Expansion of manufacturing slows
Manufacturing in the United States expanded in March at the slowest pace in almost two years, restrained by the perfect storm of a stronger dollar, a plunge in oil prices and lingering delays in shipments from West Coast ports. The Institute for Supply Management's index declined to 51.5, the weakest since May 2013, from 52.9 a month earlier, the Tempe, Ariz.-based group's data showed Wednesday. The gauge has fallen five straight months, the longest such stretch since the end of 2008. Another report showed hiring is cooling with the economy.
Court blocks Allegiant pilots' strike
Allegiant Travel Co.'s airline won a court order blocking a pilots' strike, thwarting what would have been the first walkout at a major U.S. carrier in almost five years. The decision was issued in federal court in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Members of Airline Professionals Association Teamsters Local 1224 had planned to strike Thursday, saying Allegiant Air hadn't complied with a court decision to reverse a scheduling system change and restore other benefits.
Morgan Stanley's CEO gets big raise
Morgan Stanley gave James Gorman the biggest raise yet among Wall Street chief executive officers for last year, boosting his pay 25 percent to $22.5 million. Gorman, 56, received a $6.5 million long-term incentive and $5.4 million in deferred cash, the New York-based bank said in a regulatory filing. He also got a $4.7 million cash bonus, $4.4 million in stock and a $1.5 million salary. Morgan Stanley shares jumped more than 23 percent in each of the past three years as investors rewarded Gorman's plan to rely more on wealth management for stable earnings. Still, the firm's return on equity was under 6 percent in each of those years, short of his 10 percent goal.
RadioShack's CEO steps down
Joe Magnacca, who led a last-ditch turnaround effort at struggling RadioShack Corp. over the past two years that ended in bankruptcy, is stepping down as the company's chief executive. The announcement was made in an internal memo to employees. It comes the day after a bankruptcy judge in Wilmington, Del., gave the company new life by approving the sale of more than 1,700 stores to New York hedge fund Standard General. Magnacca joined money-losing RadioShack in February 2013 and quickly tried to pump new energy into the electronics retailer by unveiling new concept stores, revamping store merchandise and boosting marketing.
UBS shareholders to vote on executive pay
UBS said that its shareholders would, for the first time, vote on the compensation of its directors and its top executives at its annual meeting in May. The Swiss bank has previously held advisory votes by shareholders on its prior fiscal year's compensation report at its annual meetings, but this year will be the first time that shareholders will be asked to directly approve pay for executives. The shareholder vote comes after Swiss lawmakers enacted new rules in January 2014 intended to limit excessive compensation at companies listed in Switzerland.
KBR to pay $130K whistleblower penalty
A global technology and engineering firm has agreed to pay a $130,000 penalty in the first action taken for an alleged violation of a whistleblower protection rule enacted in response to the recent financial crisis, federal regulators said. The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the action against Houston-based KBR Inc., which without admitting or denying the charges agreed to stop using improperly restrictive language in certain confidentiality agreements about internal investigations. Regulators say employees were warned they could face discipline or be fired if they discussed matters with outside parties without KBR's legal department approval. The SEC says the company has since added language to make clear that employees are free to report possible violations without KBR's approval or fear of retaliation.
Wheat traders are suffering from whiplash
Wheat prices swung more than 3 percent on five occasions in the past nine days, the first time that's happened since 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A drought spreading over the U.S. plains sent Chicago futures to the biggest one-day gain this year, while data showing ample grain stockpiles erased most of the advance the next day. Weather conditions are coming to the forefront as crops in the main growing areas of the Northern Hemisphere emerge from winter dormancy and enter key growth stages that determine production. At the same time, speculation over whether a Russian tax on wheat exports will be extended and the effects of the weakening euro is adding to volatility.