Evidence of strengthening economy pushes stocks higher
NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow will start trading today from a new record close.
Fresh evidence of a strengthening economy helped push the bluechip index to an 89 point gain Tuesday, closing at 14,662. The Dow broke through an all-time record on March 5 and has risen steadily since then, routinely setting new trading highs.
The S&P 500 index rose 8 points to 1,570 and came within two points of its all-time high during the session.
Reports on auto sales and factory orders provided the latest evidence that the U.S. economy is strengthening, while traders plowed money back into European stocks as the financial situation in Cyprus appeared to stabilize.
Health insurers powered the gains on Wall Street, a day after the government released revised reimbursement rates for Medicare Advantage plans. The new numbers suggest that funding cuts will be less severe than analysts and companies had feared.
Asian stocks up after positive US economic data
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets mostly rose today boosted by more evidence the U.S. economic recovery is gaining traction.
U.S. government figures released Tuesday showed a better-than-expected 3 percent rise in factory orders in February, the largest increase since September. In addition, March sales reports from auto makers were solid.
Benchmark crude oil fell back below $97 per barrel. The dollar rose against the euro and the yen.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Major business events and economic events scheduled for Wednesday:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Institute for Supply Management provides the day's only major piece of economic data this morning when it releases its service sector index for March.
ISM's February gauge showed higher sales and new orders pushed service companies to their fastest growth in a year, with the index of non-manufacturing activity hitting 56. The report measures growth in industries that cover 90 percent of the work force, including retail, construction, health care and financial services.
On the corporate earnings front, Monsanto is scheduled to report its latest quarterly results.
Goldman takes Apple stock off 'preferred' list
NEW YORK (AP) — Goldman Sachs has taken Apple off its list of most highly recommended stocks, joining other analysts in dialing back its expectations for the company.
Goldman analyst Bill Shope said in a client note that the iPhone 5, introduced last fall, hasn't sold as well as he expected. He says the company now needs some real "hits" among the products it rolls out during the second half of the year.
Shope took the company off Goldman's "Americas Conviction List," a list Apple Inc. had been on since December 2010. But he keeps a "Buy" rating for the company.
After a heady decade, Apple's sales growth is slowing down. It hasn't unveiled a revolutionary new product since the iPad in 2010.
A call to Apple for comment was not immediately returned.
Report: Apple to release updated phone this summer
NEW YORK (AP) — Apple is set for a possible summer launch of the next iPhone, rather than a fall launch like the last two models, according to a report Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal.
Apple Inc. is also working on a cheaper iPhone model that could win it some market share in developing countries, the paper said. It cited unnamed people "familiar with the device's production."
The report is in line with the expectations of company watchers and Wall Street analysts. The iPhone 5 costs around $600, and while Apple maintains older iPhones in production, even those aren't cheap enough to compete effectively against low-end smartphones running Google Inc.'s Android software.
Apple doesn't comment on future products before its launch events. Its executives usually emphasize that the company's goal is to make the best products, not the cheapest ones.
The Journal said Apple is set to start production of the new iPhone within the next three months. It's apparently relying on sources among the Asian companies that supply components for the phone and assemble it.
SEC gives companies OK to use social media
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Securities and Exchange Commission will allow public companies to make significant announcements on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites provided they alert investors which sites they intend to use.
The decision allows companies to use social media in place of more formal websites. An SEC rule requires that all investors receive significant company information at the same time.
Companies should alert investors in press releases or regulatory filings that they are going to use specific social media to disseminate information that could potentially affect the price of the company's stock, the SEC said.
The question arose after Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said on his Facebook page that monthly online viewing by customers had exceeded one billion for the first time, the agency said.
NM governor signs space travel liability bill
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has signed legislation aimed at saving the state's quarter-billion-dollar spaceport and retaining Virgin Galactic as its anchor tenant.
Martinez says the new law protecting commercial space travel companies will prevent lawsuit abuse and make it easier for the industry to thrive in New Mexico.
Officials at Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America have been fighting for years to get the legislation enacted, saying commercial space companies have passed over New Mexico in favor of states with more lenient liability exemptions.
Virgin Galactic had hinted last year that it might abandon plans to launch its $200,000-per-person space flights from New Mexico if the bill failed again.
Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides called Tuesday's signing a vital milestone.
Verizon denies talk of bid with AT&T for Vodafone
NEW YORK (AP) — Verizon is denying a report that it's looking to partner with AT&T to buy Vodafone, the British cellphone company that owns 45 percent of Verizon's wireless business.
The Financial Times said Tuesday that a joint bid of $245 billion would give Verizon Communications Inc. full control of Verizon Wireless, while AT&T Inc. would take over the rest of Vodafone. Vodafone has widespread international interests, with operations in Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and India, among other countries.
In a statement Tuesday, Verizon said it continues to be interested in buying out Vodafone's stake in Verizon Wireless, but has no intention to bid for the entire company.
Northeast drilling boom threatens forest wildlife
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Hawks swoop in and gobble up songbirds. Raccoons feast on nests of eggs they never could have reached before. Salamanders and wildflowers fade away, crowded out by invasive plants that are altering the soil they need to thrive.
Experts say that like a once-quiet neighborhood cut up by an expressway and laced with off ramps, northeastern forests are changing because of the pipelines crisscrossing them amid the region's gas drilling boom.
Environmentalists have loudly worried that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may threaten water and air, though the Obama administration and many state regulators say the practice is safe when done properly.
Threats to wildlife have flown largely under the radar. But as studies detail plans for thousands of miles of new pipelines and related infrastructure, the dangers to biologically rich forests that have rebounded since vast clear-cutting in the 1800s are taking on new urgency.
FLIGHTS-PAY BY WEIGHT
Samoa airline introduces pay-by-weight pricing
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) — A tiny Samoa airline is giving a new reason to drop extra weight before your next trip: Tickets sold by the kilogram, not the seat.
Samoa Air planned on Wednesday to start its first international flights with a pricing model that charges based on how much passengers and their bags weigh.
There are no base fares — each kilogram (2.2 pounds) costs 93 cents to $1.06, depending on the flight.
That means the average American adult man weighing 195 pounds with a 35 pound bag would pay $97 to go one-way from Apia, Samoa to Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Travelers in the region are used to stepping on scales when they fly because of small planes used between islands.
But Samoa Air is the first to charge by weight.