U.S housing starts drop again, stocks rebound on factory output news, New York investigates how investment information is disseminated.
U.S. Housing starts drop again
The Commerce Department Tuesday announced that U.S. housing starts fell again in February, the third straight month of drops. However, a slight rise in building permits is suggesting the housing market may rebound with warmer weather. Groundbreaking dropped 0.2 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000 units. January’s revised number was an 11.2 percent decline, which suggested the housing market was suffering from more than just cold weather effects. Economists polled by Reuters had expected starts to jump to a 910,000-unit rate in February. The Northeast had the worst start numbers, with groundbreaking plunging 37.5 percent.
Stocks Rebound with Factory Output
Following a report Monday that an increase in U.S. factory production was the biggest in months, stocks closed sharply higher. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 181 point to 16,247, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 17 points to 1,858. The NASDAQ Composite rose 34 points to 4,279. The factory production report indicated that the January economic slowdown may have been more a product of severe winter weather.
New York to Investigate Information Highway
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is reportedly investigating to find out if U.S. stock exchanges and alternative trading venues are providing improper advantages to high frequency traders. The report from Bloomberg came from a person with direct knowledge of the investigation. Schneiderman’s office is looking into the sale of products and services which offer faster access to data and deeper information on trades than what is typically available to the public. The Bloomberg report said the attorney general has already discussed his concerns with executives of the NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange and requested more information. Schneiderman is conducting an ongoing exercise to ensure that all investors are getting the same information at the same time.
New GM Recall in the Bag
General Motors issued a new recall of 1.5 million vehicles Monday, according to the Associated Press. In a video message to employees, CEO Mary Barra said the new recall resulted from an initiative to review potential safety issues and resolve them more quickly Last month, GM recalled more than 1.6 million small cars for defective engine switches. The defect has been linked to 12 deaths, and GM is facing multiple investigations into how it handled the recall. GM first began investigating the switches in 2004. Barra told employees that GM is undergoing an “intense review” of its recall procedures. GM expects to spend approximately $300 million in the first quarter to repair the vehicles in the new recalls as well as vehicles in the small car recall, the AP said.
Hertz to Spin Off its Equipment Rental Business
Hertz Global Holdings announced Tuesday it plans to spin off equipment rental business for $2.5 billion. Hertz Equipment Rental Corp., a division of Hertz Global Holdings, provides rental equipment from small tools to heavy earthmoving equipment. Hertz said it expects the separation to be complete by early 2015. The spinoff will be through a tax-free distribution to shareholders. Hertz said part of the proceeds of the transaction would be used to fund a newly approved $1 billion share repurchase program.
What Cost March Madness? $1.2 Billion, Estimate Says
The march to the Final Four begins Tuesday. Employers, do you know where your employees are? According to a new survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the employees may be at their desks, but their heads are more involved with the games than with work. Businesses stand to lose at least $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour, according to the survey. “There are distractions every day at the office, but the first week of the annual men’s’ college basketball tournament is particularly hazardous to workplace productivity,’’ said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The survey figures that while a company’s bottom line should not suffer, the IT department may notice a slowdown if employees are streaming games at their desk.