Last Update on May 22, 2013 07:35 GMT
BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets were mostly higher today after investor confidence was boosted by a Federal Reserve official's comments that the U.S. central bank should stick with its super-easy monetary policy.
Fed chief Ben Bernanke testifies before a joint congressional committee today.
Regional Fed chief James Bullard said in a speech Tuesday that the Fed should continue its monthly $85 billion in bond purchases, which drives down interest rates and thus encourages lending and spending, to help spur the U.S. economic recovery.
Benchmark crude oil fell below $97 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro and was little changed against the yen.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Investors and analysts will be hanging on every word uttered Wednesday by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke when he testifies before a joint economic committee on Capitol Hill. They'll be looking for any sign of a policy shift.
The Fed is currently pursuing an aggressive program of bond purchases to try to keep long-term interest rates down and encourage borrowing and spending.
Some Fed officials have said the central bank should start to curtail its bond purchases before year's end, so long as the economy has improved. Other officials have suggested the opposite -- an expansion of bond buying if the economy needs it.
In recent weeks, the job market and the broader economy have shown renewed vigor.
The economy has benefited from a resurgent housing market, rising consumer confidence and the Fed's stimulus actions, which have helped ignite a stock market rally.
DETROIT (AP) -- Growing consumer demand for cars and trucks has automakers changing their usual summer vacation plans.
Ford says the traditional two-week summer break is being cut to a single week and General Motors isn't doing any shutdowns. Chrysler plans a two-week break at just four of its ten North American assembly plants. Both GM and Chrysler are rolling out critical new models.
The three Detroit carmakers don't have the luxury this year of a two-week window to do maintenance and change the machinery for new models. U.S. demand for new cars and trucks has been strong, up 7 percent through April, led by soaring demand for full-size pickup trucks as home construction rebounds.
And after closing more than two dozen factories during the recession, U.S. automakers need to use their remaining capacity to its fullest.
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's central bank says the world's third-biggest economy is "picking up" as demand recovers in other countries and remains resilient at home.
The Bank of Japan ended a policy meeting on Wednesday with no change to its strategy of doubling the monetary base for the sake of reaching a 2 percent inflation target and jolting the economy out of two decades of stagnation. That outcome was expected.
The central bank said in a statement, though, that there is a "high degree of uncertainty concerning Japan's economy" and that prices show no signs yet of rebounding.
Japan's economy grew 3.5 percent in the last quarter, but progress in increasing exports and boosting corporate investment and wages has lagged.
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's trade deficit widened to a larger-than-expected 880 billion yen -- the equivalent of $8.6 billion -- in April as its weakening currency accentuated surging import costs.
Exports rose 3.8 percent from the same month a year earlier while imports jumped 9.4 percent, according to preliminary figures reported by the Finance Ministry on Wednesday. Japan's trade deficit stood at 362 billion yen in March, just over half the size of February's gap.
The yen has slid in value by over 20 percent against the U.S. dollar and euro, in turn pushing up other currencies in relative value. Its decline, due to expectations among market speculators and also monetary policies that are injecting huge sums of cash into the economy, is expected to lead to a recovery in exports. Stronger growth in the U.S. and some other major markets has also helped boost demand for Japanese products.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Jamie Dimon, the CEO and chairman of JPMorgan Chase, easily survived a vote Tuesday that would have called on him to give up his role as chairman of the nation's largest bank. But shareholders sent a message that the bank needed better oversight, giving only narrow approval to three of the bank's board members.
It was a mixed verdict in a closely watched test of corporate governance at U.S. companies. Dimon emerged in a stronger position after the proposal to split his roles won just 32 percent of the shareholder vote, less than the 40 percent a similar proposal got last year.
But the tepid support for the three directors came as a rebuke of the bank following a surprise $6 billion trading loss JPMorgan had suffered last year. Prominent shareholder advisory firms had urged JPMorgan shareholders to withhold their support for those directors, who served on the bank's risk policy committee at the time of the loss.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate dragged Apple Inc., the world's most valuable company, into the debate over the U.S. tax code Tuesday, grilling CEO Tim Cook over allegations that its Irish subsidiaries help the company avoid billions in U.S. taxes.
Cook said the subsidiaries have nothing to do with reducing its U.S. taxes, a message he struggled to convey to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
The Senate subcommittee released a report Monday that held up Apple as an example of the legal tax avoidance made possible by the U.S. tax code. It estimates that Apple avoided at least $3.5 billion in U.S. federal taxes in 2011 and $9 billion in 2012 by using its tax strategy, and described a complex setup involving Irish subsidiaries as being a key element of this strategy.
REDMOND, Wash. (AP) -- Microsoft thinks it has the one.
The company unveiled the Xbox One, an entertainment console that promises to be the one system households will need for games, television, movies and other entertainment. It will go on sale later this year, for an undisclosed price.
For the past two years, Microsoft has led the gaming industry in console sales with the Xbox 360. But it's been eight years since that machine came out, and Microsoft is the last of the three major console makers to unveil a new system.
ATLANTA (AP) -- Even though the weather was poor, Home Depot posted an 18 percent increase in its net income for the first quarter thanks to the ongoing housing recovery.
Its quarterly results topped Wall Street's view and the world's biggest home improvement chain boosted its full-year earnings and revenue forecasts Tuesday.
For the three months ended May 5, Home Depot Inc. earned $1.23 billion, or 83 cents per share. That's up from $1.04 billion, or 68 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts predicted earnings of 76 cents per share, according to a FactSet survey.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Best Buy Co. on Tuesday reported a loss for its fiscal first quarter as it sold its stake in Best Buy Europe and works on a turnaround plan that includes cutting costs and closing some stores.
Its adjusted earnings beat Wall Street expectations, as cost cuts helped offset tough pricing competition during the quarter. But shares fell 5 percent in midday trading.
The company has been working on a turnaround plan as it faces increased competition from online retailers and discount stores. The plan includes closing stores, cutting costs and investing in training for its employees. In April it also said it would sell its 50 percent stake in its European joint venture to streamline its business and strengthen its balance sheet.