According to multiple sources, officials from the European Union have launched a probe into allegations that several major oil companies such as Shell and Norway's Statoil participated in a scheme to fix oil prices. A spokesman for the EU acknowledged the investigation on Tuesday, saying inspections have been undertaken in three countries. "The commission has concerns that the companies may have colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products,” read the statement, adding that the Commission “has concerns that the companies may have prevented others from participating in the price assessment process, with a view to distorting published prices."
The US Commerce Department reported Wednesday that construction spending slipped last month, reaching its lowest level in seven months and prompting some economists to lower their estimates for first-quarter economic growth in the world's largest economy. The March slip in spending by builders is the biggest such decline since 2006, when the housing market began a downturn that triggered the worst US recession since the 1930s. According to the report, spending fell 1.7 percent from February's spending to just under $857 billion. The decline came after a previously reported 1.5 percent jump in spending in February. The decline also caught Wall Street by surprise, as a group of economists in a recent Bloomberg survey expected the report to show a 0.7 percent increase, on average.
The merger of regional carrier MetroPCS with T-Mobile, the fourth largest wireless carrier in the US, came one step closer Wednesday after shareholders in the Richardson, Texas-based carrier approved the merger at a meeting. T-Mobile is owned by Deutsche Telekom, which bowed to shareholder pressure earlier this month, delaying the vote on the proposed merger while it reworked the loan it was proposing to offer the newly combined company. Under the new proposal, Deutsche Telekom will loan the new entity $11.2 billion instead of $15 billion and the interest rate was cut in half.
Ford Motor Company is riding high this week after a report from RL Polk & Company showed its Focus compact sedan unseated the Toyota Corolla as the world's best-selling vehicle in 2012. According to the report, Ford sold over 1 million Focuses last year, about 17 percent more sales than the Corolla generated. The company's success went beyond the Focus as well, as it landed three different models in the Top 10, including the Fiesta, which placed sixth. The automaker's F-Series truck line also made a splash, finishing third in total global auto sales. The top ten also had two models each from Toyota and Honda plus one from General Motors' Chevrolet line. The biggest surprise on the list came in at fourth place, as China's Wuling Zhiguang beat out Toyota's Camry with sales of nearly 770,000.
The US unemployment rate fell to a four-year low last month, according to a report issued Friday by the Labor Department, slipping from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent. The decline was unexpected by economists that took part in a recent Bloomberg survey, which called for the jobless rate to hold steady, but that was where the good news ended with Friday's jobs report. The nation's still-recovering economy produced just 88,000 new jobs last month according to the report, falling well short of the 190,000 jobs expected by the economists in the Bloomberg survey, on average. Even worse news is that the dip in the jobless rate only came about because another 500,000 Americans fell out of the job market, either because their unemployment benefits ran out or they just gave up looking for work.
The National Association of Realtors on Wednesday released its report on pending home sales for February. The report hinted at a gradual slowdown is the sales of previously owned homes across the country, tempering excitement generated by recent trends that show an improving housing sector, something most economists agree is pivotal to the overall economic recovery. According to the report, the number of contracts signed to buy existing homes fell 0.4 percent last month. Of course, the slip came on the heels of January's numbers, which were revised upward 3.8 percent. Both readings were higher than in any month since April 2010, showing the underlying trend is still positive. On a year-over-year basis, the pending home sales index was up 5 percent from February a year ago.
As expected, President Obama on Monday introduced US Attorney General Thomas E. Perez as his pick to replace Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor. If confirmed, Perez would be Obama's first Latino appointment in his second-term cabinet. At 51 years of age, Perez has been in charge of civil rights matters within the Justice Department since 2009, serving a key role in settling three major fair lending cases over that span and improving the enforcement of human tracking laws around the globe.
European plane maker Airbus revealed Monday that it has received its biggest-ever order for aircraft from Indonesian discount carrier Lion Air. The order marks a significant achievement for Airbus, which has been striving to make a dent in the Indonesian market, one of the world's fastest growing new markets for air travel and one that has so far been dominated by the USA's Boeing. The order revealed Monday involves a $24 billion payment for 234 Airbus A320 and A321 models. The order is the largest in Airbus's history, both in terms of value and number of planes. Delivery of the planes, valued at between $92 and $117 million apiece, is expected to begin in 2014. Interestingly, Lion Air is also responsible for the biggest order in Boeing history, having ordered 230 737 jetliners for $22 billion in 2011.
The world's largest restaurant chain revealed Friday that its same store sales fell 1.5 percent in February from the same month a year earlier, but noted that sales were impacted by one less day to sell because 2012 was a leap year, meaning February had 29 days instead of the 28 days in February 2013. The decline was less than the average slip expected by economists in a recent FactSet survey, who expected sales to dip by 1.63 percent, on average. Investors welcomed the news, driving shares of McDonald's up about 1.5 percent in Friday trading.
Detroit's financial health has deteriorated so far that the state of Michigan is now taking over the running of the once proud city, according to Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder revealed the move on Friday, and the city will have ten days in which to appeal the decision, essentially a declaration of financial emergency for the Motor City. While the state taking over Detroit's business is not quite as severe as if it declared bankruptcy, Snyder will appoint an emergency manager who will wield similar powers as a bankruptcy judge with regards to Detroit's fiscal policy.