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Monday Evening Business Brief

March 3, 2014, 6:40 PM

Monday Evening Business Brief
  • Russia's military advance into Ukraine is rattling markets around the world. The Dow lost 153 points, or nearly 1 percent today, to 16,168. The S&P 500 dropped nearly 14 points, finishing at 1,845.73. The Nasdaq lost nearly 31 points to 4,277. Treasurys and gold prices rose as investors bought safer assets. The price of crude oil rose over concerns that Russian oil exports could be disrupted.
  • Today's economic reports had some positive numbers, though a couple came with downsides. The Institute for Supply Management says its manufacturing index rose to 53.2 in February as companies received more orders and boosted stockpiles. Construction spending increased 0.1 percent in January. And Americans' spending rose 0.4 in January, though the increase came from a surge in spending on winter heating bills.
  • GM, Ford and Toyota are reporting U.S. sales declines last month, as much of the nation was hit with snowstorms and frigid temperatures. The country's three top automakers say the month began slowly, but that sales began to recover in the second half. It's a sign that there may not be a broader auto sales slowdown, as had been feared.
  • The harsh winter has been rough on many businesses, but it's a boon to some. Ace Hardware is having its best winter in more than a decade for snow blower and shovel sales. Waterproof boots are on a long backorder at L.L. Bean. And with many Americans staying indoors, customers are ordering up more meals and arranging to have their laundry picked up through the website and smartphone app of Delivery.com. Its sales rose 30 percent in January and February compared with last year.
  • Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has reclaimed his spot on top of Forbes magazine's list of the world's richest people. Gates won the spot back from Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu, who had topped the list for the past four years. Gates' net worth is estimated at $76 billion; Slim Helu follows at $72 billion. Forbes says a record 1,645 billionaires made the list this year, with an average net worth of $4.7 billion.

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