The Associated Press___ Facebook's $16 billion IPO one of world's largest NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Facebook's initial public offering of stock is shaping up to be one of the largest ever. The world's definitive online social network is raising at least $16 billion, a big windfall for a company that began eight years ago with no way to make money. Facebook priced its IPO at $38 per share on Thursday, at the high end of its expected range. If extra shares reserved to cover additional demand are sold as part of the transaction, Facebook Inc. and its early investors stand to reap as much as $18.4 billion from the IPO. The IPO values the company at around $104 billion, slightly more than Amazon.com, and well above well-known corporations such as Disney and Kraft. The $38 is the price at which the investment banks orchestrating the offering will sell the stock to their clients. Facebook's stock is expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market sometime Friday morning under the ticker symbol "FB." That's when so-called retail investors can try to buy the stock. ___ Wal-Mart's 1Q profit up 10.1 percent NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Wal-Mart's U.S. business finally got its groove back. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported a 10.1 percent increase in first-quarter profit that beat Wall Street estimates as its re-emphasis on low prices drove bargain-hungry U.S. shoppers into its stores. The world's largest retailer also offered an upbeat profit outlook for the current quarter, and its shares rose 4 percent. The strong results signal a turnaround at Wal-Mart's U.S. business, which had suffered during the economic downturn as its core low-income customers were hit hard by joblessness and other challenges. Adding to that, the business, which accounts for 62 percent of Wal-Mart's total net sales, had made some mistakes in veering away from its "everyday low prices" strategy and getting rid of popular merchandise.
___US unemployment aid applications stay at 370,000 WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits was unchanged last week, suggesting modest but steady gains in the job market. The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly unemployment aid applications stayed at a seasonally adjusted 370,000, the same level as the previous week. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell from roughly 380,000 to 375,000. Applications for benefits surged in April to a five-month high of 392,000. They have fallen back since then and are near the lowest levels in four years. The decline suggests hiring could pick up in May after slumping in the previous two months. When applications drop below 375,000 a week, it generally suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. ___ Report: Fewer US homes foreclosed upon in April LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ National foreclosure trends took a positive turn in April, as the number of homes seized by banks declined and fewer properties entered into the foreclosure process. But state-level data point to potentially more home repossessions ahead in Florida and many of the 25 other states where courts are required to sign off on foreclosures. All told, the number of U.S. homes taken back by lenders in April declined 7 percent from March, the third consecutive monthly decline, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday. Home repossessions fell 26 percent compared with April of last year. ___ US 30-year mortgage rate falls to record 3.79 percent WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Average U.S. rates for 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgages fell to record lows for the third straight week. The steady decline has made home-buying and refinancing more affordable than ever for those who can qualify. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year loan dipped to 3.79 percent. That's down from 3.83 percent last week and the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.
The 15-year mortgage, a popular option for refinancing, declined to 3.04 percent. That's down from last week's 3.05 percent.___ Sears spins off Canada stake to focus on US stores HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) â¿¿ Sears Holdings Corp. said Thursday it returned to a profit in the first quarter as it benefitted from a gain on the sale of underperforming stores. The troubled retailer also said it would spinoff a stake in its Canada unit to focus on turning around its U.S. business. The Hoffman Estates, Ill., company, which runs Sears, Kmart and Lands' End, said it earned $189 million, or $1.78 per share, for the period ended April 28. It lost $170 million, or $1.58 per share, a year ago. The current quarter included a $233 million gain on the sale of 11 U.S. stores, three Canadian stores and leasehold interest. ___ Gap 1Q net income flat, company raises guidance SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Clothing seller Gap Inc. said Thursday that sales improved at its Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic chains, as well as online. But its first-quarter net income was unchanged from a year ago as rising costs offset those gains. The company's adjusted results met analysts' forecasts, and Gap raised its guidance for the year. Gap has struggled for years to reclaim its status as a fashion leader, and the results show it is making strides in its effort to get more people to shop in its stores. More than two-thirds of the company's revenue came from stores in the U.S., while 12 percent was generated online. ___ Buffett's Berkshire to buy Media General papers NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Billionaire Warren Buffett's company is making another foray into newspapers, agreeing to buy 63 newspapers from Media General Inc. for $142 million. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is also extending a loan to Media General and taking a 19.9 percent stake in the company, which will still own 18 TV stations. Media General also owns some websites, such as coupon provider DealTaker.com.
Media General on Thursday said the deal includes all of its newspapers except the Tampa Tribune of Florida and smaller newspapers in that market. It's in talks to sell those newspapers to other buyers.___ US government sets stiff tariffs on China solar panels WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Obama administration moved Thursday to impose stiff new tariffs on solar panels made in China, finding that Chinese companies are flooding the U.S. market with government-subsidized products. The Commerce Department said Chinese producers have dumped solar cells and panels in the U.S. at margins ranging from 31 percent to nearly 250 percent. If the preliminary ruling is upheld, tariffs averaging 31 percent could be imposed on Chinese solar-panel imports. The tariffs would be in addition to fees ranging from 2.9 percent to 4.73 percent imposed in March after the department found that China is improperly subsidizing its solar manufacturers. ___ Spain banking sector shaken by report of bank run MADRID (AP) â¿¿ Confidence in Spain's banks and its teetering economy was shaken Thursday after a newspaper reported that depositors were rushing to withdraw their money from Bankia, a troubled bank that was effectively nationalized just a week ago. Adding to the anxiety, credit rating agency Moody's downgraded 17 Spanish banks. The banking sector has been hit hard by a collapse in the Spain's property market and is facing tough funding rules that many analysts fear it can't afford. Anxiety about Spain's banks comes as the eurozone financial crisis intensifies. Political turmoil in Greece has increased the likelihood that it could leave the 17-country monetary union, a move that could have ripple effects throughout Europe and the world's financial markets. ___ By The Associated Press(equals) The Dow Jones Industrial average lost 156.06 points, most of it toward the end of the trading day, to close at 12,442.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 19.94 points to 1,304.86, its lowest close since Jan. 17. The Nasdaq composite fell 60.35 points to 2,813.69.
Benchmark oil fell 25 cents to finish at $92.56 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price many international oil products, fell $2.26 to end at $107.49 per barrel in London.Natural gas fell 2.4 cents to end the day at $2.594 per 1,000 cubic feet in New York. Heating oil dropped 4.86 cents to end at $2.849 per gallon and gasoline futures declined 4.27 cents to $2.8782 per gallon.