Business Highlights


General Motors names Mary Barra as CEO, 1st woman to head car company

DETROIT (AP) — Mary Barra has spent the past three years as General Motors’ product chief, making cars that drive better, last longer and look good in showrooms.

Now she will take on an even bigger job. On Tuesday, the board named the 33-year company veteran CEO, making her the first woman to lead a U.S. car company.

Barra replaces Dan Akerson, who moved up retirement plans by several months to help his wife, Karin, battle advanced cancer.


Tech firms vie to protect personal data, profits

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Even as Silicon Valley speaks out against the U.S. government’s surveillance methods, technology companies are turning a handsome profit by mining personal data and peering into people’s online habits.

The industry’s profit machine has become tarnished by revelations that the National Security Agency trolls deep into the everyday lives of Web surfers. As a result, companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are becoming more aggressive in their attempts to counter any perception that they voluntarily give the government access to users’ email and other sensitive information.

The industry’s latest salvo came Monday with the release of an open letter to President Barack Obama and the introduction of a new website calling for more stringent controls on electronic espionage.

The public relations manoeuvr escalates a battle that Silicon Valley has waged since early June, when media reports based on internal documents revealed the NSA had fashioned an elaborate system to vacuum up some of the user data that U.S. technology companies collect.


Once-frothy Nasdaq tries to reach dot-com peak

NEW YORK (AP) — It takes a long time to recover from a bad hangover, especially when you party like it’s 1999.

The Nasdaq Composite is up 35 per cent this year, but while other major indexes like the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 have celebrated all-time highs again and again, the Nasdaq remains 20 per cent below its dot-com peak of 5,048.62.

That’s a good thing because the biggest beneficiary of the late 90s Internet mania was also its biggest victim. After cresting on March 10, 2000, the index lost nearly 80 per cent of its value over the next two years, touching bottom on Oct. 9, 2002 at 1,114.11. The Dow fell 27 per cent over the same period, and the S&P 500 dropped 44 per cent.


US ban on high-risk bank trades approved

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. regulators have taken a major step toward reining in high-risk trading on Wall Street, banning the largest banks from trading for their own profit in most cases.

It took three years to write and adopt the Volcker Rule, one of the most critical changes to financial laws in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis.

The Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency each voted Tuesday to adopt it.


US-led Pacific trade zone talks end without deal

SINGAPORE (AP) — The United States and 11 other nations negotiating a free trade zone stretching from Chile to Japan failed to reach a final agreement at talks in Singapore, but indicated they were closing in on a landmark deal.

The U.S.-led agreement is a major part of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy shift toward Asia but has been snagged by disagreements between countries on market access, especially for agricultural products, environmental protections and intellectual property.

Washington had said it hoped the trade agreement would be completed by the end of the year.


US job openings reach 5-year high, a hopeful sign

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers advertised the most job openings in more than five years in October, and the number of people quitting also reached a five-year high.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings rose 1 per cent to a seasonally adjusted 3.93 million. That is the highest figure since May 2008, three months after the Great Recession began.

And the number of workers who quit rose 2.5 per cent to 2.39 million, the most since October 2008. More workers quitting can signal a healthy job market, because most of those people likely either have a new job or are confident they can find one.


US wholesale stockpiles grow 1.4 per cent in October

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. wholesale businesses boosted their stockpiles in October by the most in two years as their sales rose sharply, encouraging signs for economic growth in the final three months of the year.

Wholesale stockpiles grew 1.4 per cent in October, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. That’s nearly triple the 0.5 per cent gain in September and the biggest monthly gain since October 2011. Sales at the wholesale level increased 1 per cent in October, the most in five months. Sales rose 0.8 per cent in September.

Rising stockpiles boost growth because it means factories have produced more goods. Robust restocking drove roughly half of the 3.6 per cent annualized economic growth in the July-September quarter.


Lululemon founder stepping down as chairman

NEW YORK (AP) — Lululemon Athletica Inc. is hoping new faces at the top will help it bounce back from a series of embarrassing issues that have hurt its image.

The upscale yoga clothing maker, based in Vancouver, announced that founder Chip Wilson is stepping down as chairman after raising ire with his comments about the body types of potential buyers of the retailer’s yoga pants. The company also named a new CEO.

Wilson, who founded the company in 1998 and still exerted a strong influence, will retain his board seat.


MasterCard to split stock, raise dividend 83 per cent

PURCHASE, N.Y. (AP) — MasterCard will roll back the price of its stock with its first split as a public company. It also plans to reward shareholders with an 83 per cent increase in its dividend and spend up to $3.5 billion buying back its stock.

The manoeuvrs announced Tuesday is designed to provide another lift to a stock that has soared nearly twentyfold from its initial public offering price of $39 in May 2006. The stock closed Tuesday at $763.61, a run-up driven by MasterCard Inc.’s steadily rising profits as people increasingly rely on debit and credit cards instead of cash.

Stock splits are designed to widen the potential pool of investors by making it less expensive to buy individual shares. Although savvy investors often dismiss splits as a gimmick, they tend to generate more buzz about stocks. And a higher dividend pleases investors because it delivers more cash to stockholders as long as they hold on to their shares.


China November auto sales up 16 per cent

BEIJING (AP) — China’s auto sales rose 16 per cent in November as Japanese automakers extended a rebound in the world’s biggest vehicle market, an industry group reported Tuesday.

The figures were an unexpectedly strong performance for automakers that are looking to China to drive global sales amid weakness in U.S., Japanese and European markets.

Drivers bought 1.7 million sedans, sport-utility vehicles and other passenger vehicles, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 52.40 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 15,973.13. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 5.75 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,802.62. The Nasdaq composite lost 8.26 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,060.49.

Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery gained $1.17 to close at $98.51 a barrel time on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was up 21 cents at $109.60 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $2.68 a gallon. Heating oil was flat at $3.02 a gallon. Natural gas rose 1 cent to $4.24 per 1,000 cubic feet.