Kindle, Simple Touch at war
Amazon.com and bookselling giant Barnes & Noble dueled on Tuesday for the devotion of digital book lovers with bargain-priced versions of their popular electronic readers. Barnes & Noble unveiled a lean new Simple Touch Reader boasting a touch screen, months-long battery life and a price of US$139. The Simple Touch Reader featuring a 6-inch, black-and-white touch screen was available for order at nook.com and is to begin shipping on June 10. Within hours of the Nook announcement, Amazon released a version of its Kindle 3G e-reader discounted to US$164, with the price subsidized by on-screen ads. Kindle 3G with Special Offers was intended to build on the success of a Wi-Fi-only model that has become the hottest-selling Amazon e-reader in the five weeks since it was made available with a US$114 price tag.
Weak quarter expected
Applied Materials Inc forecast weak quarterly revenue, saying concerns about a tough economy have led chipmakers to delay spending to expand capacity, pushing down the company’s shares. Following Japan’s earthquake and tsunami on March 11, investors have worried that robust chip equipment spending could slow despite soaring sales of Apple Inc’s iPhones, iPads and a slew of competing mobile gadgets. Chief financial officer George Davis warned analysts on a conference call that Applied Materials may not achieve its annual fiscal forecast of more than US$11 billion in revenue if its customers don’t see signs of stronger consumer demand. Executives pointed to higher fuel costs and inflation in emerging markets. Some investors believe that chip companies may be spending too quickly on manufacturing expansion and could find themselves slashing capital expenditures next year.
Exports drop 12.5 percent
Exports dropped last month, bearing the brunt of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which destroyed factories and caused massive production losses across the nation, the government said yesterday. Exports fell 12.5 percent year-on-year, the biggest drop in 18 months, to ￥5.16 trillion (US$62.8 billion). Imports rose 8.9 percent to ￥5.62 trillion, resulting in a trade deficit for the first time in three months, the Ministry of Finance said. “Exports fell sharply as Japanese manufacturers simply could not produce goods due to severe supply shortages following the earthquake,” said Hiroshi Watanabe, an economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research. The ministry said it was the first time in 31 years Japan posted a trade deficit for the month of April. Among exports, auto shipments took a beating, dropping a staggering 67 percent last month, while semiconductors fell 19 percent.
Consumer confidence drops
The eurozone debt crisis and higher energy prices have sapped the country’s consumer sentiment, resulting in a third consecutive drop in the GfK index, the research institute said yesterday. On the basis of a survey of 2,000 people done this month, the forecast index for next month dropped to 5.5 points from 5.7 points this month. “The worsening of the debt crisis in Greece and continuing high energy prices are dampening the optimism that German consumers have been exhibiting up to now,” a GfK statement said. A breakdown of the results showed that shopper’s propensity to make large purchases had declined and that dogged inflation had raised fears related to personal revenues.