According to a trade group, confidence among US small business owners continued to creep up in April, though they are still somewhat cautious about the long term business environment as the economy continues to recover from its biggest slowdown since the 1930s. According to a report from the National Federation of Independent Business, the group's Index of Small Business Optimism rose 2.6 points in April to a fresh reading of 92.1, reversing a decline of 1.3 in the index's reading for March. The index is compiled from responses collected from some 1,870 business members of the organization.
The US Labor Department reported Tuesday that the nations import prices subsided in April, easing inflation concerns for American households, thanks mainly to a decline in oil prices. According to the report, import prices fell by 0.5 percent from the prior month, marking the largest such decline since last December. The agency also revised its data for March, showing a 0.2 percent dip in prices instead of the originally reported 0.5 percent drop. With April's decline, and the March revision, import prices have now fallen 2.6 percent over the last 12 months through April. In a recent poll conducted by Reuters, economists projected the 0.5 percent slip in April, on average, as oil prices drove the decline. If oil prices were taken out of the equation, import prices would only have slipped 0.1 percent.
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 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.
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.
According to a report from economic research specialists Moebs Services, Americans are utilizing expensive overdraft protection services at the nation's banks despite the amount of consumer complaints over the cost. According to the report, US banks made $32 billion last year on overdraft fees, up $400 million from a year ago, or an increase of 1.3 percent. In fact, Moebs said it expects the trend to continue, with a new record in overdraft fees expected in 2016. The old record came in 2009, when Americans spent $37 billion spending on overdrawn accounts.
The Hess Corporation announced on Monday it has reached a deal to sell its Russian oil business to OAO Lukoil, the second-largest oil purveyor in Russia, for a sum of $1.8 billion. Currently, Hess owns a 90 percent stake in Samara-Nafta, a unit that produces over 50,000 barrels of oil per day, operating in the Urals of Russia. According to a statement from Hess, the deal with Lukoil values Samara-Nafta at just over $2 billion. The deal will have to receive approval from Russian officials before it can be completed, and no time table has been given to estimate when that might be.
According to a research piece issued by eMarketer Wednesday, advertising revenue at microblogging giant Twitter will reach $1 billion next year, nearly double the $582 million it expects to pull in this year. The primary cause for the optimistic outlook is the growing popularity of Twitter on mobile devices and the growing popularity of the devices themselves. The popular service, which allows users to post messages of 140 characters or less, is not a publicly held company and therefore financial results are not disclosed, but with more than 200 million active users, Twitter is second only to Facebook's 800 million among social networks. While executives at the San Francisco firm aren't talking, insiders predict an IPO will come before the end of 2014.
According to a new report on global arms sales, China has surpassed the United kingdom as the world's fifth-largest exporter of weapons. Issued Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the report shows that Chinese arms exports rose some 162 percent between 2008 and 2012, mainly due to escalating orders from Pakistan. The news marks the first time China has been in the top five of global arms exporters since the end of the Cold War, and is the first time England has fallen outside of the top five since SIPRI began issuing the report in 1950.
The US Labor Department reported Monday that jobless rates rose in half of the 50 US states plus the District of Columbia in January, though the rates were still below the national average (7.9 percent at the time) in nearly half of those states. The agency also noted that jobless rates declined in just eight states while it remained steady in the other seventeen. Among the 50 US states, North Dakota continued to enjoy the lowest unemployment rate, at just 3.3 percent, while California and Rhode Island tied for the highest at 9.8 percent. Nevada, which had the highest jobless rate in December, saw its unemployment rate fall 2.3 percent to 9.7 percent, placing it just behind California and Rhode Island.