Factory orders jump 1 percent in December

Orders to U.S. factories posted a big gain in December, far exceeding expectations and adding to evidence that the manufacturing sector is supporting the economic recovery.  The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders rose by 1 percent last month, double the 0.5 percent forecast by economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. It was the eighth increase in the past nine months.

The advance was led by big gains in orders for metals such as steel and aluminum, as well as machinery. However, orders for transportation equipment as well as computers and electronics dipped slightly.

Economists are hoping the manufacturing sector is beginning to rebound as the economy struggles to emerge from the worst recession since the 1930s. The sector has become a pocket of strength, though some of it flows from temporary factors such as customers needing to add to depleted stockpiles. [Read the full article] .

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The West Virginia Association of Counties has given its guarded blessing to a proposal meant to free business inventory and equipment from property taxes.

But that group and others remain concerned about the resulting loss of revenue, particularly because at least two-thirds of all property tax proceeds benefit public schools.

“I’m very concerned about the direction we’re going in with public education,” Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, told lawmakers Wednesday. “We continue to give tax dollars away.”

Dale and others spoke at a House chamber public hearing on a measure pitched by Gov. Joe Manchin.

The measure comes from an ongoing study commissioned by the governor. The Tax Modernization Project Work Group believes these levies on business property hinder economic development, its chairman, state Tax Commissioner Chris Morris, said. [Read the full article]

Home and auto lender GMAC Financial Services said Thursday it lost $5 billion in the last three months of 2009, as losses from its mortgage operations kept the company in the red for another quarter.

GMAC, which is owned by the federal government, is still working to sell its troubled home lending business, ResCap. Mortgage operations overall lost more than $4 billion during the quarter, and GMAC $3.3 billion charge related to its efforts to sell the unit.

The company has said that options for ResCap include selling the unit, selling off its bad assets, but keeping the subsidiary or putting it into bankruptcy.

GMAC’s automotive operations proved to be a bright spot. The unit has been profitable recently and made $369 million during the quarter. GMAC is the main lender for the General Motors Co. customers and dealers and recently took on the financing duties for Chrysler Group LLC. [Read the full article]

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Allianz Group Chief Economist and Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (“Allianz Life”) President and CEO will present the savings trends for the decade during a February 9 webinar at 12 noon eastern. Emerging issues for the changes in US saving behavior, which offers a key growth opportunity for the retirement business, and asset transfer, will be discussed.

Or to receive dial-in information and instructions, please contact: Laurie Bauer, Allianz Life, 763-765-6174, laurie.bauer@allianzlife.com

Founded in 1896, Allianz Life provides fixed and variable annuities, and life insurance in the U.S. Allianz products are offered through a nationwide network of independent distribution. [Read the full article]

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