Stocks drift lower, paring January gains
NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average is logging its best start to the year in almost two decades. The Dow ended the month up 5.8 percent, its strongest January since 1994, according to S&P Capital IQ data.
The Standard & Poor's 500 finished the month 5 percent higher, its best start to the year since 1997.
The Nasdaq was up 4.1 percent.
But stocks drifted lower yesterday.
The Dow fell 50 points to 13,860. The S&P dropped 4 points and the Nasdaq composite fell a fraction.
Stocks rallied in the first week of the year after U.S. lawmakers reached a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff," and then pushed higher toward record levels as optimism about the housing market recovery grew. Decent company earnings for the fourth quarter and an improving job market also helped lift markets.
Asia stock markets up as Dow logs strong January
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher today as a weak jobs report from the U.S. was tempered by Wall Street's overall sterling performance for January.
Investors buoyed by improvements in the U.S. housing and jobs markets and decent corporate earnings have been scooping up stocks.
Updated data on manufacturing in China fell short of expectations. Industrial production is still growing, but at a slower pace, according to the government-sanctioned China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.
Benchmark crude oil inched up, remaining above $97 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro but rose against the yen.
January jobless data, construction and manufacturing reports
UNDATED (AP) — The Labor Department will release employment data for January today. And the Commerce Department will report on construction spending for December. Also today, the Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for January and the automakers report vehicle sales for January.
Two oil giants will report their quarterly financial results Chevron and Exxon Mobil.
Also out with quarterly results today are toy maker Mattel, pharmaceutical giant Merck and Japanese electronics manufacturer Panasonic.
Solid Jan. hiring would boost hopes for US economy
WASHINGTON (AP) — Economists surveyed by FactSet are again predicting no improvement in the unemployment rate when government figures for January are released Friday.
The report is expected to show that job growth remained steady last month even though Americans began receiving smaller paychecks that could keep the economy sluggish.
The experts forecast that the economy added 155,000 jobs in January and that the unemployment rate stayed at 7.8 percent for a third straight month.
The economy has averaged about 150,000 additional jobs a month over the past two years, not enough to rapidly reduce still-high unemployment.
Still, even modest hiring would cushion the impact of the higher Social Security taxes that most consumers are paying this year. And it would help the economy resume growing after it shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the October-December quarter.
Endowment returns flat for universities
UNDATED (AP) — College and university endowments lost ground slightly during the fiscal year ending last June 30, with investments declining 0.3 percent on average, but the performance of the stock market since then suggests endowments may again be strengthening.
Endowments are the assets owned and invested by universities, who typically spend about 4 to 5 percent of their values annually to support things like financial aid, faculty salaries and other expenses — and then try to replenish the payouts through fundraising and investment returns.
The survey of 831 schools, conducted by NACUBO, a university business officers group, and investment adviser Commonfund, found that at the average university, the endowment kicks in about 9 percent of the operating budget.
Verne Sedlacek, president and CEO of Commonfund, says that to beat inflation and replenish payouts to support university spending, endowments have needed to return about 7.4 percent annually.
SMALLBIZ-SMALL BUSINESS HIRING
Report: Small business hiring edged up in January
NEW YORK (AP) — A new survey shows small businesses nudged up their hiring during January for a second straight month.
The survey released Thursday by the National Federation of Independent Business showed that the average payroll per company rose by 0.09 workers. It had risen by 0.03 workers in December.
The majority of owners surveyed -- 80 percent -- said they made no changes in their employment levels in recent months. Eleven percent said they had added workers and 9 percent said they had cut their payrolls.
N-F-I-B Chief Economist William Dunkelberg says that the slight improvement brought hiring levels back to where they stood in April 2012. He says that is a good sign but that owners remain cautious.
Congress passes bill to extend borrowing authority
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has approved must-do legislation to permit the government to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars more to meet its obligations, averting a first-ever government default that had loomed as early as mid-February.
The 64-34 vote in the Senate on Thursday sends the measure to President Barack Obama, who has said he will sign it into law.
The legislation would temporarily suspend the $16.4 trillion limit on federal borrowing. Experts say that would allow the government to borrow about $450 billion to meet interest payments and obligations like Social Security benefits and government salaries.
Calculations by a Washington-based think tank, the Bipartisan Policy Center, indicate that the deadline for Congress to act again to prevent default would likely not come until August.
The Republican-controlled House passed the legislation last week.
China's manufacturing grew, but weakly, in January
BEIJING (AP) — Two surveys show China's manufacturing activity expanded in January, adding to signs of an economic recovery, but growth was weak.
The government-sanctioned China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said Friday its purchasing managers' index stood at 50.4 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show an expansion. Separately, HSBC Corp. said its index stood at 52.3 on a similar 100-point scale.
In a reflection of the shaky state of China's recovery, the logistics group's index showed a small decline from December.
China's economic growth rebounded to 7.9 percent in the three months ending in December, up from the previous quarter's three-year low of 7.4 percent. Analysts warn, though, that the country could face a setback if trade or investment growth weakens.
Gasoline prices get early start on spring surge
NEW YORK (AP) — Gasoline prices are getting an early start on their annual spring march higher.
The average retail price rose 13 cents over the past two weeks to $3.42 per gallon, and within a few days it will likely set a record for this time of year.
The culprits: Rising crude oil prices, slowing output at refineries that are undergoing maintenance, and low supplies of gasoline.
These are the kinds of thing that push gasoline prices higher every spring.
Hopes of stronger economic growth in the U.S. and abroad helped push the U.S. stock market to a five-year high in January and sent crude prices up. When economies expand, more gasoline, diesel and jet fuel are consumed by shippers and travelers.
Retail gasoline prices have risen for 14 days straight, according to AAA.
NC, Ore. Daimler Trucks plants may lose 1,300 jobs
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Daimler Trucks North America is warning 1,300 jobs could be lost at factories in North Carolina and Oregon because of slower demand for freight-hauling equipment.
Portland, Ore.-based Daimler Trucks said Thursday it could cut 715 jobs at a factory in Cleveland, N.C., that builds Freightliner long-distance trucks, 400 at a Mount Holly plant that builds smaller Freightliner delivery trucks, and 80 at a Gastonia parts plant. The layoffs could hit in April if other efforts fail to address lower demand.
Daimler Trucks spokesman David Giroux said the company also will decide next month on layoffs at a Portland, Ore., factory that builds Western Star trucks. A union official told The Oregonian that Daimler Trucks has warned it may cut up to 250 workers at the Portland plant.
HEDGE FUND-INSIDER TRADING
NY insider trading cooperator gets year in prison
NEW YORK (AP) — A Florida investor who initially lied when she cooperated with one of the government's biggest insider trading investigations has been sentenced in New York to a year in prison.
Roomy Khan of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Manhattan. She also must give up $1.8 million in profits as part of a deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve civil charges. A consent order calls for her to pay $1.55 million in profits and an additional $304,398 in interest.
The 53-year-old Khan has admitted she conspired from 2004 through November 2007 to trade inside information. She pleaded guilty in 2009 to conspiracy, securities fraud and obstruction of justice and agreed to cooperate.
The probe she aided has resulted in more than two dozen convictions.
Despite court ruling, EPA raises biofuel estimate
WASHINGTON (AP) — Days after a federal appeals court said the Obama administration is setting overly optimistic production quotas for the struggling biofuels industry, the government has issued new standards that raise production estimates for 2013.
New standards announced Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency require production of 14 million gallons of so-called cellulosic biofuels made from grasses and woody material. That's up from an 8.7 million-gallon requirement in 2012 — when actual production was near zero.
An oil industry representative said EPA was ignoring the court ruling as it pursued an "absurd" mandate for biofuels. The administration has said increased use of biofuels could lower greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
A spokeswoman said EPA believes the proposed standards "are a reasonable representation of expected production" of biofuels this year.
US looking at action against China cyberattacks
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is considering more assertive action against Beijing to combat a persistent cyber espionage campaign it believes Chinese hackers are waging against U.S. companies and government agencies.
As The New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that their computer systems had been infiltrated by China-based hackers, cybersecurity experts said the U.S. government is eyeing more pointed diplomatic and trade measures.
One former U.S. official said the administration is preparing a new National Intelligence Estimate that, when complete, is expected to detail the cyberthreat from China as a growing economic problem and cite more directly a role by the Chinese government in the espionage.