Financial & Business News
Last Update on March 11, 2014 17:17 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. wholesale businesses in January suffered their steepest sales drop in nearly five years, yet they continued to increase their stockpiles. This suggests that companies expect the economy to roar back after experiencing an abrupt winter slowdown.
The Commerce Department says wholesalers boosted stockpiles 0.6 percent in January from December. Rising stockpiles boost economic growth because they reflect increased production at factories, a sign that wholesalers anticipate a stronger economy.
But sales tumbled 1.9 percent in January. That's the largest decline since March 2009, when the economy was in recession.
Heavy snowfall and bitter cold struck much of the United States in January, causing shoppers to stay at home and retail sales to fall 0.4 percent that month.
Still, wholesale businesses have seen sales rise 3.9 percent year-over-year.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. employers advertised slightly more jobs in January than in December, a sign that hiring should remain steady in coming months.
The Labor Department says employers posted 3.9 million job openings, up 1.5 percent from December. That is still below November's nearly six-year high of 4.1 million, the first month that openings topped 4 million since March 2008.
The job market may be emerging from a winter slump. Employers added 175,000 jobs in February, the government said last week. That was much higher than in December and January, when cold weather lowered job growth.
Total hiring slipped 0.9 percent to 4.5 million in January. That hiring total might sound like a lot, but in a healthy job market, roughly 5 million people are hired each month.
DETROIT (AP) -- A congressional committee is investigating the way General Motors and a federal safety agency handled a deadly ignition switch problem in compact cars.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received a large number of complaints about the problem during the past decade. But GM didn't recall the 1.6 million cars worldwide until last month.
Upton says the committee will hold a hearing soon. He says the committee wants to know if GM or the agency missed something that could have flagged the problems sooner.
An Associated Press review of driver complaints to the agency found some dating to late 2005. GM admits it knew of the problem in 2004.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- California's Department of Motor Vehicles is wading into the complex question of how to regulate the use of cars that rely on computers -- not people -- to drive them.
Once the stuff of science fiction, "Driverless cars" could be commercially available by decade's end.
On Tuesday, the DMV is hearing ideas on how to integrate the cars onto public roads. Questions range from data privacy and security -- to whether a person will have to be in the driver's seat at all.
The DMV already has drafted rules governing how companies can test the technology. Google had been testing on highways and in neighborhoods well before the Legislature decided to regulate.
HEPATITIS C DRUG-COST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- An innovative hepatitis C drug that was only recently hailed as a breakthrough treatment is facing skepticism from some health care experts, as they consider whether it is worth the $1,000-a-pill price set by manufacturer Gilead Sciences.
A panel of California medical experts voted Monday that Gilead's Sovaldi represents a "low value" treatment when compared with older drugs for the blood borne virus. The vote was part of a broader review of new hepatitis C drugs by the California Technology Assessment Forum. The insurer-affiliated group assesses the costs and effectiveness of new medical treatments.
The group estimates that replacing currently used hepatitis C drugs with Gilead's Sovaldi would raise California drug costs between $18 billion and $29 billion per year. The drug costs $84,000 for one 12-week course of treatment.
MEN'S WEARHOUSE-JOS A BANK
NEW YORK (AP) -- It's time to suit up: Men's Wearhouse is buying Jos. A. Bank for $1.8 billion.
Men's Wearhouse Inc. will pay $65 per share, a 5 percent premium to Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc.'s closing price Monday of $61.83.
The agreement ends a months-long back and forth that began in October when Jos. A. Bank offered to buy its larger rival for $2.3 billion. Men's Wearhouse scoffed at that offer, and turned the tables, offering to buy its rival for $1.54 billion.
By early March Men's Wearhouse had an offer of $63.50 per share on the table but said it may raise the bid to $65 per share if some conditions were met.
The combined company will be the fourth-biggest U.S. men's clothing retailer with more than 1,700 U.S. stores and about $3.5 billion in sales.
The transaction is expected to close by the third quarter.
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- Inspections of Bangladesh garment factories under a new safety initiative have found cracked support beams, substandard building materials and exposed electrical cables chewed by rats.
The pact funded by mostly European fashion brands plans to check some 1,500 garment factories in Bangladesh this year.
The first round of reports released Tuesday covered just 10 factories. They were chosen to be inspected first because they had multiple floors. The Bangladesh Accord Foundation that is overseeing the safety pact said 250 more inspections will be completed by the end of March.
The safety pact was formed after a garment factory in Dhaka collapsed last year, killing more than 1,100 people. The Rana Plaza disaster highlighted unsafe conditions for many of the 4 million workers in Bangladesh's garment industry.
PARIS (AP) -- A leading international economic body is warning global growth is likely to remain sluggish as a slowdown in the developing world undercuts gains in Europe and the United States.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says in an update to November's World Economic Outlook that developed economies are suffering a temporary slowdown, mainly due to one-time factors like the harsh winter weather in North America. But it said the underlying trend is one of growth.
The OECD said that emerging markets, by contrast, "are experiencing a marked loss of momentum."
In its report Tuesday, the OECD, a think tank for the world's most developed economies, predicts global growth of 3.5 percent this year from an estimated 2.7 percent last year.
BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union countries again failed to agree on a key policy to fight tax evasion due to resistance from tiny Luxembourg.
EU taxation Commissioner Algirdas Semeta said Tuesday's failure was "disappointing" because the legislation on an EU-wide automatic exchange of information on interest gains from bank deposits would allow governments to "identify and chase up tax evaders."
The decision requires unanimity among the EU's 28 countries. Luxembourg's Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna said his country could not yet vote in favor, asking for the matter to be decided by next week's summit of EU leaders.
Luxembourg insisted for years it would only agree once financial hubs that aren't EU members, like Switzerland, also sign up. It frets that EU rules might be more stringent than upcoming international standards.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek tax inspectors are being offered anger management classes after the government said they would have to continue enforcing a deeply unpopular emergency tax.
The government last year extended the tax on property owners, initially collected on electricity bills with the threat of disconnection for those who didn't pay. The tough conditions fueled protests, even from the tax inspectors themselves.
Trifonas Alexiadis, deputy leader of the National Association of Employees at State Financial Services, said Tuesday that inspectors were being offered places at four-hour seminars funded by the European Union.
He described the classes as "unnecessary" and "juvenile," arguing that the time would be better used training employees to offer digital services.
Greece has been raising taxes and cutting spending to stave off bankruptcy and keep receiving international rescue loans.
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