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With our investment news briefs, Money Morning provides investors with a quick overview of the most important investing news stories from all around the world.
Jobless Claims Fall; China Detains Four Rio Tinto Employees for Alleged Espionage; Retail Roughed Up in June; China Auto Sales Skyrocket; Broadcom Drops Acquisition Attempt; Mortgage Rates Fall; Madoff Won't Appeal Sentence
- Initial unemployment insurance claims for the week ended June 27 saw the biggest drop since December, falling to 565,000, down 52,000 and well below the 605,000 analysts polled by Reuters expected. The data was skewed by an unusual pattern of layoffs in the automotive industry. "Ignore this number. Our old and unpredictable friend the annual auto shutdowns has struck again, rendering the data meaningless this week and for the next few weeks," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in an interview with Reuters.
- China's foreign ministry is claiming that a detained Rio Tinto PLC (NYSE ADR: RTP) executive and three colleagues "stole Chinese state secrets for a foreign country," The Wall Street Journal reported. The accusation puts a strain on an already tense business dispute between Rio Tinto and Aluminum Corp. of China (NYSE ADR: ACH), known as Chinalco. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the theft of the secrets "hurt China's economic interests and economic security." Last month, Rio Tinto abandoned a $19.5 billion deal to expand an alliance with Chinalco.
- Retail sales in the United States for June continued their downward trend for the tenth straight month, with comparable store sales dropping 4.9%, in line with projections. The number does not include Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), which stopped reporting monthly same-store data after April. Hardest hit in the discounter category was BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. (NYSE: BJ), with comparable store sales falling 7.5%. Target Corp.'s (NYSE: TGT) same-store sales were worse than analyst expectations, dropping 6.2%. However, it did say its second quarter earnings should "meet or exceed" current Wall Street projections and that its gross margin rate last month was above expectations, suggesting lower markdowns. "Retailers are saying economic pressures are continuing and they are deeply concerned," said Jeff Augustin, a vice president at EDS told The Wall Street Journal. "It's been month after month of poor sales for most of them."
- June auto sales in China came roaring back from a year earlier, rising 47.7% thanks to government stimulus measures, Reuters reported, citing the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. A total of 872,900 cars were sold, compared to the 588,400 in June 2008 and the 829,100 sold in May. China is the strongest market for beleaguered U.S. automaker General Motors Corp. (OTC: GMGMQ), which saw its vehicle sales rise 38% in the first half.
- Chip maker Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) abandoned its two-month attempt to acquire network storage infrastructure developer Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) after Emulex's board rejected Broadcom's latest offer as inadequate. Broadcom's offer of $11 per share was the best one it would make to Emulex, Broadcom said in a statement yesterday (Thursday). Broadcom will now focus on other options to boost its growth, it said. Emulex shares dropped 7.84%, down 76 cents to $8.94 in trading yesterday, while Broadcom stock rose 4.11%, up 96 cents to close at $24.31. "Broadcom can be fine without [Emulex]," said Robert W. Baird & Co. Tristan Gerra analyst told Bloomberg News. "They could develop products internally, or there are other companies that could be bought."
- Long-term fixed mortgage rates in the United States fell to 5.20% in the week ended July 9, representing a 0.12% drop, according to Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE). That compares to a rate of 6.37% a year earlier. "Interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell for the second week in a row to the lowest level in six weeks amid market concerns over a weakening labor market," Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's vice president and chief economist, said in a statement. The most recent jobs report showed the unemployment rate climbed to 9.5%.
- Life-jailed Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff will not appeal his 150-year prison sentence, Bloomberg News reported. "In terms of the appeal, done, over," defense attorney Ira Sorkin said in a Bloomberg interview today, declining to elaborate on Madoff's reason for not appealing. The decision means the 71-year-old Madoff will spend the rest of his life in prison and will have no chance of parole.