Japan posts fastest growth in nearly 3 years
Japan's economy grew at a 5.9 percent annualized rate in the first quarter, the fastest in nearly three years, as companies and consumers brought forward spending to beat a sales tax increase that is expected to cause a contraction in the current quarter. The growth figures for the world's third-largest economy released Thursday were in line with expectations. Strong private consumption, residential investment and corporate spending were the biggest contributors to growth, while public spending fell slightly. Since taking office in late 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to get Japan's growth back on track through a combination of heavy government spending, ultra-loose monetary policy and economic reforms.
Wholesale price inflation picked up in April
The prices that U.S. companies receive for their goods and services rose in April by the most in 19 months, a sign that inflation may be picking up from very low levels. The producer price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent from March to April, the Labor Department said Wednesday, after a 0.5 percent increase from February to March. April's increases were led by higher food prices and greater retailer and wholesaler profit margins. Over the past 12 months, producer prices have risen 2.1 percent, the biggest 12-month gain in more than two years. That figure is roughly in line with the Federal Reserve's 2 percent inflation target. The producer price index measures price changes before they reach consumers. Excluding the volatile categories of food, energy and retailer and wholesaler margins, however, the month-to-month increase in April was smaller: Core prices rose 0.3 percent from March.
Citigroup unit fires 11 over fraud in Mexico
Citigroup's Mexican bank subsidiary said it has fired 11 employees for not following proper procedures in dealing with a Mexican oil services company that allegedly defrauded Citigroup of up to $400 million. Grupo Financiero Banamex said in a statement that the 11 employees of various ranks "did not follow the supervisory standards expected as part of their responsibilities." It said more employees might face sanctions, as a result of an internal company investigation. "We are reviewing our risk controls and procedures and we continue to strengthen all those areas that did not comply with Citi's global standards and best practices," Banamex General Director Javier Arrigunaga said in the statement.
Google opens up Glass sales to all – for $1,500
Google has finally opened up sales of its Glass wearable device to any adult in the United States, but the gadget remains in a beta phase and is still priced at $1,500. Any adult living in the U.S. who is interested in purchasing Google's futuristic glasses can go online to order it. The device is available in five colors — black, white, orange, blue and brown — and with numerous frame styles. Sales opened Tuesday, and so far only the bold-frame version of the black Glass model is listed as "out of stock." Glass connects to users smartphones to relay all sorts of information, including text messages, e-mails and music. The device displays information on a tiny cube that sits above a user's right eye.
Sears considers unloading Canadian stores
Sears Holdings, the department store chain struggling to rebound from three years of operating losses, is considering a sale of its Canadian stores. The company may divest its 51 percent stake in Sears Canada, possibly as part of a sale of the whole business, according to a statement. Sears, run by hedge-fund manager Eddie Lampert, will hire an investment bank to study options for the division, which has a market value of about $1.5 billion. The move would mark the latest effort to shrink a company that was once the largest retailer in the U.S. Lampert, Sears' chairman, chief executive and largest shareholder, spun off the Lands' End clothing business last month.
FROM NEWS SERVICES