Business Highlights


Collapse of exchange spells trouble for bitcoin

TOKYO (AP) — The sudden disappearance of one of the largest bitcoin exchanges only adds to the mystery and mistrust surrounding the virtual currency, which was just beginning to gain legitimacy beyond the technology enthusiasts and adventurous investors who created it.

Prominent bitcoin supporters said the apparent collapse of the Tokyo-based Mt. Gox exchange was an isolated case of mismanagement that will weed out “bad actors.” But the setback raised serious questions about bitcoin’s tenuous status and even more tenuous future.

At least one supporter said the blow could be fatal to bitcoin’s quest for acceptance by the public.


Phone makers look to emerging markets for growth

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Companies from Facebook to Firefox are looking to emerging markets for the next few billion customers they can tap for growth.

They are not only targeting the obvious high-population countries such as India and China, but also see potential in Latin America, Africa and beyond.

So there’s been a push, reiterated again and again at the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Spain, to get mobile devices cheap enough to reach emerging markets without sacrificing so much performance that first-time smartphone owners will give up on the Internet and forgo a second smartphone down the road.


Panel faults US gov’t over offshore tax evasion

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate investigation has found that billions of dollars in U.S. taxes are going unpaid because Americans are exploiting Swiss bank accounts and the U.S. government has failed to aggressively pursue Switzerland’s second-largest bank.

The bank, Credit Suisse, has provided accounts in Switzerland for more than 22,000 U.S. clients, according to a report issued Tuesday. For five years, the Senate panel has been examining Swiss banks’ use of secrecy laws to enable tax evasion by Americans. The main focus of its latest report was Credit Suisse.

Credit Suisse had no immediate comment on the Senate report.


JPMorgan to cut 8,000 jobs this year

JPMorgan Chase plans to eliminate a total of 8,000 jobs this year as its mortgage business shrinks and as the giant bank aims to control costs at its branches.

About half of those job cuts had already been announced.

JPMorgan Chase now plans to cut more jobs as it tries to reduce $2 billion in consumer banking expenses by the end of 2016. The new job cuts announced Tuesday include reductions in the bank’s mortgage and retail banking businesses.


Consumer Reports names Tesla Model S its top pick

DETROIT (AP) — The Tesla Model S electric sedan is Consumer Reports’ top pick in this year’s automotive rankings.

The magazine cited the Model S’s sporty performance and technological innovations, including its 225-mile range. But it acknowledged that the car is expensive. Consumer Reports paid $89,650 for the Model S it tested.

The rankings, now in their 18th year, pick Consumer Reports’ favourites among the 260 vehicles its team has recently tested. The rankings are closely watched in the auto industry, since shoppers consistently cite Consumer Reports as a main source of car-buying advice.


Macy’s 4Q profit up 11 pct; sales miss forecasts

NEW YORK (AP) — Macy’s Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit rose 11 per cent, but the department store chain suffered a sales shortfall because a string of winter storms chilled business in January.

The results, released Tuesday, come on the heels of a solid but fiercely competitive holiday shopping season for the Cincinnati-based company, which also operates Bloomingdale’s stores.

The chain has been a standout among its peers throughout the economic recovery as it has benefited from its moves to tailor merchandise to local markets. But like other retailers, severe winter storms caused Macy’s to close stores and kept shoppers at home.

The company stuck with its annual profit and sales forecast on hopes that business will bounce back in the spring.


Home Depot 4Q results mixed, boosts dividend

ATLANTA (AP) — Home Depot’s fiscal fourth-quarter net income dipped 1 per cent, hampered by bad winter weather and one less week in the period than a year ago.

Still, cost cuts helped earnings top Wall Street’s view, and the No. 1 home improvement retailer raised its quarterly dividend by 21 per cent.

The U.S. housing market has emerged from a deep slump, aided by rising home prices, steady job growth and fewer troubled loans dating back to the housing-bubble days. That has spurred customers to spend more to renovate their homes. But housing demand this year could slow in 2014 and that in turn might slow down spending on homes.


US home prices dip for second straight month

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices fell for the second straight month in December as brutally cold weather, tight supply and higher costs slowed sales.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index declined 0.1 per cent from November to December, matching the previous month’s decline.

The figures come after other reports show that home sales and construction have slowed after strong gains last year. Most economists expect the housing recovery will continue this year, though likely at a slower pace.


US consumer confidence dips slightly in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence fell slightly in February over concerns about the near-term outlook for business conditions and jobs.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index dipped to 78.1 this month, down from 79.4 in January.

Consumer sentiment is closely watched for indications about how it will impact consumer spending, which accounts for 70 per cent of economic activity.

Views about current conditions increased for the fourth consecutive month and now stand at the highest level in almost six years. But the index that tracks consumer expectations dipped slightly, pulling the overall reading down.


GM adds 842,000 vehicles to ignition switch recall

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors on Tuesday doubled to 1.6 million the number of small cars it is recalling to fix faulty ignition switches linked to multiple fatal crashes.

Just two weeks ago, GM announced the recall of more than 780,000 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s. It’s now adding 842,000 Saturn Ion compacts, Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars.

The company was immediately lambasted by a well-known safety advocate who says GM knew of the problem for years and waited too long to recall the cars even though people were killed because of the problem.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 27.48 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 16,179.66. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.49 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,845.12 and the Nasdaq composite fell 5.38 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,287.59.

Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery dropped 99 cents to close at $101.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to set prices for international varieties of crude, fell $1.13 to $109.51 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to $2.80 per gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to $3.10 a gallon. Natural gas futures fell 35 cents to $5.10 per 1,000 cubic feet.