Housing, jobs figures signal economy will accelerate
WASHINGTON - A measure of the U.S. economy's future health rose solidly in April, buoyed by a sharp rise in applications to build homes and a better job market.
The Conference Board said Friday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.6 percent last month to a reading of 95. That followed a 0.2 percent decline in March.
The index is intended to signal economic conditions three to six months out.
US consumer confidence at highest level in 6 years
Americans' confidence in the economy climbed in May to the highest level in almost six years, according to one index, as rising real estate values and record stock prices boosted household wealth.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment increased to 83.7, the highest since July 2007, from 76.4 in April, a report Friday showed.
The gain in confidence suggests Americans are overcoming the effects of higher taxes and a package of federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, that threatens to take a toll on jobs.
Unemployment rate lower in 40 states, up in three
WASHINGTON - Solid hiring helped lower unemployment rates in 40 U.S. states last month, the most since November. The declines show the job market is improving throughout most of the country.
The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates increased in only three states: Louisiana, Tennessee and North Dakota. Rates were unchanged in seven states, including Arizona at 7.9 percent.
A year after IPO, Facebook delivering strong numbers
NEW YORK - It was supposed to be our IPO, the people's public offering.
Facebook, the brainchild of a young CEO who sauntered into Wall Street meetings in a hoodie, was going to be bigger than Amazon, bigger than McDonald's, bigger than Coca-Cola. And it was all made possible by our friendships, photos and family ties.
Then came the IPO, and it flopped. Facebook's stock finished its first day of trading just 23 cents higher than its $38 IPO price. It hasn't been that high since.
Even amid the hype and excitement surrounding Facebook's May 18 stock market debut a year ago, there were looming doubts. Investors wondered whether the social network could increase advertising revenue without alienating users, especially those using smartphones and tablet computers.
Despite its disappointing stock market performance, the company has delivered strong financial results. Net income increased 7 percent to $219 million in the most recent quarter, compared with the previous year, and revenue was up 38 percent to $1.46 billion.
The world's biggest online social network has also kept growing to 1.1 billion users. Some 665 million people check in every day to share photos, comment on news articles and play games. Millions of people around the world who don't own a computer use Facebook, in Malawi, Malaysia and Martinique.
McDonald's starts streamlining its menu
The Angus burger is going away, and it may not be the only McDonald's dish on the chopping block.
The world's largest restaurant chain has also considered axing Caesar salads, the McSkillet Burrito, the Southern Style Biscuit and steak bagels, according to a franchisee email obtained by Bloomberg News.
It's an effort by McDonald's Corp. to streamline a menu that has expanded by 70 percent to about 145 items since 2007 - straining kitchen staff, gumming up service and spoiling customers for choice.
"It's gotten to the point where the operation has kind of broken down and that's all a symptom of the complication of the menu," said Richard Adams, a San Diego-based restaurant franchisee consultant and former McDonald's store owner. "They can't make the food fast enough."
Teams formed to address menu size. Seven menu items were identified for potential removal. So far fruit and walnut salads, Chicken Selects and Angus burgers have been eliminated.
GM stock rises above $33; first time in two years
DETROIT - Shares of General Motors reached an important milestone on Friday, closing above their initial public offering price of $33 for the first time in more than two years.
GM shares reached $33.77 Friday before slipping back to close at $33.42, up 3.2 percent. The auto giant sold shares to the public for $33 in a November 2010 IPO, but they've traded below that price since May 4, 2011.
Japan's goods are cheaper as value of yen drops
Attention, bargain-hunters around the world: Japanese goods - from cars to televisions - are going on sale.
Credit Japan's drive to pump cash into its economy to stimulate growth. The extra money flooding its financial system is helping shrink the value of the yen. A U.S. dollar now buys about 100 yen. Last fall, it bought fewer than 80.
When the yen's value falls, many Japanese goods become less expensive worldwide. Toyotas become cheaper in Germany, the United States and South Korea. So do Sony electronics. For tourists, Tokyo doesn't cost so much to visit.
By contrast, goods made in Europe, Asia and the United States become pricier compared with Japanese products.
The Associated Press; Bloomberg News