Business Highlights

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Microsoft to buy Nokia phones, patents for $7.2 billion

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft Corp. is buying Nokia Corp.’s line-up of smartphones and a portfolio of patents and services in an attempt to mount a more formidable challenge to Apple Inc. and Google Inc. as more technological tasks get done on mobile devices instead of personal computers.

The 5.44 billion euros ($7.2 billion) deal announced late Monday marks a major step in Microsoft’s push to transform itself from a software maker focused on making operating systems and applications for desktop and laptop computers into a more versatile and nimble company that delivers services on any kind of Internet-connected gadget.

Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Wash., is being forced to evolve because people are increasingly pursuing their digital lives on smartphones and tablet computers, causing the demand for PCs to shrivel. The shift is weakening Microsoft, which has dominated the PC software market for the past 30 years, and empowering Apple, the maker of the trend-setting iPhone and iPad, and Google, which gives away the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Android.

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INFLUENCE GAME: Train safety move delayed decades

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was an accident investigators say didn’t have to happen: Five years ago a commuter train collided head-on with a freight train near Los Angeles, killing 25 and injuring more than 100.

Technology is available to prevent the most catastrophic collisions, but the railroad industry and its allies in Congress are trying to push back a deadline for installing the systems until at least 2020.

The National Transportation Safety Board had urged as far back as 1970 that railroads install technology to prevent the most catastrophic types of collisions, including head-on crashes. The technology is known as positive train control or PTC.

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Hackers find weaknesses in car computer systems

DETROIT (AP) — As cars become more like PCs on wheels, what’s to stop a hacker from taking over yours?

In recent demonstrations, hackers have shown they can slam a car’s brakes at freeway speeds, jerk the steering wheel and even shut down the engine — all from their laptop computers.

The hackers are publicizing their work to reveal vulnerabilities present in a growing number of car computers. All cars and trucks contain anywhere from 20 to 70 computers. They control everything from the brakes to acceleration to the windows, and are connected to an internal network. A few hackers have recently managed to find their way into these intricate networks.

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Pace of US manufacturing hit 2-year peak in August

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factories expanded last month at the fastest pace since June 2011 on a jump in orders. The report signals that manufacturing output could strengthen in coming months.

The Institute for Supply Management says its manufacturing index rose to 55.7 in August from 55.4 in July. That topped the index’s 12-month average of 52. A reading above 50 indicates growth. The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers.

A gauge of new orders rose nearly five points to 63.2, the highest level in more than two years. Production increased but more slowly than in the previous month. Factories also added more jobs, though also at a weaker rate than in July.

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US construction spending up 0.6 per cent in July

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spending on U.S. construction projects rose in July, led by strong gains in housing and nonresidential projects.

Construction spending increased 0.6 per cent in July compared with June when activity was unchanged, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The June performance represented an upward revision from an initial estimate that spending had fallen 0.6 per cent.

Total construction activity rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $900.8 billion in July, the strongest performance since June 2009.

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US home prices climb 12.4 per cent in July

LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. home prices jumped 12.4 per cent in July from a year earlier, reflecting a housing market that’s increasingly favouring sellers amid a tight supply of available homes for sale.

Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that home prices in every state but Delaware climbed on annual basis in July.

Ninety-nine of the 100 largest cities reported annual price gains.

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Verizon sees few changes to US wireless business

Verizon’s $130 billion deal with Vodafone is huge for both companies, although Verizon customers in the U.S. are unlikely to see any big changes to their bills or their service.

Verizon is buying the 45 per cent of its wireless business owned by British cellphone carrier Vodafone. That will let Verizon keep all of the profits from that business, and gives Vodafone a large pile of cash that will fund its expansion ambitions in Europe. It’s the second-biggest buyout on record.

Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam said on a conference call Tuesday that the company’s U.S. wireless businesses are working well now, and that he would move slowly on any changes to its structure.

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Gimme a break: New Android system named ‘KitKat’

NEW YORK (AP) — Gimme a break, Google. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.

The tech giant, which is known for nick-naming its Android mobile operating systems for smartphones and tablets after desserts, has for the first time chosen a brand-name candy for its 4.4 version that’s expected to launch this fall: Kit Kat.

That’s right, the new version shares a name with the chocolate candy bar with the well-known “Gimme a Break” jingle. Kit Kat packaging will show Android’s green robot mascot breaking a Kit Kat bar.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed for the sweet deal between Google and Hershey Co., which makes Kit Kat.

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Early pumpkin beers brew dismay among drinkers

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — It’s bad enough that back-to-school comes in June, and Halloween arrives in July. And of course we all know Christmas begins in September. But now even the craft beer industry is caving to seasonal creep. For this year, the beer drinker’s harbinger of autumn — pumpkin ales — apparently couldn’t hold off until the pumpkins actually ripened.

Labour Day may be considered the unofficial end of summer, but some craft brewers couldn’t even wait until then to roll out their pumpkin and other fall seasonal beers. Many already have been in stores and on taps for a month.

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India passes $20 billion law to expand food welfare

NEW DELHI (AP) — India plans to subsidize wheat, rice and cereals for some 800 million people under a $20 billion scheme to cut malnutrition and ease poverty.

The Food Security Bill, sent this week by India’s parliament to the president for approval, guarantees citizens a legal right to food.

India has some of the world’s worst poverty and malnutrition with two-thirds of its 1.2 billion people poor and half of the country’s children malnourished. But the $20 billion annual cost of the bill, which consolidates and expands existing subsidies, has drawn renewed attention to strained government finances at a time when India is flirting with an economic crisis as its currency falls and debt mounts.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 23.65 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 14,833.96. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 6.80 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 1,639.77. The Nasdaq composite climbed 22.74 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 3,612.61.

Benchmark crude for October delivery gained 89 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to $108.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the benchmark for international crudes, rose $1.35, or 1.2 per cent, to $115.68 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Wholesale gasoline dropped 3 cents to $2.86 per gallon. Heating oil rose 1 cent to $3.15 per gallon. Natural gas climbed 9 cents to $3.67 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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