Business Roundup for Wednesday, February 19


Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke (Alex Wong/Getty Images)


NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks are ending lower after a choppy day as investors react to news that the Federal Reserve will likely continue to pare back its economic stimulus. Netflix fell on reports that the video-streaming company is in a dispute with Verizon and other broadband carriers over the cost of carrying Netflix's programming. Major indexes bobbed between slight gains and losses for much of the day, then turned lower in the last hour of trading. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 89 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 16,040 Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 12 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,828. The Nasdaq composite fell 34 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,237. Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.73 percent.

UNDATED (AP) — A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge has approved Lehman Brothers Holdings' $767 million settlement with Freddie Mac. The agreement announced today releases hundreds of millions of dollars to return to the failed investment bank's creditors. Freddie Mac will hand over loan information that allows Lehman to pursue claims against mortgage originators for alleged misrepresentation. The deal is similar to one struck recently between Lehman and another mortgage finance giant, Fannie Mae.

NEW YORK (AP) — Visa and MasterCard are introducing Internet-based technologies to make it easier for shoppers to buy things at retail stores without pulling out a credit card. The two technologies, announced separately today, allow customers to use a mobile app to make purchases by tapping the phone to a store's card reader. The technologies tap a new feature in Google's Android operating system.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google is planning to offer high-speed Internet service in 34 more cities scattered across eight states in an ambitious expansion aimed at providing formidable competition to cable and telecommunication providers. The company promises that people will be able to use its Google Fiber service to surf the Internet at 100 times the speeds of existing broadband services. The tentative list of cities includes Atlanta; San Jose, Calif.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore. and Salt Lake City.

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — In what may be the first college donation of the new electronic currency, a Bitcoin entrepreneur has donated $10,000 worth of the digital money to a Washington state liberal arts college. The University of Puget Sound says it has received a donation of 14.5 coins of the currency, which it has converted into more traditional dollars. The donor is Nicolas Cary, who graduated from the university in 2007 and now runs Blockchain, which supports the online currency market.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department says the cost of producing goods and services in the United States rose slightly in January, with higher food prices partly offset by cheaper gas. Overall, inflation remains mild. The producer price index, which tracks prices before they reach consumers, rose 0.2 percent last month. January's producer prices are the first to be compiled since the government revamped its index to include services and construction in addition to goods.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home construction fell in January for a second month. The Commerce Department says builders started work at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, down 16 percent from December. In December, construction had fallen 4.8 percent. The declines in both months are being blamed largely on the severe winter weather in many parts of the country.

DALLAS (AP) — Signet Jewelers is buying Zale Corp. for approximately $690 million to help diversify its business and expand further internationally. Signet, whose brands include Kay Jewelers and H. Samuel — will pay $21 per share, a 41 percent premium to Zale's closing price yesterday of $14.91. The companies put the deal's total value at about $1.4 billion.

BERLIN (AP) — Volkswagen's top workers' representative says he won't give up the fight for unionization at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Employees there voted 712-626 last week against joining the United Auto Workers union after state Republicans warned that it could hurt the local economy.

TOKYO (AP) — International stock markets are lackluster today as investors wait for major earnings reports and take stock of a torrid start to the year for global markets. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose but remained just under $103 a barrel. The dollar slipped against the yen and edged up against the euro.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department unveils its new Producer Price Index this morning. Starting with the January report it will also cover services and construction. Economists say the additions should improve the index's ability to provide an early read on inflation trends. Also this morning, the Commerce Department releases its report on housing starts for January. And this afternoon, the Federal Reserve releases minutes from its January interest-rate meeting.

BEIJING (AP) — Regulators are investigating whether U.S. technology companies Qualcomm and InterDigital violated China's anti-monopoly law by charging excessive fees for patent licenses. A government spokesman says regulators began separate investigations of the two companies in mid-2013 following complaints.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Nasdaq has opened a customer service center in the Philippines in a coup for the country's rapidly growing outsourcing industry. The operator of the namesake U.S. stock exchange says the office will be part of its efforts to provide 24-hour support services for its corporate clients. It says the Manila office has 170 staff. For foreign companies, the Philippines has become the go to country in Southeast Asia for call centers and outsourcing of back office business functions.

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