Stocks wobble…Slight gains in retail sales, industrial production…Facebook allows some paid political messages
NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks are wobbling between small gains and losses in early trading on Wall Street as investors focus on another round of mostly solid corporate earnings. So far, solid gains from earlier in the week are still holding and keeping the major indexes on track for weekly gains. Technology companies gained ground in the early going, along with real estate and industrial stocks. Online travel company Expedia surged and Sharpie marker maker Newell Brands rose on solid earnings. Banks fell as bond yields slipped.
WASHINGTON (AP) – Retail sales rose a modest 0.3% in January, a slight improvement over December, as unseasonably warm weather boosted sales at hardware stores and furniture stores. The slight gain was in line with expectations. However, economists were also expecting to see a solid gain in an underlying control group of retail sales which feeds into the government’s calculations for overall economic growth. Instead, the Commerce Department says sales in the control group showed no gain at all in January and the December performance was revised down to show a gain of just 0.2%, slower than the 0.5% rise initially reported.
WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. manufacturing output fell slightly in January, driven lower by Boeing’s decision to halt production of its troubled 737 MAX aircraft. The Federal Reserve says factory output declined 0.1% last month after eking out a 0.1% gain in December. U.S. manufacturing has shown signs of recovering from a year-long downturn but is facing a fresh challenge from Boeing’s troubles, which also affect hundreds of suppliers. Manufacturing output is down 0.8% in the past year. Overall industrial production, which includes output from mines and utilities, dropped 0.3% in January, held back by a 4% drop in utility production output because of unseasonably warm weather.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Facebook has decided to allow a type of paid political message that had sidestepped many of the social network’s rules governing political ads. Its policy change comes days after presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg exploited a loophole to run such messages promoting his campaign among younger people. Until today, Facebook tried to deter the use of such posts as political messages. But the Bloomberg campaign took the unconventional step of paying social media influencers – individuals with huge followings – to post Bloomberg memes using their Instagram accounts. That effort skirted many of the rules that tech companies have imposed on political ads to safeguard U.S. elections.
LONDON (AP) – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to throw his support behind international reforms that would require Silicon Valley tech giants to pay more tax in Europe. The billionaire social network founder is due to meet members of the European Union’s executive Commission in Brussels and speak at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. Zuckerberg is expected to tell the conference tomorrow that he’s backing plans for digital tax reform on a global scale proposed by the OECD. According to an excerpt of his speech provided in advance, Zuckerberg will say that he accepts that the company may have to pay more tax.