Update on the latest in business:


Associated Press

Posted on January 18, 2013 at 5:02 AM


S&P 500 surges on housing starts, jobless claims

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors appear more optimistic about the U.S. economy following yesterday's strong reports on housing starts and unemployment claims

The Standard and Poor's 500 index climbed to another five-year high on Thursday. The S&P gained 8 points to close at 1,480.94, its highest level since December 2007. The Dow Jones industrial average also rose, climbing to a five-year high during the day, before falling back to finish nearly 85 points higher at 13,596. The Nasdaq composite climbed 18..


Asia stocks rise as US, China economies improve

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets rose today after signs that the U.S. economic recovery is gaining traction and a rebound in China's growth emboldened investors to plunge back into equities.

Strong reports on housing starts and jobs released late Thursday in the U.S. sent Wall Street higher, despite disappointing earnings from Bank of America and Citigroup.

China's economy grew 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from the previous quarter's 7.4 percent.

Benchmark crude oil fell but remained above $95.32 per barrel. The dollar rose against the yen and fell against the euro.


Business reports scheduled for today

UNDATED (AP) — Two important bellwether companies report quarterly financial results today: General Electric and Morgan Stanley. GE is a giant Fairfield, Conn.,-based manufacturer with a strong financial services component. Morgan Stanley is a large Wall Street financial services company.


Poll: Most see damage if debt limit not raised

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Associated Press-GfK poll says most Americans think jarring economic problems would erupt if lawmakers don't increase the government's debt limit.

But the survey also shows that people are torn over how or even whether to raise it. They lean slightly toward Republican demands that any boost be accompanied by federal spending cuts.

Fifty-three percent say if the debt limit is not extended and the U.S. defaults, there will be a major economic crisis. The rest say such a crisis would be somewhat likely or they largely dismiss the prospects of such damage.

Thirty-nine percent support GOP demands that deep spending cuts be attached to any debt ceiling increase. Thirty percent back President Barack Obama's insistence that the debt limit be raised now and budget cuts be debated later.


China's growth rebounds but still vulnerable

BEIJING (AP) — China's economy rebounded in the final quarter of 2012 but optimism is tempered by warnings the recovery could be vulnerable to a possible downturn in global trade.

Data shows growth rose to 7.9 percent in the three months ending in December as the world's second-largest economy limped out of its deepest slowdown since the 2008 global crisis. That was up from 7.4 percent the previous quarter and raised total growth for the year to 7.8 percent -- China's weakest year since the 1990s.

The slowdown was due largely to government controls imposed to cool a real estate boom and surging inflation fueled by Beijing's massive stimulus in response to the 2008 crisis. But it worsened as demand for Chinese exports dropped unexpectedly, raising the risk of job losses and unrest.

Analysts say a Chinese recovery is likely to be too gradual and weak to drive a global rebound without improvement in the United States and Europe.


Adviser hails 'Abenomics,' says dollar can rise

TOKYO (AP) — The mastermind behind the monetary policies of Japan's new prime minister is welcoming the recovering stock market and the weakening yen as signs of success, and he thinks there is room for more.

Koichi Hamada, professor emeritus of economics at Yale University, says the dollar can rise as high as 110 yen before excessive inflation kicks in. A weak yen makes Japan's imports more expensive but is a boon for its exporters.

The dollar is now trading at 90 yen, rising from 80 yen-levels before the election of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe late last year.

Hamada, appointed adviser to Abe's Cabinet, is behind "Abenomics," the policies that include pressuring the Bank of Japan to set an inflation target to fight deflation.


Toyota settles bellwether wrongful death lawsuit

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Toyota says it has settled what was to be the first of hundreds of wrongful death lawsuits involving problems of sudden, unintended acceleration by its vehicles.

A Toyota spokeswoman says the company reached the agreement in the case brought by the family of Paul Van Alfen and Charlene Jones Lloyd who were killed when their Camry slammed into a wall in Utah in 2010.

Last month, Toyota agreed to a settlement worth more than $1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits claiming economic losses suffered by Toyota owners, but hundreds more lawsuits over wrongful death remained.

The Van Alfen case was to be the first of those tried, and to serve as a bellwether for the rest.


DirectBuy to pay $500,000 to settle with NY

NEW YORK (AP) — DirectBuy will pay a $500,000 settlement in an agreement with the state of New York, which accused the company of bilking people out of thousands of dollars in fees and falsely promising them hefty discounts on goods.

That's according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who says the direct buying club agreed to issue refunds to New York consumers for memberships and financing fees, while also paying other penalties.

The Indiana company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Other states have already settled with the company, but a larger class-action lawsuit is ongoing.


American Express' 4Q earnings down 47 percent

UNDATED (AP) — American Express says its net income fell 47 percent in the fourth quarter, as the credit card issuer racked up hefty charges related to restructuring costs and other one-time expenses.

The New York-based company says it posted net income of $637 million, or 56 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31. That compares with net income of $1.2 billion, or $1.01 per share, in the same period last year.

Excluding roughly $594 million in after-tax charges, American Express' earnings amounted to $1.09 per share.

Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting adjusted earnings of $1.06 per share.

Revenue for the quarter grew 5 percent to $8.14 billion, in line with analysts' forecast.

Management said spending by cardholders rose 8 percent during the quarter.


Intel 4Q profit down, beats Street

NEW YORK (AP) — Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, says its fourth-quarter net income fell 27 percent from the previous year, as PC sales continued to weaken.

Net income was $2.47 billion, or 48 cents per share, for the October to December period. That was down from $3.36 billion, or 64 cents per share, a year ago.

Intel beat expectations for the quarter. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting earnings of 45 cents per share.

Revenue fell 3 percent to $13.5 billion, matching analyst expectations.

Intel had warned that the fourth quarter would be lackluster, and that the usual holiday bounce in PC shipments would be cut in half, even though Microsoft launched its new operating system, Windows 8, in the quarter.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company expects about $12.7 billion in first-quarter revenue, below the analyst forecast of $12.9 billion but in line with usual seasonal variations.


Insurers may prove choosy with overhaul exchanges

UNDATED (AP) — UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley is warning analysts not to assume that the insurer will participate widely in a key health care overhaul coverage expansion that unfolds later this year.

State-based exchanges will debut this fall and allow people to sign up for coverage online, with some using income-based tax credits to help pay the bill. Hemsley says UnitedHealth may participate in as few as 10 exchanges when as many as 100 might be set up.

He says whether the insurer participates will depend on if the exchanges are fair and provide a reasonable financial return.

Analysts say it's too early to determine whether some exchanges will wind up thin on competition. Competition on exchanges is intended to keep prices in check.

UnitedHealth is the nation's largest health insurer.


US investigators arrive to check 787 in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — An official with Japan's transport safety board says four U.S. officials, including two Boeing representatives, have arrived at an airport in western Japan to inspect a 787 jet that made an emergency landing earlier this week.

The All Nippon Airways jet landed Wednesday morning at Takamatsu airport after the pilot smelled something burning and received a cockpit warning of battery problems.

The four Americans, including an investigator each from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, met with officials Friday from the Japan Transport Safety Board, which is leading the investigation, said Mamoru Takahashi, a JTSB official.

ANA and Japan Airlines, which together have 24 of the Boeing jets, have grounded the planes. The U.S., Europe, Qatar and India also have done so.


Union agrees to bargain to help save Philly papers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The union for journalists at Philadelphia's two major newspapers will bargain a new contract to help prevent the troubled company from being liquidated.

Newspaper Guild leaders made the announcement Thursday after meeting with executives of the group that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

Guild officials say Interstate General Media threatened to liquidate or sell its assets unless it gets new labor agreements with all 11 unions by Friday.

Ten unions have been working without contracts since October. The current Guild contract expires next October, but the union agreed to negotiate a new deal while keeping current provisions in force.

Interstate bought the cash-strapped newspapers in April. It's the fifth group to own the media outlets since 2006.

The company declined to comment.