Business briefs: Google, Microsoft phones to get 'kill switch'

  • Updated: June 19, 2014 - 7:48 PM

Google, Microsoft phones to get ‘kill switch’

Google and Microsoft will incorporate a “kill switch” into the next versions of their smartphone operating systems as evidence mounts that such security measures may be deterring theft, the New York attorney general’s office said. Mobile phone technology companies have faced pressure from public officials during the past year to add mechanisms to allow smartphone owners to disable the devices if they are lost or stolen, limiting their resale potential. In May, Minnesota became the first state to require a kill switch on all smartphones sold there. After Apple’s release of a kill switch in September, thefts of iPhones in some cities “plummeted,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Initial jobless claims fall to six-year low

Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, as the number of people collecting jobless aid fell to its lowest level in more than six years. The Labor Department said that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined to 311,750. There are 2.56 million people receiving benefits. That’s the lowest total since October 2007, about two months before the recession began. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the relatively low number of people seeking benefits shows that employers are letting go of fewer workers.

Leading indicators rose again last month

A gauge designed to predict the economy’s future health increased for a fourth month in May, providing further evidence that the economy is gaining strength after a harsh winter caused activity to go into reverse. The Conference Board said that its index of leading indicators increased 0.5 percent last month, an improvement from a revised 0.3 percent gain in April. The strength was broadly based with positive contributions from all the financial and labor components of the index. “Recent data suggest the economy is finally moving up from a 2 percent growth trend to a more robust expansion,” said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein.

Icahn seeks to force sale of Family Dollar

Activist investor Carl Icahn is urging discount retailer Family Dollar Stores Inc. to put itself up for sale immediately, saying its performance is weakening and it faces mounting competition. He is also calling for three of his representatives to be added to Family Dollar’s board. He made the case in a letter to Family Dollar’s CEO Howard Levine published in a regulatory filing. Earlier this month, Icahn disclosed he held a 9.4 percent stake in Family Dollar. In response, Family Dollar adopted a shareholder rights plan, or “poison pill,” a defensive tactic that makes a hostile takeover prohibitively expensive.

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