Business Highlights

The Associated Press 0

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Microsoft names cloud computing chief as next CEO

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft has named the head of its cloud computing business as the company’s next CEO, tapping a longtime insider to lead efforts to catch rivals in mobile devices and offer more software and services over the Internet.

Satya Nadella replaces Steve Ballmer immediately to become only the third chief executive in Microsoft’s 38-year history. Company founder and first CEO Bill Gates is leaving his role as chairman to serve as an adviser. He will spend a third of his time working on future products and technology.

Nadella, 46, most recently headed the company’s small but growing cloud computing unit, in which customers buy software and services housed on distant servers connected to the Internet. It’s a departure from Microsoft’s roots making software installed directly on personal computers.

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Strong earnings fail to impress jittery market

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. companies are reporting strong profits for the fourth quarter of last year. But most are failing to impress investors who were hoping for even better numbers or rosier outlooks, and are too worried about larger global macroeconomic forces to do much buying.

With results in from half of the companies in the S&P 500 index, fourth-quarter earnings are up a respectable 7.3 per cent, making it the best quarter of last year, according to S&P Capital IQ. Of the 250 companies that have reported results, 172 companies have beaten earnings expectations and 51 have fallen short, a better ratio than average. Company revenues have also come in better than in the past relative to expectations.

It’s just not enough for investors.

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Bargain-hunting drives slight gains for US stocks

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors went hunting for bargains a day after U.S. stocks racked up the biggest losses in more than seven months.

The buying helped lift major stock indexes out of the red on Tuesday. Prices of U.S. government bonds fell.

The mini-rebound seemed fragile at times, with the market giving up some of its earlier gains by late afternoon.

Markets were coming off a 326-point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average on Monday, and the blue-chip index’s worst January performance in five years prompted by disappointing news about U.S. manufacturing.

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Target taking actions on security, executive says

WASHINGTON (AP) — An executive of Target Corp. said Tuesday the retailer has taken actions to shore up security following the massive breach of millions of consumers’ data during the holiday season.

But senators examining the issue at a hearing said even the most robust security systems can be vulnerable to cyberattack, and only the adoption by banks and retailers of more advanced technology for payment cards and processing systems will reduce fraud.

The Senate Judiciary Committee testimony by John Mulligan, executive vice-president and chief financial officer at the No. 2 U.S. discounter, also revealed that Target discovered an additional 25 cash registers infected by malicious software on Dec. 18. The company had said earlier that it had removed all the malware from its system by Dec. 15.

Mulligan’s testimony was the first public appearance by a Target executive addressing the issue since the breach that occurred between Nov. 27 and mid-December. An estimated 40 million credit and debit card accounts were affected.

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US factory orders down 1.5 per cent in December

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturers saw orders for their products decline in December by the largest amount in five months although the setback for a key category that tracks business investment was not as large as first reported.

Orders to U.S. factories fell 1.5 per cent in December, the biggest drop since July, with much of the weakness coming from a plunge in aircraft orders, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Orders had risen 1.5 per cent in November after a 0.5 per cent October decrease.

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Slower sales led to dip in US home prices in Dec.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices slipped from November to December, and the year-over-year increase slowed, likely a result of weaker sales at the end of last year.

Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that prices dipped 0.1 per cent in December. It was the third straight month-to-month drop. Home prices had risen for eight straight months through September.

For all of 2013, prices rose a healthy 11 per cent. That was roughly equal to the 11.4 per cent price increase for the 12 months that ended in November.

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US deficit to drop to $514B, lowest of Obama years

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. budget deficit is set to fall to $514 billion this year, down substantially from last year and the lowest level by far since President Barack Obama took office five years ago, a congressional report said Tuesday.

The Congressional Budget Office credits higher tax revenues from the rebounding economy and sharp curbs on agency spending as the chief reason for the deficit’s short-term decline.

But the budget experts see the long-term deficit picture worsening by about $100 billion a year through the end of the decade because of slower growth in the economy than they had previously predicted.

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US Treasury takes step to avoid hitting debt limit

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government says it will temporarily suspend sales of U.S. Treasury securities to state and local governments starting at noon on Friday, its first step to avoid breaching the nation’s borrowing limit this year.

The move, announced Tuesday by Treasury officials, will be followed by other bookkeeping manoeuvrs to keep the government functioning until Congress decides to raise the borrowing limit.

The government temporarily suspended the borrowing limit last October as part of the agreement to end the government shutdown. But that halt ends this Friday. Treasury can keep the government operating for a few weeks, but Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has warned that he has less manoeuvring room than he did in last year’s battle over the debt limit.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 72.44 points, or 0.5 per cent, to close at 15,445.24 Tuesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 13.31 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 1,755.20. The Nasdaq composite gained 34.56 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 4,031.52.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was up 76 cents to close at $97.19 a barrel in New York, reversing much of oil’s loss Monday.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, was down 26 cents to close at $105.78 in London.

Forecasts for further cold across much of the U.S. sent natural gas for March delivery soaring 47 cents, or 9.6 per cent, to close at $5.375 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline was down 0.4 cents to close at $2.603 a gallon. Heating oil was down 2.5 cents to close at $2.983 a gallon.

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