Stocks gain after reports on housing, Ukraine
NEW YORK (AP) -- Encouraging news on the U.S. economy is giving the stock market a boost and keeping investors from fretting over the conflict between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
The market is recovering this week after logging its biggest weekly drop in almost two months. The S&P 500 rose 13.42 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,872.25 yesterday. The index has gained 1.7 percent this week after dropping almost 2 percent last week on concerns about slowing growth in China and the situation in Ukraine.
The Dow rose nearly 89 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,336, while the Nasdaq composite had the biggest gain Tuesday, climbing 53 points, or 1.3 percent, to 4,333.
The stock market also got a boost from two technology companies.
Microsoft jumped $1.50 after Reuters reported that CEO Satya Nadella plans to use his first big press event later this month to unveil an iPad version of the company's Office software suite. And Hewlett-Packard rose $1.08 after analysts at Barclays upgraded their outlook on the hardware company and raised their price target on the stock by $5 to $38.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
Fed wraps up policy meeting
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve policymakers finish their latest interest rate setting session today.
The two-day meeting will produce a policy statement and fresh economic forecasts, but the marquee event this afternoon will be Janet Yellen's first news conference as Fed chair. The financial world will be parsing every word for any hint of a policy shift. Many analysts think the Fed may drop any reference to an unemployment rate that could cause the central bank eventually to raise short-term rates. Eliminating that reference would help the Fed maximize its flexibility on rates.
This morning, the Commerce Department releases current account trade measure for the fourth quarter.
And FedEx will report quarterly financial results before the market opens.
Monitor: Big banks satisfy mortgage settlement
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's four biggest banks have slashed enough homeowner debt to satisfy their obligations under a national mortgage settlement.
The settlement was prompted by disclosures about robo-signing, a practice in which companies processed foreclosures without verifying documents.
The monitor overseeing the settlement says Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo have provided some $50 billion in relief to more than 600,000 borrowers.
The relief includes cutting mortgages, modifying loans, and allowing homeowners to sell their house for less than they owe. It also includes allowing some borrowers to refinance even though they wouldn't usually qualify because they owe too much.
NY AG: Fast stock trade advantages unfair
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York's attorney general has begun investigating split-second stock trading by high-frequency traders and is asking the exchanges to end the practice.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calls such trades "unfair." He says millisecond timing advantages gained by things such as extra computer bandwidth and ultra-fast cables allow high-frequency traders to make "rapid and often risk-free trades before the rest of the market can catch up." Some traders are allowed to place their computer servers within trading venues.
The marketplace has changed radically with technology. State officials say that In the 1960s, people held their stocks for an average of five years, and that has dropped sharply to less than five days, according to one estimate. They also note studies indicating high-frequency traders accounting for about 50 percent of U.S. equity trading volume in 2012.
Schneiderman says federal and other state regulators should join in structural reforms.
GAME DEVELOPERS CONFERENCE
Sony unveils virtual reality headset for PS4
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Sony is getting into the virtual reality business.
The electronics and gaming company unveiled a prototype virtual reality headset to be used in conjunction with its PlayStation 4 video game console.
Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, showed off the headset during a Tuesday talk at the Game Developers Conference. He declined to specify when it would be released or how much it would cost.
The headset is codenamed Project Morpheus and features a head-mounted display with 1080p resolution and a 90-degree field of view. Sensors built into the headset can track head orientation and movement.
The headset will be demonstrated for conference attendees beginning Wednesday on the conference's expo floor.
The technology is similar to the Oculus Rift, a VR headset in development.
TECH DIVERSITY-JESSE JACKSON
Jesse Jackson readies campaign to highlight Silicon Valley's scarcity of blacks and Latinos
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Rev. Jesse Jackson plans to lead a delegation to the Hewlett Packard annual shareholders meeting today to bring attention to Silicon Valley's poor record of including blacks and Latinos in hiring, board appointments and startup funding.
Jackson says he's not trying to single HP but rather highlight the broader issue. In a letter released to HP, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Google and others, Jackson says "technology is supposed to be about inclusion," but "patterns of exclusion remains the order of the day."
About one in 14 tech workers is black or Latino, far less than their proportion of the population. Black Enterprise magazine CEO Earl Graves Jr. says hiring levels at technology companies are not in line with the demographics of their customers, and Jackson's appearance will bring attention to an issue "that nobody wants to talk about."
But HP says it's "puzzled" at being Jackson's target. Vice president Henry Gomez says nearly half of HP's leadership team and Board of Directors, including its CEO, are women and minorities.
Japan notches 20th straight trade deficit
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan has notched its 20th straight monthly trade deficit in February as soaring energy imports continued to offset the value of exported goods.
According to government data released Wednesday, the deficit totaled 800.3 billion yen ($8 billion), up 3.5 percent from the same month a year ago. That's a record amount for the month of February.
Resource-poor Japan relies heavily on imported oil and natural gas. Those costs have surged following the March 2011 nuclear crisis in Fukushima, which has led to all 48 of the nation's working reactors going off line.
The 20-month streak is the longest since the Finance Ministry started keeping records
Oracle fiscal 3Q net income rises 2 pct
NEW YORK (AP) -- Oracle's fiscal third-quarter net income rose 2 percent, helped by higher cloud software subscription revenue, but the results fell slightly short of Wall Street predictions.
In the three months through Feb. 28, the business software maker earned $2.57 billion, or 56 cents per share, up from $2.5 billion, or 52 cents per share, in the same quarter the year before. Excluding one-time items, the company posted an adjusted profit of 68 cents per share.
Revenue rose 4 percent, to $9.31 billion from $8.96 billion, as revenue from new software licenses and cloud software subscriptions increased 4 percent to $2.42 billion.
Analysts polled by FactSet expected a profit of 70 cents per share on $9.36 billion in revenue. Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle Corp. shares fell 5.6 percent in aftermarket trading.
Google redesigns Android to power smartwatches
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google has released a new version of its Android software tailored for Internet-connected watches and other devices that can be worn instead of held.
The redesigned Android announced Tuesday is expected to power an array of so-called smartwatches expected to be released later this year.
Google Inc. says Android watches are already being developed by some of the same device makers that sell popular smartphones running on similar software. The group includes Asus, HTC, LG Electronics, Google-owned Motorola and Samsung Electronics, which already sells a smartwatch running on another operating system.
The Android smartwatches may be competing against a widely anticipated smartwatch from iPhone maker Apple Inc. that is expected to be introduced this year. Apple so far hasn't confirmed any plans for a smartwatch.
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