With drought wreaking havoc on American farmers' corn yields, most Americans would've expected farm income to plummet this year, but the US Department of Agriculture expects it to increase as higher prices for corn and other grains offset the decline in production. According to an estimate from the USDA released Friday, US farm income will improve by 3.7 percent this year to $122 billion, as record-high food prices allow farmers to earn more money for less crops than they did a year ago.
American Airlines and US Airways announced on Friday they have begun discussing a possible merger. The announcement comes after several months in which American rebuffed US Airways' requests for merger negotiations and American approaches its ninth month of bankruptcy protection. But, according to Friday's announcement, the two have signed a non-disclosure agreement allowing them to share non-public information, making serious merger talks possible.
Sentiment among American consumers surged to its highest level in since May in August by taking advantage of steep discounting from retailers to pay down their debt. The final reading of the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index came in at 74.3, according to a Friday report, exceeding the consensus expectation for a 73.6 reading from economists in a recent Bloomberg survey. But according to Richard Curtin, the survey's director, respondents more often cited lower outstanding debt and increases in the value of their assets than income increases as the fuel of their improved outlooks.
Facebook Stock Falls to All-Time Low
The world's largest social network has struggled since launching an IPO in May, and the stock reached an all-time low on Friday after several analysts lowered their price targets and warned of further trouble ahead for Facebook stock. With about an hour to go in Friday's trading session, shares of the company had slipped just over 5 percent to $18.07. That's just over 50 percent below the stock's initial offering price of $38 a share. One of the biggest problems for Facebook stock, analysts say, is that there are multiple lockup expirations, when staff and pre-IPO investors are allowed to sell their shares, but there are also major concerns about the company's ability to continue growing.
Apple Inc., which has been far-and-away the most valuable company in the world for nearly a year since surpassing Exxon Mobile in market value, achieved an even bigger milestone on Monday as its market cap surged to $619 billion, making the tech giant the most valuable company in the world ever. Previously, Microsoft had held the largest-ever market capitalization, reaching a valuation of $616.3 billion in December 1999, at the height of the dot com boom.
Best Buy issued its second-quarter results Tuesday, fueling concerns about the world's largest electronics retailer as the all-important holiday shopping season approaches. The company reported a staggering 87 percent slide in net income from a year ago, and both adjusted earnings and sales fell well below Wall Street expectations. Best Buy also said it would suspend its share buyback plan indefinitely, and said it is expecting lower numbers for full-year earnings, though it did not provide an updated forecast.
MLB Hall of Famer Eddie Murray Charged in Insider Trading Case
Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Murray settled insider trading charges over the weekend, paying a fine of just under $360,000. Murray and two others were charged with making trades of shares of a medical device company called Advanced Medical Optics based on inside information prior to the company's sale to Abbott Laboratories in 2009. According to a statement from the SEC< Murray was allowed to settle the charges without admitting any wrongdoing.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission over the weekend shut down ZeekRewards.com, essentially alleging that the site's operators were using it as a front for a $600 million Internet Ponzi scheme. According to the SEC's charges, ZeekRewards.com and its parent company Rex Venture Group lured more than 1 million investors into the scheme, launched in 2011. Early investors were paid with funds from newer investors, the SEC noted, making the venture a classic example of a Ponzi scheme. The agency has frozen $225 million in assets related to the ZeekRewards operation, far short of the amount owed to investors.
General Motors announced on Tuesday it is issuing a recall for 38,000 Impalas purchased by police agencies across the US and Canada. The recall involves Impala sedans from the 2008 to 2012 model years, in which a part in the front suspension that can crack and cause a crash. Impalas sold to the public use different suspension parts, and are not affected by the recall, the company said. The company noted that it has not received any reports of crashes or injuries stemming from the problem, but did receive a series of reports from police fleets reporting the issue.
The US Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales rose for the first time in four months in July, fueling optimism that consumer spending may bring faster economic growth in the third quarter. The report showed a 0.8 percent increase in retail sales overall, as demand picked up in a broad range of categories including autos, electronics and apparel. The gain was the first since February and more than double the 0.3 percent gain expected by economists in a recent Reuters poll.