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The Associated Press November 4, 2011, 6:36PM ET

Business Highlights


Job market improves modestly as unemployment falls

WASHINGTON -- The American job market improved modestly in October, and economists looking deeper into the numbers found reasons for optimism -- or at least what counts for optimism in this agonizingly slow economic recovery.

The nation added 80,000 jobs. That was fewer than the 100,000 that economists expected, but it was the 13th consecutive month of job gains. Fears of a new recession that loomed over the economy this summer have receded.

The unemployment rate nudged down, to 9 percent from 9.1 in September.


Groupon sizzles in public debut but worries linger

NEW YORK (AP) -- Groupon's stock sizzled in its public debut Friday despite concerns about its accounting practices ahead of an initial public offering and amid doubts about the viability of its business model.

The first-day pop for the pioneer of online group discounts was largely expected, though. Not even a gain of about $4 billion in market value -- to nearly $17 billion -- could erase lingering questions about its long-term prospects.

In fact, it may have added to them.

Bigger than IPOs for Internet radio company Pandora Inc. and professional network LinkedIn Corp., Groupon's debut served as an icebreaker for a frozen IPO market.

It further sets the stage for the public debut of online game company Zynga Inc., which is expected in the next few weeks. It'll culminate next year, with the expected IPO of Facebook, one dwarfing them all.

After pricing above its expected range on Thursday, at $20, Groupon's stock rose $6.11, or 31 percent, to close Friday at $26.11. Earlier in the day, it traded as high as $31.14.


Corzine steps down at collapsed firm, hires lawyer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- He set out to create a mini-Goldman Sachs. In the end, he built a mini-Lehman Brothers.

Former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's resignation Friday from the securities firm he led capped a week of high drama and swift failure.

MF Global collapsed into bankruptcy Monday, and Corzine has since hired a criminal defense attorney amid an FBI investigation into the disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars in client money.

MF Global's implosion, which came after Corzine made a big, risky bet on European debt, revived memories of the 2008 banking crisis and the ruin of the much bigger Lehman.

As Corzine, 64, stepped down as chairman and CEO, he said he felt "great sadness about what has transpired at MF Global." Corzine, who ran the investment firm Goldman Sachs before going into politics and then joining MF Global, said his resignation was voluntary and called it "a difficult decision."


Fed-up consumers planning for `Bank Transfer Day'

NEW YORK (AP) -- It's moving day for bank customers.

A grassroots movement that sprang to life last month is urging bank customers to close their accounts in favor of credit unions by Saturday.

The spirit behind "Bank Transfer Day" caught fire with the Occupy Wall Street protests around the country and had more than 77,000 supporters on its Facebook page as of Friday. The movement helped beat back Bank of America's plan to start charging a $5 debit card fee.

It's not clear whether the banking industry's about-face on debit card fees will extinguish the anger driving the movement. But many supporters say their actions are about far more than any single complaint.

Even with its public support, however, it's not likely that any account closings that take place on Saturday will make a big dent with industry titans such as Chase, which is the largest bank in the country with some 26.5 million checking accounts.


Banks scramble to make up for lost debit card fees

NEW YORK (AP) -- After an intense public backlash, Bank of America and other banks have backed off charging monthly debit card fees.

It's a victory for angry customers and consumer advocates. But the move will be costly for banks. They are scrambling for ideas on how to make up for lost revenue at a time when interest rates are at rock bottom and there's little demand for loans, the traditional source of profit for banks.

Banks are likely to avoid jacking up existing fees or introducing other new ones for fear of stoking more public anger. Most large banks have already gotten rid of free checking this year and increased monthly fees by an average of $10 for checking accounts. They also charge $2 and $3 for services like printing statements and returning canceled checks.


Yahoo investor demands board ouster of co-founder

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A major Yahoo shareholder believes the slumping Internet company would be better off without Jerry Yang on its board as it mulls a possible sale.

In a Friday letter to Yahoo's board, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb asserts Yang has too many conflicts of interest to keep the board seat he has held since starting the company more than 16 years ago.

Loeb, who owns a 5.2 percent stake in Yahoo Inc. through a fund called Third Point LLC, based his conclusion on published reports that Yang has been talking to several buyout firms about joining forces to buy a controlling stake in the company. The letter lists the Texas Pacific Group, Providence Equity Partners, Silver Lake, KKR & Co. and the Blackstone Group as the firms talking to Yang.

In a statement, a Yahoo reiterated its board has been exploring various ways to boost the company's stock price and brushed off the reports cited in Loeb's letter as "rumor and speculation."


Berkshire Hathaway posts lower third-quarter profit

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. says its third-quarter profit fell 24 percent from a year ago due to a sharp decline in the value its derivative contracts.

Berkshire said Friday it earned $2.28 billion, or $1,380 per Class A share, for the three months ended Sept. 30. That's down from net income of nearly $3 billion, or $1,814 per Class A share, a year earlier.

Revenue slid to $33.7 billion from $36.3 billion last year.

The Omaha, Neb.-based company recorded a loss from its derivative contracts of about $1.59 billion, much wider than the loss of $95 million booked the year before.

Apart from its investments, Berkshire's insurance underwriting and non-insurance businesses posted gains.


US Cellular: We turned down iPhone

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. Cellular Corp., the country's sixth-largest cellphone company, on Friday said it had the opportunity to carry the iPhone but turned it down because the phone is too expensive.

It's the first U.S. carrier to acknowledge turning down the phone.

Consumers pay $200 for the base model of the iPhone 4S, but Apple charges carriers about $600 for it. Carriers count on making their money back in service fees over the life of the contract.

U.S. Cellular CEO Mary Dillon told analysts on an earnings conference call Friday that "the terms were unacceptable from a risk and profitability standpoint." She didn't provide any details, but said the added load the iPhone could have placed on its data network was not a big consideration.


APNewsBreak: Yellowstone spill to cost Exxon $135M

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Exxon Mobil said Friday it expects to incur costs of about $135 million from an oil pipeline break beneath Montana's Yellowstone River that triggered a massive effort to limit damage to the scenic waterway.

The cost figure was released to The Associated Press and is more than triple an earlier estimate. It includes for the first time the expense of replacing the section of broken pipeline with a new one buried more deeply beneath the river.

The company's 12-inch Silvertip crude oil pipeline broke July 1 during severe flooding.

In the 56 minutes it took Exxon Mobil to seal off the line, an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil, or 42,000 gallons, poured into the river near Laurel. That fouled dozens of miles of riverbank, numerous islands and swaths of low-lying cropland with crude.

More than 1,000 workers were involved in the cleanup effort at its peak.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 61.23 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 11,983.24. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 7.92, or 0.6 percent, to 1,253.23. The Nasdaq composite shed 11.82, or 0.4 percent, to 2,686.15.

Benchmark crude rose 19 cents to end the week at $94.26 per barrel in New York, while Brent crude rose $1.14 to finish at $111.97 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, heating oil rose 3.26 cents to finish at $3.0707 per gallon, and gasoline futures rose 2.16 cents to finish at $2.6634 per gallon. Natural gas rose less than a penny to end the week at $3.783 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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