WASHINGTON — Americans’ confidence in the economy fell slightly in September from August, as many became less optimistic about hiring and pay increases over the next six months.
The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dropped to 79.7 in September. That’s down from August’s reading of 81.8, which was slightly higher than previously estimated.
Consumers’ confidence is closely watched because their spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. The September reading was only slightly below June’s reading of 82.1, the highest in 5ƒ years.
Home-price index surged
in 20 large US cities
Home prices in large U.S. cities posted big gains in July, although the rapid increases may be easing, according to a leading index.
The S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 large U.S. cities, released Tuesday, jumped 1.8 percent from June and 12.4 percent from July 2012.
All 20 cities tracked saw gains over the month, but 15 of the cities saw the pace slow from June.
“More cities are experiencing slow gains each month than the previous month, suggesting that the rate of increase may have peaked,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
Prices rose fastest in Las Vegas, which saw annual gains of 27.5 percent.
Phoenix’s home prices rose 1.5 percent in July over June, and 18.9 percent year-over-year.
Burger King launching lower-calorie french fry
Burger King wants people to feel less guilty about gobbling up its french fries.
The world’s No. 2 hamburger chain launched a new crinkle-cut french fry on Tuesday that it says has about 20 percent fewer calories than its regular fries.
The chain says a small order of the new “Satisfries” clocks in at 270 calories because of a new batter that doesn’t absorb as much oil. By comparison, a small order of its regular fries, sans crinkles, has 340 calories.
S. Korea rejects Boeing,
says F-15 isn’t good enough
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea on Tuesday rejected Boeing Co.’s bid to supply 60 fighter jets in the country’s largest-ever weapons purchase, even though it was the sole remaining bidder, and said it would reopen the tender.
Boeing had offered its F-15 Silent Eagle, but South Korean critics have said the warplane lacks state-of-the-art stealth capabilities and cannot effectively cope with North Korea’s increasing nuclear threats.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said officials decided at a meeting Tuesday to delay naming a winning bidder for the 8.3 trillion won ($7.7 billion) purchase, and would restart the bidding process at an early date.
Smithfield shareholders approve Shuanghui deal
RICHMOND, Va. — Shareholders of Smithfield Foods Inc. on Tuesday approved a plan to sell the world’s largest pork producer and processor to a Chinese company.
The Smithfield, Va.-based company said more than 96 percent of the votes cast during a special meeting in Richmond were in favor of Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.’s $34-per-share offer, or $4.72 billion in cash.
The deal, which is expected to close Thursday, will be the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm, valued at about $7.1 billion, including debt. Its sale to Hong Kong-based Shuanghui comes at a time of serious food safety problems in China, some of which have involved Shuanghui.
Fed concerned about surge
in gold trading after meeting
WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is concerned about suspiciously heavy trading of gold futures after its meeting last week that may have been triggered by a premature release of market-sensitive information.
The central bank said Tuesday that news organizations that receive embargoed information from the Fed agree to withhold information until the time set for its release. The Fed statement said, “We will be conducting follow-up conversations with news organizations to ensure our procedures are completely understood.”
Trading in financial markets is now dominated by automated computer systems, which make trades in tiny fractions of a second that can lead to millions of dollars in profit. Receiving the data early — even by a few milliseconds — can give an unfair advantage to some firms.
Applied Materials’ takeover of Tokyo Electron announced
TOKYO — Chip-making equipment manufacturer Applied Materials is acquiring Tokyo Electron Ltd., a rival maker of equipment for production of semiconductors, flat panel displays and solar panels.
The two companies said Tuesday that their $9.39 billion all-stock transaction will result in the creation of a new company with a market capitalization of about $29 billion.
Tokyo Electron Chairman Tetsuro Higashi said the deal is meant to create a “truly global company” to meet the needs of companies supplying consumer electronics such as smartphones and tablets.
New Zealand airline plans Antarctic ice landings
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s flagship airline plans to fly planes to Antarctica, with pilots landing on an ice runway.
But tourists wanting to travel to the frozen continent will need to keep their hopes in check. The chartered Air New Zealand flights would be for scientists and their support crews, and the airline said Tuesday it has no plans to begin commercial trips.
Many countries already fly scientists to Antarctica. But those flights are typically run by government or military agencies, or by specialized companies.