US home prices climb 5.5%
US home prices rose in November, rising more than 5 percent from a year ago in the biggest increase since August 2006, when the housing market started to collapse. However, data on consumer confidence released on Tuesday was less encouraging, with moods falling to their lowest level in more than a year as Americans became more pessimistic about the economic outlook and their financial prospects in the wake of higher taxes. In a fresh sign the housing sector is on the mend, the S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.6 percent in November on a seasonally adjusted basis, in line with economists’ forecasts. Prices in the 20 cities rose 5.5 percent year-on-year, making for the strongest yearly price increase in more than six years when prices were on their way down.
Judge accepts BP’s plea
A US judge accepted an agreement by BP PLC to plead guilty for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster and pay a record US$4 billion in criminal penalties for the worst offshore oil spill in US history. The company pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts related to workers’ deaths, a felony related to obstruction of Congress and two misdemeanors. It faces five years’ probation and the imposition of two monitors who will oversee its safety and ethics for the next four years. Even after settling federal criminal charges, the company faces civil penalties of up to US$21 billion and separate state claims due to be heard at a trial starting in New Orleans on Feb. 25.
LG posts loss on EU fines
LG Electronics Inc, the world’s second-largest TV maker, unexpectedly reported a wider fourth-quarter loss because of EU price-fixing fines, slumping demand and a stronger won. The net loss was 468 billion won (US$432 million), compared with a 112 billion won loss a year earlier, Seoul-based LG said in a statement yesterday. The company was expected to make a profit of 88.8 billion won, based on the average of 21 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales were 13.5 trillion won. LG, which gets about half of its sales from TVs, was fined 491.6 million euros (US$660 million) by EU antitrust regulators last month after an industrywide probe of cathode-ray tube sales. LG made an operating profit of 107.2 billion won compared 85.6 billion won. The TV maker earns about 80 percent of its revenue overseas.
Hynix beats profit forecast
SK Hynix Inc, the world’s second-largest maker of computer chips, reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on strong mobile device chip sales. Net income was 163.7 billion won, compared with a loss of 239.9 billion won a year earlier, the Icheon, South Korea-based chipmaker said in a filing yesterday. The company was expected to make a profit of 120.2 billion won, based on the average of 31 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales rose 6.5 percent to 2.72 trillion won. Increased production of chips for Apple Inc iPhones and other mobile devices helped Hynix offset waning demand for DRAM chips. The chipmaker is also gaining from growing demand from Chinese electronics companies, which buy more than half of its mobile chips, according to Hwang Min Seong, a Hong Kong-based Samsung Securities Co analyst.