Anemic Obamacare enrollment, Janet Yellen's confirmation hearing and a record auction at Sotheby's tops our roundup of the day's top business news stories.
Janet Yellen to Face the Senate Banking Committee
Janet Yellen, who would be the first woman to lead the U.S. Federal Reserve, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday. If the committee votes to approve her nomination, it will move to the Senate floor for confirmation. While it is likely that she will be confirmed, analysts expect that she will be asked about the Fed’s stimulus program, but it is not likely that she will offer definitive statements about potential changes to the Fed’s asset purchases, The Associated Press reports. In January 2010, the current Chairman, Ben Bernanke was confirmed by the Senate 70-30, which was the highest number of “no” votes ever received by a Fed chairman during the confirmation process.
Claims for Unemployment Drop for Fifth Consecutive Week
The number of Americans applying for U.S. unemployment benefits dipped 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the fifth straight weekly decline, the Labor Department reports. The Labor Department said Thursday The 4-week moving average, a less volatile number that flattens out week-to-week fluctuations in the data, was 344,000, a decrease of 5,750 from the previous. The average has dropped 11 percent in the past year. The declines in initial claims for unemployment benefits are an indication that companies are firing fewer workers.
Obamacare Enrollment an Anemic 106,000
Fewer than 27,000 people signed up for private health insurance in October in the 36 states relying on the Affordable Care Act website, which has been plagued with difficulties from its moment of launch, States running their own enrollment systems signed up more than 79,000 for a total enrollment of just over 106,000. Administration officials had projected nearly 500,000 people would sign up for the program. The 106,185 registrants comprise just 1.5 percent of the seven million people the Obama administration hopes to enroll by next year. Officials have pledged to have the user-unfriendly website fully fixed by the end of the month. Overall, 975,407 people have made it through the entire process to determine their eligibility for federal tax credits for help purchasing a plan, but have not yet selected coverage, The Chicago Tribune reports.
Wal-Mart Reports Sales Decline
A decline in sales produced lower-than-expected quarterly sales for Wal-Mart Stores, which announced its sales numbers Thursday. Wal-Mart said comparable sales at its U.S. stores fell 0.3 percent in the fiscal third quarter, below industry expectations that sales would remain unchanged. Wal-Mart expects U.S. comparable sales to be flat during the holiday quarter. Overall revenue increased 1.6 percent to $115.69 billion from $113.93 billion a year ago. The company posted third-quarter earnings of $1.14 per share, up from $1.08 a share in the year-earlier period. Wal-Mart also announced it now expects full-year earnings per share of $5.11 to $5.21 compared with previous estimates of $5.20 a share.
Sotheby’s Has Record Auction, Led by Warhol Piece
A work of art by Andy Warhol went for $105 million in an art auction held by Sotheby’s Wednesday, smashing previous sales records and creating the biggest art auction in its history. The auction of post-war and contemporary art totaled $380.6 million, its highest total ever. Of the 61 lots on offer only seven failed to sell. Sotheby’s had a sale of impressionist and modern art one week ago that netted $290 million. This week’s sale was capped by Warhol’s “Silver Car Crash (Doubled Disaster) from his proclaimed death and disaster series. The sale was 50 percent higher than his previous art auction result of $71.7 million. The art piece was sold to a buyer who was bidding by telephone. It is a 9-foot-b-14-foot piece.
Labor Union Rejects Boeing Offer on 777s.
Machinists for Boeing Co soundly rejected a new labor contract Wednesday that was designed to allow the company to build its newest jetliner in Washington State. The contract rejection means Boeing will build the new jetliner either in a non-union U.S. state or outside of the country. The 31,000 International Association of Machinists members voted by a 67 percent margin against a deal that would secure an estimated 20 years of work building Boeing's 777X jet, but that would have terminated their pension plan and raised their healthcare costs. The 777 is the only jet Boeing expects to develop over the next 15 years. The discord with the labor union could affect the company’s 97-year history of building product in the state of Washington.
$3 Billion? No, Thanks, Said Snapchat
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that mobile app startup Snapchat rejected an all-cash acquisition offer from Facebook Inc that would have valued the company at $3 billion or more. Increasingly popular with teenagers, Snapchat, allows consumers to send smartphone photos which automatically disappear after a few seconds. Facebook has reported a decline in daily young by young teenagers in the U.S. Described by bloggers as “the next Instagram,” Snapchat has amassed millions of users in little over a year and claims to process more than 30 million messages a day. App users can send images, short videos or messages via their smartphones and select how long the message will be visible before the message self-destructs. Some have expressed caution about young teens using the site for sexting.