Business news

Agents raid bankrupt solar energy company


SAN JOSE, CALIF. — Federal agents searched Solyndra Inc.’s Fremont, Calif., headquarters Thursday, just days after the high-profile solar manufacturer filed for bankruptcy protection and a week before its top executives are expected to testify before Congress.

Solyndra, which manufactured tubular-shaped solar panels for commercial rooftops, stunned the clean-tech community when it abruptly announced last week that fierce competition from China had forced it to suspend operations and immediately lay off 1,100 employees.

Solyndra was awarded a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy that has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the company’s spectacular collapse. The search warrant is under seal, so it remains unclear exactly what investigators are looking for.

Mortgage rates low, but few can qualify

WASHINGTON — Mortgage rates have reached their lowest levels in six decades, making this the best time in most Americans’ lives to buy or refinance a home.

Yet most people can’t take advantage. Half of would-be buyers say they’ll never save enough for the 20 percent down payment now usually required for buying a home. And the drop in home values has erased much of the equity people need to refinance.

This week, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.12 percent, the lowest since mortgage buyer Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971. The last time rates were cheaper was in 1951, when most long-term loans lasted just 20 or 25 years.

Wal-Mart will bring back layaway option

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart is bringing back something its customers have been seeking since the Great Recession: layaway.

The world’s largest retailer, which ditched the pay-as-you-go plans in 2006, is rolling out a holiday layaway plan for Oct. 17 through Dec. 16. Wal-Mart is following rivals that brought back the service during the thick of the recession.

Wal-Mart’s layaway option comes at a time when it is trying to reverse nine consecutive quarters of revenue declines at its namesake U.S. stores.

Investor takes stake in Yahoo, slams CEO

LOS ANGELES — An activist investment fund disclosed Thursday that it has bought a
5.2 percent stake in troubled Web portal Yahoo Inc. and called for sweeping changes to the board.

A public letter from Daniel Loeb, the chief executive of investment adviser Third Point, comes after Yahoo’s board fired CEO Carol Bartz on Tuesday after 2 1/2 years on the job, a move she bitterly criticized in an interview published Thursday.

Loeb said the board made a “serious misjudgment” in hiring Bartz, and he criticized it for taking so long to fire her.

Google to buy Zagat, restaurant reviewer

SAN FRANCISCO — Google said Thursday that it is buying Zagat, the maker of the slender guidebooks that offer one-paragraph reviews and numerical ratings of eateries, peppered with partial quotes from the people who love and hate them.

Google plans to integrate Zagat’s online reviews into its Google Maps service and its basic search results. Google said Zagat’s style, drawing on snippet-sized customer reviews, was mobile before mobile was cool.

In other news

TOTAL U.S. MONEY market mutual fund assets rose $6.87 billion to $2.644 trillion for the week that ended Wednesday, the Investment Company Insti­tute said Thursday. Assets of the nation’s retail money market mu­tual funds fell $1.23 billion to $943.57 billion, the Washington-based mutual fund trade group said. Assets of taxable money market funds in the retail category fell $2.3 billion to $748.49 bil­lion.



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