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Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

February 6, 2014, 1:42 PM

Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

Stocks are sharply higher on Wall Street. Investors have been encouraged by a drop in unemployment claims and some strong earnings reports. The Dow was up about 175 points in afternoon trading, while the S&P was more than 20 points higher and the Nasdaq had gained 45 points. Nine of the S&P 500's 10 sectors are higher, with telecommunications the only exception. Gainers are outpacing losers three to one.

  • Twitter's stock price has taken a big hit today. Twitter reported stronger-than-expected revenue and adjusted earnings in its fourth-quarter financial report yesterday. But shares have dropped more than 20 percent as user numbers suggest that Twitter's growth is slowing. The company added 9 million new monthly users in the fourth quarter, after averaging 16 million new accounts in the first three quarters of the year.
  • A former portfolio manager at SAC Capital Advisors has been convicted of insider trading. Prosecutors say Mathew Martoma and his firm dumped millions of shares of two pharmaceutical companies after he learned in July 2008 about the secret results of an Alzheimer's drug trial. The government says Martoma corrupted a University of Michigan professor who was in charge of the safety committee for what was hoped to be a breakthrough drug to control the disease.
  • Retailers are taking a rosy view of the year ahead despite a rough start. The National Retail Federation says it expects retail sales will increase 4.1 percent in 2014. That's slightly better than last year's gain. Winter storms crimped sales in January, following a holiday season in which stores had to discount heavily to get shoppers to buy. Many retailers are already discounting spring merchandise to help improve sales.
  • The head of the European Central Bank says the eurozone economy suffers from "broad based weakness" and will recover only "at a slow pace." But the bank is holding off on any stimulus effort for now, leaving its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low of 0.25 percent. Some analysts thought it might cut the rate to 0.1 percent. Weak growth and an unexpected drop in inflation have raised concerns that the eurozone might slide into deflation, a sustained drop in prices that can cripple the economy.

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