US producer prices unexpectedly fell in April, led by the biggest drop for food in almost three decades and as sluggish demand held down the cost of goods from clothing to computers. \n"It's very tough to raise prices," said Howard Bernick, chief executive of Alberto-Culver Co, the largest maker of beauty-salon products. Retailers "don't want to accept that." \nThe 0.2 percent drop in the index of prices paid to factories, farmers and other suppliers of goods and materials followed a 1 percent gain in March, the Labor Department said. \nExcluding food and energy, the index rose 0.1 percent, the 11th straight reading of that size or smaller. \nAlberto-Culver hasn't raised prices this year, Bernick said. \nEMC Corp is charging less for data storage systems, leading the company to a third quarterly loss. Amid little sign of inflationary pressures, Federal Reserve policy makers have room to leave the benchmark interest rate at a 40-year low and focus on ensuring that the economy continues to recover from a recession that started last year. \nDemand watch \n"Fed officials are watching demand now, not inflation," said Christopher Low, chief economist at First Tennessee Bank in New York. "This report offers no reason to change that focus." \nEconomists had expected the index of prices at the wholesale level to rise 0.4 percent, based on the median of 61 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. They had also projected a 0.1 percent gain in prices excluding food and energy. \nAl Broaddus, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview this week that policy makers must be prepared to guard against falling prices. It would be "ironic to have fought all this time to bring the inflation rate down ... and then lose price stability on the down side," the paper quoted Broaddus. \nGrowth concerns \nUS stocks fell amid investor concerns that slower growth will weaken a rebound in profits. Treasuries rose on signs the economic recovery is slowing. \nThe Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 104 points, or 1 percent. The NASDAQ Composite Index fell 47 points, or 2.9 percent. The Treasury's 4 7/8 percent note maturing in February 2012 rose 7/32, pushing the yield down 3 basis points to 5.13 percent. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point. \nThe US economy grew at a 5.8 percent annual rate in the first quarter, the fastest in two years. Economists expect that growth will slow to a 3.1 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, the latest Blue Chip Economic Indicators survey shows. \nProducer prices in April were 2 percent lower than in the same month last year. In February, prices were down 2.6 percent from a year earlier, the biggest decrease since February 1950. \nConsumer prices \nPrices for consumer products, including cars, clothing, gasoline and food, fell 0.2 percent in April and were 2.4 percent lower than last year. \nFood prices fell 3.2 percent, the largest decline since June 1974, led by a record 47 percent decline for vegetables. Lettuce prices had soared in March after a cold snap in Arizona and California reduced the crop and costs retreated last month. \nPassenger car prices were unchanged after falling 0.4 percent in March. General Motors Corp, the world's largest automaker, extended cash rebates and no-interest financing on most models until April 30. The loans are accounted for as a price decline because factories absorb the cost. \nClothing prices fell 0.7 percent, the most since December 1982, led by a 1.4 percent drop in costs for men's and boy's apparel. A 4.4 percent rise in tobacco costs, the biggest in almost a year, and a 4.2 percent increase for gasoline kept the producer price index from falling further. \nCapital goods \nCapital goods prices, a measure of demand for business equipment, fell 0.1 percent in April after rising 0.1 percent in March. Computer prices fell 1.3 percent and were 27 percent lower from a year earlier. Prices of light trucks fell 1.4 percent and were down 2.4 percent from April 2001. \n"I don't think any company can dominate the market or dictate prices," said Mike Larson, Hewlett-Packard Co's senior vice president in charge of PC sales in the Americas. \nConcerns that business investment in new factories, equipment and software will be slow to pick up were the primary reason for the drop in expectations, the Blue Chip survey showed. \nThe Fed's Open Market Committee is also looking for signs of business investment in equipment and software, which has fallen for more than a year. \n"The short-term outlook in capital investment is rather mixed," Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said Friday. \nPrice increases \nPrice increases were still larger for semi-finished materials and raw goods. Intermediate goods prices rose 0.9 percent in April, led by petroleum products such as jet fuel and gasoline, and by steel. The US imposed tariffs on imported steel in March. \nIntermediate prices are still down 2.4 percent from the same month last year. \nPrices for electronic components, which include semiconductors, fell 0.4 percent in April and were down 1.7 percent from a year earlier. \nPrices for some intermediate goods show how manufacturing has emerged this year from an 18-month slump. Chemicals and resins increased. \nDow Chemical Co, the largest US chemical maker, is among companies reporting higher demand for some products. Rail shipments of chemicals were up almost a third in late April from the start of the year, data from the Association of American Railroads Show. \nPrices for crude goods, which are used at the earliest stage of production, rose 5.5 percent after rising 4 percent in March. \nPetroleum and natural gas costs helped drive up that index. Core crude prices rose 3.6 percent, led by scrap metal, after falling 0.7 percent in March. Still, core crude prices are down 19 percent from a year ago.
‘ACCORDING TO PLAN’: A company official said that it has set up production sites worldwide to provide services and that its Wisconsin project was going smoothly Hon Hai Precision Industry Co’s (鴻海精密) smart manufacturing center in Wisconsin would begin trial manufacturing in the middle of this year, the company said yesterday, adding that it plans to build a research institute to develop key technologies to support growth over the next five years. Hon Hai, known internationally as Foxconn Technology Group (富士康科技集團), said in an annual report submitted to the Taiwan Stock Exchange that its planned Foxconn Institute for Research in Science and Technology would conduct research into artificial intelligence, next-generation communications, quantum computing, cybersecurity and nano semiconductors in Taiwan. Hon Hai is to make products at the center
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E Ink Holdings Inc (元太科技), the world’s sole supplier of e-paper displays for e-readers and shelf labels, posted its best quarterly net profit for the first quarter in nine years amid increased demand during a traditionally slow season. Net profit soared 80 percent to NT$787 million (US$26.23 million) in the quarter ended March 31, compared with NT$438 million a year earlier. That translated into earnings per share of NT$0.69, up from NT$0.39. E Ink posted lower royalty income of NT$371.23 million last quarter from NT$448.74 million a year earlier, a company financial statement showed. E Ink said that it expects royalty income to