting stronger. Two weeks ago, GM reported solid first-quarter earnings on robust sales in North America. On Friday, there were signs sales declines may have bottomed in Europe — where GM has lost money for more than a dozen years.

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Record Powerball jackpot inspires office pools

In workplaces across the nation, Americans are inviting their colleagues to chip in $2 for a Powerball ticket and a shared daydream.

The office lottery pool is a way to improve your odds and have a little fun with co-workers. And besides, who wants to be the only person at work the next day when everyone quits?

With $600 million on the line, this is the time to play. It's the largest-ever Powerball jackpot and the second-largest world jackpot of all time. And it could get even bigger before Saturday's drawing.

But it's important to be careful. Workplace pools that yield big jackpots sometimes result in lawsuits, broken friendships and delayed payouts.

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Top officials call to overhaul euro institutions

BERLIN (AP) — Engineering a financial bailout for Cyprus in March was such a chaotic process that top European officials say it is time to rethink how the region manages its crisis — and who should be involved.

Officials say the International Monetary Fund, which has contributed financial expertise and billions in emergency loans, may no longer be needed as a key decision-making partner. And they say that the eurozone would be able to make decisions and take action more quickly if it wasn't bound by the need for unanimous agreement among its 17 member countries.

These concerns have been raised before by analysts and government officials outside of Europe, but now two of the region's leading financial decision-makers have said publicly that something needs to be done. Olli Rehn, the top economic official at the European Commission — the European Union's executive arm — and Joerg Asmussen, who sits on the European Central Bank's six-member executive board, said at a hearing last week that the easing of the financial crisis presents an opportunity to fix what is broken.

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Gauge of US economy's future health up in April

WASHINGTON (AP) — A measure of the U.S. economy's future health rose solidly in April, buoyed by a sharp rise in applications to build homes and a better job market.

The Conference Board said Friday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.6 per cent last month to a reading of 95. That followed a 0.2 per cent decline in March.

The index is intended to signal economic conditions three to six months out.

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Unemployment falls in 40 US states, rises in 3

WASHINGTON (AP) — Solid hiring helped lower unemployment rates in 40 U.S. states last month, the most since November. The declines show the job market is improving throughout most of the country.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates increased in only three states: Louisiana, Tennessee and North Dakota. Rates were unchanged in seven states.

California, New York and South Carolina all reported the largest unemployment rate declines in April. Each state's rate fell by 0.4 percentage points.

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Transocean shareholders oust chairman

NEW YORK (AP) — Transocean Ltd. shareholders have voted out the oil drilling company's chairman and backed one of Carl Icahn's director nominees.

But the oil driller said Friday that its stockholders decided against the billionaire investor's proposal for a $4 dividend.

Under intense pressure from Icahn, J. Michael Talbert had already said that he would retire as chairman by November. He had been Transocean's CEO from 1994 to 2002 and served three terms as chairman before Friday's ouster.

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Pew survey questions Gen X, baby boomer savings

NEW YORK (AP) — A research report by the Pew Charitable Trusts says younger baby boomers and Generation Xers face an uncertain retirement because of reduced savings, high levels of debt, and losses during the Great Recession.

The study found that members of Generation X, who are now between 38 and 47 years old, lost almost half their wealth between 2007 and 2010. Young baby boomers, who are between 48 and 57, lost more money but a smaller portion of their overall wealth. The report says both of those groups are struggling to save enough money for retirement and are lagging older groups in terms of their savings. They also hold more debt than those groups did at similar points in their lives.

The report is based on the Survey of Consumer Finances, which is conducted every three years by the Federal Reserve, and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which has followed a group of families since 1968. It takes into account financial assets like savings accounts and retirement accounts, nonfinancial assets like business properties, and home equity minus debt.

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Energy Department backs Texas LNG export plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Energy Department on Friday conditionally approved a Texas company's proposal to export liquefied natural gas, only the second such project allowed to move forward amid a production boom that has led to glut of domestic natural gas.

The action would allow Freeport LNG Expansion L.P. to export up to 1.4 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas per day from its terminal near Freeport, Texas, south of Houston. The DOE said granting such a permit for shipments to countries that do not have free trade agreements with the U.S. was in the public interest.

Freeport is the second export project to win Energy Department authorization, following the Sabine Pass LNG Terminal in Cameron Parish, La.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 121.18 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 15,354.40. The Standard

Benchmark oil for June delivery rose 86 cents to close at $96.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, was up 86 cents to finish at $104.64 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to end at $2.91 a gallon. Heating oil added 3 cents to finish at $2.94 a gallon. Natural gas gained 12 cents to end at $4.06 per 1,000 cubic feet.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/130517/business-highlights