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Originally published Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 3:41 PM

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Business Highlights

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The Associated Press

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Microsoft 3Q earnings beat Street

NEW YORK (AP) - Microsoft says revenue and net income surged in the latest quarter, but much of the gains were due to sales that occurred before the launch of the latest versions of Windows and Office.

The software company's net income was $6.1 billion, or 72 cents per share, in its fiscal third quarter, which ended in March. That was up from $5.1 billion, or 60 cents per share, a year ago and beat the 68 cents per share forecast by analysts, according to FactSet.

Adjusting for deferred revenue and a fine levied by the European Commission, Microsoft Corp. earned 65 cents per share.

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Google 1Q earnings rise 16 percent to top Street views

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Google's latest quarterly results provided further proof that the Internet search leader is figuring out how to make more money as Web surfers migrate from personal computers to mobile devices.

The first-quarter numbers released Thursday show that a recent decline in Google's average ad prices is easing. The trend indicates that marketers are starting to pay more for the ads that Google distributes to smartphones and tablet computers. Mobile ads so far have fetched less money than those viewed on the larger screens of laptop and desktop computers.

But a growing number of people are clicking on mobile ads as they increasingly connect to Internet services on smartphones and tablets, driving down the average price for a marketing link. Google's average price, or the "cost per click" to advertisers, has fallen from the previous year in six consecutive quarters, including the opening three months of the year.

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Chinese automakers struggle against global rivals

SHANGHAI (AP) - These should be good times for Chinese automakers as they prepare to show off their latest models at the Shanghai auto show.

Their home market is the world's biggest and growing. But independent automakers such as Chery and Geely are being squeezed by bigger, richer global rivals, including General Motors and Nissan, that have moved onto turf the Chinese makers considered their own: low-priced models for local tastes. Domestic brands account for less than half of their own market.

Fighting back, Chery, Geely and local rivals Great Wall and BYD are scaling down ambitious expansion plans and focusing on improving quality. Some hired managers or designers with experience at Mercedes Benz and other foreign producers. Others aim at specialties such as SUVs, minivans for export to other developing countries and electric buses.

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South Koreans hoping to return to Kaesong factories

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - The South Korean entrepreneurs who invested up to 10 years and millions of dollars in the Kaesong industrial complex, a symbol of economic collaboration between the rival Koreas that has been shuttered by the North, have little more than hope to cling to as assembly lines sit idle day after day.

They say they want to go back to work. The sooner the better. They say they cannot abandon their investments in factories, or the cheap North Korean labor that helped them put aside misgivings about doing business with the South's unpredictable neighbor. Some were just getting over their beginners' mistakes, and were starting to see the fruits of their work.

But North Korea has been unrelenting in its decision to bar South Koreans from entering the factory city just inside its border and to withdraw the 53,000 North Korean workers who manned assembly lines. As the lockout enters a third week, customers of the South Korean companies are growing impatient and losses are mounting. Some businesses are already quietly mulling giving up on Kaesong altogether.

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US unemployment aid applications rise to 352,000

WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits increased by just 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 352,000. The slight gain kept applications at a level consistent with solid hiring and suggests March's sluggish hiring may be temporary.

The Labor Department report released Thursday also noted that the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose only 2,750 to 361,250. Because the four-week average changes less than the weekly number, many economists say it better captures the pace of layoffs.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They jumped three weeks ago to a four-month high, but then plummeted the next week. The sharp fluctuations reflected volatility around the Easter holiday, department officials said. Overall, applications have declined slightly since January.

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Measure of US economy's health declines in March

WASHINGTON (AP) - A measure of the U.S. economy's future health declined slightly in March, signaling that growth could slow this spring.

The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators dipped 0.1 percent last month to 94.7. That's the first decline after three months of gains. The gauge is designed to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out.

Declines in consumer confidence, housing permits and new orders for manufactured goods pushed down the index.

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US rate on 30-year mortgage falls to 3.41 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) - Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell closer this week to their historic lows, making home ownership more affordable and refinancing more attractive.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year fixed loan dipped to 3.41 percent from 3.43 percent last week. That's not far from the 3.31 percent rate reached in November, which was the lowest on records dating back to 1971.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage slipped to 2.64 percent from 2.65 percent the previous week. That nearly matches the record low of 2.63 percent, also reached in November.

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Nokia cuts losses but sales continue to plummet

HELSINKI (AP) - Nokia continues to take a hammering in the smartphone market, with sales for the handset maker falling by 20 percent in the first three months of the year.

Although the Finland-based company managed to reduce its first-quarter net loss to 272 million euros ($357 million) from a loss of 928 million euros a year earlier, that was mainly thanks to cost-cutting. Revenue dropped to 5.8 billion euros from 7.4 billion euros.

Mobile phone sales volumes fell across the globe - especially in China, which saw a 60 percent drop. Sales of smartphone devices dropped 32 percent globally to 1.1 billion euros.

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PepsiCo beats expectations despite soda struggles

NEW YORK (AP) - PepsiCo is selling more its snacks and drinks around the world, even as the maker of Frito-Lay, Tropicana and Quaker Oats tries to figure out how to sell more soda in the United States.

The company on Thursday reported a first-quarter profit that beat Wall Street expectations as it saw strong growth in emerging markets and benefited from a lower tax rate.

PepsiCo's North American snacks unit also saw gains, with premium offerings such as Stacy's pita chips and Sabra hummus performing particularly well. The popularity of Doritos and Lay's chips also helped pick off market share from competitors. PepsiCo said it's confident it can raise prices in the year ahead without scaring off customers.

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Yahoo adds 2 more applications to mobile arsenal

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Yahoo is taking the next step in its effort to make some of its most popular services more appealing and accessible to the growing audience connecting to the Internet on smartphones and tablet computers.

The mobile push being orchestrated by CEO Marissa Mayer has hatched Yahoo's first email application for Apple Inc.'s iPad and other tablet computers running on Google Inc.'s Android software.

Yahoo Inc. also has created a new weather app for Apple's iPhone that will provide current temperatures and forecasts on top of slideshows featuring pictures of landmarks and other scenery in the cities chosen by a user.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 81.45 points to 14,537.14, down 0.6 percent. The Nasdaq composite lost 38.31 points to 3,166.36, down 1.2 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 10.40 points to close at 1,541.61, a decline of 0.7 percent.

Benchmark oil for May delivery rose $1.05, or 1.2 percent, to finish at $87.73 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price oil used by many U.S. refiners, was up $1.44, or 1.5 percent, to finish at $99.13 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Natural gas futures rose 19 cents, or 4.4 percent, to end at $4.40 per 1,000 cubic feet. Gasoline rose 3 cents to end at $2.76 per gallon. Heating oil rose 4 cents to finish at $2.78 a gallon.

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