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Stock buybacks tumble to three-year low

NEW YORK -- Stock buybacks are falling to a three-year low just as chief executive officers boost spending on plants and equipment to a record.

Companies announced $1.1 billion of repurchases a day on average during the earnings season in April and May, the lowest level since mid-2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and TrimTabs Investment Research Inc. Capital spending in the United States has risen since 2010 and reached $63.6 billion in March. Devon Energy Corp. eliminated buybacks and boosted exploration and production spending 18 percent. United Parcel Service Inc. cut repurchases in order to buy TNT Express NV.

After the biggest first-quarter gain for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index since 1998, bears say the 58 percent decline in buybacks removes key support for equities amid Europe's debt crisis and a weakening U.S. recovery.

-- Bloomberg News


Debate on fuel-efficient cabs

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) -- Nissan is supplying New York City fuel-efficient cabs, including six electric cars for testing, but acknowledged uncertainties Tuesday about an ongoing "debate" over charging standards for electric vehicles.

The battle in fast-charging stations, the equivalent of gasoline stands for electric vehicles, is threatening to turn into a futuristic replay of other major platform wars like VHS of Panasonic Corp. versus Sony Corp.'s Beta in video.

Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer said the debate was still going on, and it was unknown whether nations will adopt the CHAdeMo used by Nissan, or the competing one called Combo backed by General Motors Co. and European automakers. The standards use different plugs and aren't compatible.


Chromebooks updated

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google will try to win more converts to a computer operating system revolving around its popular Chrome Web browser with a new wave of lightweight laptops built by Samsung Electronics.

Tuesday's release of the next-generation Chromebooks will give Google and Samsung another opportunity to persuade consumers and businesses to buy an unconventional computer instead of machines running on familiar software by industry pioneers Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.

Unlike most computers, Google's Chromebooks don't have a hard drive. They function like terminals dependent on an Internet connection.


RIM expects layoffs

TORONTO (AP) -- Struggling BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion warned Tuesday that it will have an operating loss in the current March-June quarter and said there will be significant layoffs this year.

RIM said in a release that it has hired J.P. Morgan and RBC Capital Markets to help the company evaluate various strategies, including opportunities to partner with other companies and license software as well as other alternatives.

Waterloo Ont.-based RIM, a pioneer in the smartphone market, made no mention of a sale of the company, but new Chief Executive Thorsten Heins did not rule it out after RIM's last earnings were released in late March.


BYD responds to fatal crash

BEIJING -- The Warren Buffett-backed Chinese carmaker BYD Co. defended the safety of its e6 electric car Tuesday after the vehicle was involved in a fiery collision that killed three people and raised new concerns about one of China's most ambitious companies.

BYD, which was considered one of China's most promising brands just a few years ago, said Saturday's crash in the southern city of Shenzhen took place after a drunken driver in a Nissan GT-R coupe speeding 112 mph slammed into an e6 taxi, killing the driver and two passengers.

The high-profile accident marks another setback for BYD, which has struggled to deliver on the optimism raised by Buffett's $230 million investment in 2009 for a 10 percent stake in the company, which started out as a battery maker.

-- Los Angeles Times