Here are business news highlights for Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014.
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. consumer confidence has risen to its highest point since August on the strength of a brighter view of the job market and business conditions.
The Conference Board, a business research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 80.7 this month from a December reading of 77.5. It was the second consecutive strong gain.
Consumer confidence is closely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
LONDON (AP) - Following a bout of market turmoil that's weighed on their currencies, central banks in emerging economies are moving fast to contain the damage.
The People's Bank of China on Tuesday injected more money into the country's financial markets to ease strained credit conditions. India's central bank unexpectedly raised interest rates to prop up its ailing currency. Turkey's central bank is expected to follow suit later in the day at an emergency policy meeting it called after the lira hit a series of all-time lows.
Much of the turmoil in global financial markets over the past week has been due to developments in emerging economies. Argentina suffered the most eye-catching fall in its currency amid concerns over the government's economic policies.
However, there are broader worries that emerging markets, which have been some of the fastest-growing in recent years, are particularly vulnerable at the moment. Among the key risks are China's economic slowdown and the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to scale back on its monetary stimulus.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Unemployment rates fell in four-fifths of US states in December and rose in just two, though most of the improvement stemmed from unemployed Americans giving up on their job searches.
The Labor Department says that employers in 30 states added jobs, the fewest to report gains since August. Nineteen states reported job losses.
Nationwide, employers added just 74,000 jobs last month, the fewest in three years and much lower than the average of 214,000 in the previous four months. Economists attributed some of the slowdown to cold weather.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent, the lowest in more than five years. But the decline occurred mostly because more people stopped looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively looking for work.
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. home prices fell slightly in November as colder weather slowed buying, ending nine straight months of price gains.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index slipped 0.1 percent from October to November, partly reversing the previous monthly increase of 0.2 percent. But the index is not adjusted for seasonal variations, so the monthly decline partly reflects slower buying in the late fall as temperatures drop. But home prices surged for much of 2013, driven by big gains earlier in the year.
Prices have risen 13.7 percent over the past 12 months.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Businesses cut back sharply on their orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in December with a key category that signals business investment plans falling by the biggest amount in five months.
Orders for durable goods fell 4.3 percent in December compared with November, when orders had risen 2.6 percent, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The weakness was led by a big 17.5 percent drop in the volatile category of commercial aircraft.
There was widespread weakness in a number of categories including a 1.3 percent decline in demand for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft. This category is viewed as a proxy for business investment plans.
Some of the December weakness probably reflected a temporary dip following November's big jump which had been driven by businesses rushing to take advantage of expiring tax breaks.
The December decline came as a surprise to economists. The consensus view among economists was that orders would post a moderate rise reflecting what they believe is an improving outlook for U.S. manufacturers.
NEW YORK (AP) - Google Glass is getting glasses.
The computerized, Internet-connected goggles don't actually come with lenses in its frame. Starting Tuesday, Google is offering an optional attachment for prescription lenses and new styles of detachable sunglasses.
The move comes as Google Inc. prepares to make Glass available to the general population later this year. Currently, Glass is available only to the tens of thousands of people who are testing and creating apps for it.
Glass is basically a small computer, with a camera and a display screen above the wearer's right eye. The device sits roughly at eyebrow level, higher than where eyeglasses would go.
It lets wearers surf the Web, ask for directions and take photos or videos. Akin to wearing a smartphone without having to hold it in your hands, Glass also lets people read their email, share photos on Twitter and Facebook, translate phrases while traveling or partake in video chats. Glass follows some basic voice commands, spoken after the words "OK, Glass."
The gadget itself is not changing with this announcement. Rather, Google plans to make various attachments available for people who wear glasses or sunglasses.
The Mountain View, Calif., company is now offering four styles of frames for prescription lenses. It's also offering two new types of shades, in addition to the one previously available. The frames cost $225 and the shades, $150. That's on top of the $1,500 price of Glass.
NEW YORK (AP) - The one-size-fits-all mannequin is getting a much-needed makeover.
Wings Beachwear's mannequins in Miami sport flower tattoos like some of the women who shop there. The mannequins at American Apparel's downtown New York City store have pubic hair peeking through their lingerie. And at David's Bridal, mannequins soon will get thicker waists, saggier breasts and back fat to mimic a more realistic shape.
Stores are using more realistic versions of the usually tall, svelte, faceless mannequins in windows and aisles. It's part of retailers' efforts to make them look more like the women who wear their clothes. That means not only adding fat and hair, but also experimenting with makeup, wigs and even poses.
This comes after two decades of stores cutting back on mannequins to save money. Many have been using basic, white, headless, no-arms-or-legs torsos that can cost $300 compared with the more realistic-looking ones that can fetch up to $1,500. Now, as shoppers are increasingly buying online, stores are see mannequins as a tool to entice shoppers to buy.
Stocks rise on Wall Street after 3 days of losses
Investors' jitters over emerging markets faded Tuesday, and U.S. stocks rose for the first time in four days.
Global stock markets stabilized after three turbulent days when investors grew worried about growth in China and other emerging markets. The sell-off began last Thursday, when a survey for January showed that Chinese manufacturing was set to contract, dragging down stocks in Asia, Europe and the U.S. The slide continued on Friday as currencies in countries including Argentina and Turkey slumped. On Monday, Asian markets slumped, although the selling on Wall Street eased.
By Tuesday, though, global markets regained their calm. In the U.S., earnings gains from big companies, including Pfizer, Comcast and D.R. Horton helped lift stock indexes. One area of disappointment, though, was Apple, whose weak revenue forecast pushed its stock to the biggest one-day loss in a year.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 90.68 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 15,928.56. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10.94 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,792.50. The Nasdaq composite climbed 14.35 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,097.96.
Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery gained $1.69, or 1.8 percent, to close at $97.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent at $2.63 a gallon. Natural gas rose 19 cents to $5.03 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil gained 3 cent at $3.12 a gallon. Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, rose 72 cents at $107.41 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.