Internet radio pioneer Pandora reached a major milestone this week, announcing Tuesday that it has surpassed 200 million registered users. At just under 2 years since reaching 100 million users, the achievement came at an accelerated pace compared to the company's first 100 million users, which took six years to amass. In a blog post, Pandora founder Tim Westergren applauded the milestone. In addition to signing up more than 200 million users, Pandora is also streaming songs at an impressive rate, delivering more than 1.5 billion hours of music in March alone. Those songs were from more than 100,000 different artists and over a million unique songs were streamed.
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 Federal Reserve was forced to release the minutes for its March meeting early Wednesday due to an email that went out Tuesday issuing the minutes early. The minutes were scheduled to go public at 2 PM ET Wednesday, but were released at 9 AM because of the mistake. Investors welcomed the news that the central bank is continuing its bond purchasing program, driving the Dow Jones industrial average to a new intra-day high. The email that went out Tuesday was addressed to congressional staffers and representatives of various trade organizations, people who normally get the minutes shortly after the public release. The media were notified about the early release at 8:30 AM ET, 30 minutes before the actual release. In a normal month, media would be given a preview about an hour before the actual release, giving them time to pore over the minutes and compose news stories. They are not permitted, however, to release the information before the Fed goes public.
Sea World filed paperwork Monday for an initial public offering which it says could raise as much as $100 million. According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company will sell 20 million shares at between $24 and $27 each, giving the company a $2.4 million valuation at the midpoint of that range. Most analysts were not exactly enthusiastic about the valuation, considering it would represent a multiple of 27 times trailing earnings, a hefty price considering the multiples its rivals' stocks trade at. Six Flags Entertainment, for example, trades at just 12.1 times earnings, and even Disney, which also has a major media empire, trades at just 19 times earnings.
Troubled Plano, Texas-based retailer JC Penney is going back to the future, bringing back former CEO Mike Ullman to replace outgoing CEO Ron Johnson, who replaced Ullman just over 17 months ago. Johnson's dismissal comes after news that the company's sales fell 25 percent last year, a decline many are blaming on Johnson's unorthodox no-sale strategy and partnerships with designers. Investors apparently approved of the move, as shares of the company spiked 10 percent in Monday trading on news of the dismissal, though they fell again Tuesday.
Google revealed on Tuesday the next community to be given access to its ultra-fast Fiber Internet service, prompting shudders of anticipation in the heart of Texas. Following Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, Austin will be the third US city to enjoy Google's high-speed network, which the tech giant says delivers speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, or about 100 times faster than the average Internet speed across the country. With the network in place, Google will also offer Fiber TV, an all-HD television service that allows users to record as many as eight shows at a time and store 500 hours of programming online. Users can then access the video from the cloud on any device including computers, tablets and smartphones.
An Appeals Court judge in New York ruled Friday that a lawsuit against Swedish bank UBS over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-related losses may proceed. Filed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the agency that oversees the two mortgage behemoths, the claim is but one of more than a dozen suits brought against banks over massive losses suffered by the mortgage insurers when the housing market collapsed in 2007. According to the FHFA, the two companies lost close to $200 billion on bad mortgages during the recession. UBS asked the judge, presiding over the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, to dismiss the suit, but the judge ruled that the FHFA did not wait too long after taking control of Fannie and Freddie and that it had a basis to bring a case.
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.
Tesla Motors reported Monday it is expecting to report its first-ever quarterly profit in an amendment to guidance offered late last month. In its previous estimates, the company was expecting to sell 4,500 of its Model S sedan during the three months ended Sunday, but sales exceeded the 4,750 mark on Saturday. Should the profit come in as Tesla now expects, it would be a vast improvement over the company's results from the final quarter of 2012, when the electric car maker suffered a net loss of $75 million on just $306 million in sales. Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk also intrigued investors with a late-Sunday Tweet promising news this week that would be “arguably more important.” As a result, shares of the startup surged more than 21 percent early in the trading day Monday, though the gain subsided and shares were just under 16 percent with about an hour left in the session.