Dow Jones industrial average trades at a new high
NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average is trading at an all-time high.
The index has surged past its previous record set in October 2007, gaining 145 points to stand at 14,273 at midday Tuesday. That's a gain of 1 percent.
The index is now up nearly 9 percent for the year, capping a remarkable comeback since the depths of the financial crisis. The Dow has doubled since bottoming out at a 12-year low in March 2009.
Tuesday's gains were driven by industrial and technology stocks. IBM, United Technologies and 3M led the Dow higher.
The Nasdaq composite and the Standard & Poor's 500 index are also sharply higher today, with the S&P 500 within striking distance of its record close of 1,565.
US home prices rose by most in nearly 7 years
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices jumped in January, a sign the housing market is gaining momentum as it nears the spring selling season.
CoreLogic, a real estate data provider, says home prices rose 9.7 percent in January from a year earlier. That's up from an 8.3 percent increase in December and the biggest annual gain since April 2006. Prices rose in all states except Delaware and Illinois.
Home prices also rose 0.7 percent in January from December. That's a solid increase given that sales usually slow over the winter months.
Sales of previously owned homes ticked up in January after rising to their highest level in five years in 2012, according to the National Association of Realtors. At the same time, inventories of homes for sale fell to a 13-year low.
US service firms grows at fastest pace in a year
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. service companies grew in February at the fastest pace in a year, buoyed by higher sales and more new orders.
The Institute for Supply Management says its index of non-manufacturing activity rose to 56 in February from 55.2 in January. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.
The report measures growth in industries that cover 90 percent of the work force, including retail, construction, health care and financial services.
Firms kept adding jobs last month, although at a slightly slower pace. A gauge of hiring dipped a nearly seven-year high in January.
Service firms, including construction companies, added an average of 195,000 jobs from November through January, according to government data. The Labor Department will report on February hiring Friday.
SMALLBIZ-SMALL BUSINESS LENDING
Study: Small business lending weakened in January
NEW YORK (AP) — Small business owners are still holding back from borrowing.
A study of small business lending released Tuesday by Thomson Reuters and PayNet shows that owners took out fewer loans and leases during January. An index based on the study fell to 113 from 115 in December and is virtually unchanged from a year ago.
The study shows that owners are cautious although some of the political uncertainty of the last few months — the election and negotiations in Congress over taxes — has been resolved. Many owners are concerned about the impact on their earnings of the health care law that will take effect next year.
The study was compiled from data on commercial loans and leases in PayNet's database. The company provides credit ratings on small businesses.
Shell issues oil production warning in Nigeria
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell PLC has issued a production warning over its operations in Nigeria as it says thieves continue to cut into its pipelines, causing oil spills and damage.
Shell said in a statement Tuesday that it was declaring "force majeure" on shipments of Bonny Light crude oil after it shut down its Nembe Creek Trunkline, a major pipeline for the company. That means the company cannot deliver the promised supply from the field.
On Monday, the company issued a statement saying its Nigerian subsidiary lost some 150,000 barrels of oil a day over several days in late February after safety systems shut down the trunk line. Shell said the shutdowns came after thieves cut into the line.
Nigeria is a top supplier of crude to the U.S.
HSBC sells US consumer, homeowner loans for $3.2B
NEW YORK (AP) — HSBC, Europe's largest bank, is selling two portfolios containing U.S. consumer and homeowner loans for about $3.2 billion in cash as it looks to minimize its exposure in the country.
HSBC has been selling assets as part of its plan to improve profitability and shore up capital.
The two portfolios are being sold to SpringCastle Acquisition LLC, which is owned by Springleaf Finance Inc. and real estate investment trust Newcastle Investment Corp. Springleaf will also buy HSBC's loan-servicing facility in Kentucky.
The sale of the portfolios is expected to close in the second quarter.
Marriott to help Ikea launch budget hotels
STOCKHOLM (AP) — Ikea says Marriott International Inc. will help it open its new budget hotels across western Europe during the next five years.
The Swedish company, which first announced last year that it will launch the hotel chain, said Tuesday that Marriott, the operator of luxury hotels across the world, will be its partner.
They will develop some 50 hotels with 150-300 rooms each in major cities. The first is scheduled to open in Milan, Italy, next year.
Peter Andrews, head of Inter Hospitality — part of Inter Ikea's property division — said the agreement allows the group "to build a high quality hotel property investment portfolio."
Ikea, the world's largest furniture retailer, already owns a handful of hotels. Marriott International has more than 3,700 properties in 74 countries and territories.
Online ivory trade threatens Africa's elephants
BANGKOK (AP) — Conservationists say there's a new threat to the survival of Africa's elephants that may be just as deadly as poachers' bullets: the black-market trade of ivory in cyberspace.
Tania McCrea-Steele of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said Tuesday that illegal tusks are being bought and sold on Internet forms and shopping websites worldwide.
Wildlife groups attending the 178-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Bangkok this week are calling on global law enforcement agencies to do something about it.
The elephant slaughter, which has reached proportions unheard of in two decades, is largely being driven by rising demand for ivory in Asia where tusks are often carved into tourist trinkets and intricate ornaments.
Martha Stewart testifies in trial over her brand
NEW YORK (AP) — Eight years after Martha Stewart was released from prison for lying about a stock trade, the home diva is now facing another legal mess that may not be easy to clean up.
Stewart took the stand in New York State Supreme Court Tuesday morning. She is at the center of a bitter legal battle between two of the nation's largest retailers — Macy's Inc. and J.C. Penney Co.
Macy's sued the media and merchandising company Stewart founded for breaching an exclusive contract when she signed a deal with Penney in December 2011 to open shops at most of its stores this spring.
Macy's, which has sold Martha Stewart products including towels and pots since 2007, is trying to block Penney from selling those products.
Testimony has portrayed Stewart as someone who turned her back on her good friend and Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren so she could enrich her company.
St. Louis company wins suit over bowl-shaped chip
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A jury has sided with a St. Louis company in its battle with Frito-Lay over bowl-shaped tortilla chips.
Frito-Lay sued St. Louis-based Ralcorp Holdings in February 2012 in U.S. District Court in Dallas, claiming Ralcorp and its Medallion Foods subsidiary infringed on intellectual property rights by making Bowlz corn chips, a product similar to Frito-Lay's Tostitos Scoops! chips.
Frito-Lay was seeking $4.5 million in damages.
But on Friday, the jury sided with Ralcorp and Medallion and gave Frito-Lay no money.
A spokseman for Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay says the company is disappointed in the ruling and considering whether to appeal.
Ralcorp predominantly makes food sold under store brand names. It is now part of ConAgra Foods Inc. The Omaha, Neb., company completed its $5 billion purchase in January.