NEW YORK (AP) - EBay's founder Pierre Omidyar is weighing in on billionaire investor Carl Icahn's claims that the company is not operating in the best manner for shareholder value. Icahn is urging the company to split off its PayPal unit, which is the fastest growing unit of the e-commerce company. In three letters to shareholders over three days, Icahn has also leveled attacks at two directors and company CEO John Donahoe. On Thursday, founder and chairman Omidyar said Icahn is making unsubstantiated claims about the company. He says the idea of splitting off PayPal is not a new one and that eBay has considered it and decided against it in the past. Ebay bought PayPal for $1.3 billion in late 2002. Icahn disclosed a less than 1 percent stake in eBay in January.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose for a third straight week as new data showed a surprisingly strong pace of new-home sales last month. Rates still remain near historically low levels. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year loan increased to 4.37 percent from 4.33 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage rose to 3.39 percent from 3.35 percent. The report Wednesday from the Commerce Department boosted expectations that the spring home buying season will be solid enough to lift the overall economy. Sales of new homes rebounded in January to the fastest rate in more than five years. The strength in purchases followed a slowdown that had been linked to higher mortgage rates and severe winter weather.
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Sony Corp. says it is closing about two-thirds of its U.S. Sony Stores is part of a wide-ranging company restructuring it announced earlier this month. It also said that 1,000 of the previously announced 5,000 job cuts would come from its Sony Electronics unit, mainly in the U.S. and Mexico. The cuts are to take place before March 2015. Sony Electronics President Mike Fasulo said in a statement the moves were "extremely tough" but were necessary to position the company for future growth. The closings affect 20 Sony Stores in several states, including five in California and two in Virginia. It is keeping open 11 Sony Stores including its flagship store in New York, and several stores in California, New York and Florida.
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Job seekers and Michigan employers can connect through a planned virtual career fair. The MiVirtualCareerFair is set for Wednesday. It's to feature 33 employers and be the largest such event to date. Additional virtual career fairs are scheduled for May 21, Aug. 27 and Nov. 12. Since the first MiVirtualCareerFair event two years ago, more than 100 employers and 12,500 job seekers have connected through the state-sponsored events. With MiVirtualCareerFairs, employers can provide links to job postings, company profiles and employee benefits. Job seekers are able to communicate with company representatives, submit their resumes and explore openings. Wednesday's career fair is to include DENSO Manufacturing Michigan Inc., The Detroit Institute for Children, Lansing Community College, Odawa Casino Resort and Proper Tooling. Participation for job seekers is free.
NEW YORK (AP) - Target Corp says the massive data breach over the holidays helped push its profit down 46 percent. The discount retailer said Wednesday that sales fell 5.3 percent as the breach scared off customers. Target says it earned $520 million, or 81 cents per share, for the three months that ended Feb. 1. That compares with a profit of $961 million, or $1.47 per share, a year earlier. Revenue fell to $21.5 billion from $22.7 billion. Revenue at stores open at least a year fell 2.5 percent. Analysts had expected a profit of 80 cents on revenue of $21.5 billion, according to FactSet. The company also offered a profit outlook for the current quarter that is below Wall Street estimates.
GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Office furniture maker Steelcase Inc. is donating its massive pyramid-shaped former research facility in western Michigan to a nonprofit foundation for use as an education hub that's focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Grand Rapids Press reports officials say the education hub would cater to students in preschool through graduate school. Steelcase spokeswoman Laura VanSlyke says the company is excited to see the building take on a different life. The nonprofit Pyramid P20 STEM Education Hub is expected to set the vision for the hub and manage the facility. The seven-story, 664,000-square-foot building is located in Kent County's Gaines Township, near Grand Rapids. There is $5.5 million in a supplemental spending bill for the project that was recently approved by the state Senate.
LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) - A year after Awrey's Bakery avoided going out of business forever it's back with its pastries and cake on store shelves. The Detroit Free Press reports that Ron Beebe and James McColgan bought the Livonia bakery from private equity firms just before its equipment was to be auctioned. Its 200 workers were gone. CEO McColgan says the company is not yet profitable but employs 94 people and is expanding its offerings to meat pies, deli trays and gluten-free products. It is legally known as Minnie Marie Bakers, but operates under the Awrey's Bakery name. The new owners reversed a 1991 decision to remove products from most retail stores and focus on sales through restaurants, airlines, hotels, prisons and vending machines. Awrey's products now are in local groceries.
MILWAUKEE (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture hopes to help honeybees by giving $3 million to farmers and ranchers in the Upper Midwest to improve pastures. The department planned to announce its new program Tuesday morning. It gave details in advance to The Associated Press. Commercial honeybees pollinate about $15 billion worth of agricultural products each year. But the bees have been in decline for more than a decade due to habitat loss and pesticide use. About 65 percent of the nation's commercial beekeepers bring hives to Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas each summer to gather nectar and pollen and build up strength for winter. The USDA hopes to help the bees by encouraging farmers in those states to plant alfalfa, clover and other plants that feed both bees and livestock.
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. home prices fell for the second straight month in December as brutally cold weather, tight supply and higher costs slowed sales. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index declined 0.1 percent from November to December, matching the previous month's decline. The index is not adjusted for seasonal variations, so the dip partly reflects slower buying as winter weather set in. For all of 2013, however, prices rose by a healthy 13.4 percent, mostly because of big gains earlier in the year. That was the largest gain in eight years. The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The December figures are the latest available.
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. consumer confidence fell slightly in February over concerns about the near-term outlook for business conditions and jobs. The Conference Board says that its confidence index dipped to 78.1 in February, down from 79.4 in January. Conference Board economist Lynn Franco says the index still suggests consumers believe the economy has improved although they do not expect it to gain significant momentum in coming months. Consumer sentiment is closely watched for indications about how it will impact consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.