BUSINESS NEWS AT A GLANCE
c.2013 New York Times News Service
YELLEN’S FED LEADERSHIP IS AN ALMOST-DONE DEAL
The Federal Reserve’s campaign to encourage economic growth was bolstered Thursday as Janet L. Yellen moved to the verge of confirmation as the next head of the Fed, and a change in Senate procedures made it easier for the White House to fill three other vacancies on the Fed’s board. Yellen’s confirmation to a four-year term is virtually assured after the Senate changed its rules a few hours later to require only 51 votes to confirm most presidential nominees, meaning that Yellen does not need Republican support. The full Senate is expected to vote sometime after Thanksgiving.
CALIFORNIA ENCOURAGED BY HEALTH PLAN ENROLLMENT
Nearly 80,000 people have enrolled in health plans through California’s online marketplace, at a rate of several thousand a day in November — a sizable increase over a month ago, state officials said Thursday. Shortly after the numbers were released, the board of Covered California, the state exchange, voted against going along with a proposal by President Barack Obama to consider renewing previously canceled plans, saying the move would undermine the state marketplace’s growing success. California joins at least seven other states that have declined to go along with the proposal.
WITNESSES IN TRADING TRIAL GIVE PEEK AT SAC’S OPERATIONS
The insider trading trial of Michael S. Steinberg, a former senior employee of SAC Capital Advisors, offered a glimpse inside the wildly successful hedge fund Thursday as the first two witnesses took the stand. One witness told the 12-member jury that portfolio managers were encouraged to come up with good ideas and were rewarded special “Cohen tag bonuses” — named for the hedge fund’s founder, Steven A. Cohen — for ideas that translated into windfall gains. Steinberg has been accused of using confidential information to trade the technology stocks Dell and Nvidia, gaining more than $1 million in returns for SAC.
2 DEALS TO BUY A SYMBOL OF DETROIT’S DECLINE FALL THROUGH
It is the ultimate abandoned building in the city that has become America’s unofficial capital of blight. For decades, the ruins of the Packard Motor Car plant have been a symbol of Detroit’s decay and a stubborn obstacle to the revitalization of its surrounding, and tattered, east side neighborhoods. In a public auction process that has lasted months, six investment groups have bid to buy the 40-acre Packard site out of foreclosure. The two highest bidders have dropped out for lack of money. Now the prospects for an eventual sale are murky at best.
FRANCE INVESTIGATING IKEA ON SPYING ALLEGATIONS
Prosecutors have placed three senior Ikea executives in France under investigation amid allegations that they authorized illegal spying on employees and customers. The well-publicized case has raised uneasy questions about the sharing of data between law enforcement and businesses. The prosecutors said the information — including criminal records, automobile registrations and property records — was collected to check on employees or to reveal unflattering background information about customers bringing complaints or lawsuits against Ikea, a Swedish home furnishings giant with operations in more than 40 countries.
FCC WILL CONSIDER ALLOWING IN-FLIGHT CELLPHONE USE
The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that it would consider changing its rules to allow the use of cellphones and other wireless data devices during flights. The change, which would still be months away if approved, would reverse a longtime ban on the use of cellphones during flights. Although the use of phones in-flight has been vigorously opposed by flight attendants and many passengers, some airlines in Asia and Europe already offer the service. An FCC official said that U.S. airlines would be given the option of outfitting their planes with equipment that would allow the use of cellphones above 10,000 feet.
JURY ADDS $290 MILLION TO WHAT SAMSUNG OWES APPLE
A jury on Thursday said that Samsung Electronics would have to pay Apple $290 million more in damages for violating patents, putting an end to one chapter in the long-running patent struggle between the two tech companies. The jury calculated the damages based on 13 products that infringed Apple’s patents. They determined that two smartphones incurred the heftiest damages: Samsung’s Infuse 4G, at about $100 million, and the Droid Charge, at $60 million. While the price tag will not significantly affect either company’s pocketbooks, the ruling did give Apple another victory in the companies’ continuing legal fight.
WORKING AROUND KEYSTONE XL, SUNCOR STEPS UP OIL PRODUCTION
Suncor Energy, Canada’s top petroleum producer, announced Thursday that it would expand its oil production in 2014 by 10 percent in another sign that the Obama administration’s delay in approving the Keystone XL pipeline extension is not holding back growth in the western Canadian oil sands fields. “We’re set for a strong year of continued production,” Suncor’s chief executive, Steven W. Williams, said. The company announced a capital spending program of $7.45 billion for 2014, $477 million more than it had forecast earlier this year.
WITH PITCHFORK REVIEW, A MUSIC SITE PLANTS A FLAG IN PRINT
After 17 years as the definitive online publication about alternative music, Pitchfork is joining the tweedy world of print with a new quarterly journal. Known for its record reviews that can launch or sink a new band, Pitchfork said Thursday that the first issue of The Pitchfork Review would appear Dec. 14, available by subscription and at select newsstands. The new quarterly will include long-form music features, columns and illustrations “as a way to give readers a more timeless experience rooted in the collector mentality,” the announcement said. Individual issues will cost $19.96, after the year the original site went online.