Smartphone shopping increased over holidays
Shopping via smartphone was up during the holidays, according to South Side mobile commerce platform company Branding Brand. The company's index, which tracked 84 mobile sites over a period of 35 days starting the day before Thanksgiving, found 77 million visitors and 620,000 orders placed. Branding Brand calculated that 21 percent of total e-commerce traffic came through smartphones. While such visits were up 109 percent from a year earlier, the average order value dropped 5 percent.
Beige Book: Fed sees economy picking up
The U.S. economy picked up across much of the country last month, boosted by auto and home sales, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday in its Beige Book business survey. Business activity in the Fourth District, which includes Pittsburgh, expanded at a modest pace with sluggish hiring. Construction activity rose and retailers described the holiday shopping season as solid. Shale gas activity continued at a robust pace, though coal production trended lower.
U.S. consumer prices unchanged in December
Lower gas costs offset more expensive food and higher rents to keep inflation flat last month. The Labor Department said Wednesday that food prices increased 0.2 percent in December from November. Gasoline prices fell a seasonally adjusted 2.3 percent. The flat reading of the December consumer price index caps a year when inflation slowed. Consumer prices rose only 1.7 percent in 2012, down from 3 percent in 2011.
Homebuilder confidence steady near 7-year high
Confidence among U.S. homebuilders held steady in January at the highest level in nearly seven years, but builders are feeling slightly less optimistic about their prospects for sales over the next six months. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Wednesday held at 47, the same as in December and the highest reading since April 2006, just before the housing bubble burst.
U.S. factory output rises for second straight month
U.S. factory production rose in December for the second straight month, buoyed by more output of autos, electronics and business equipment. The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that factory output increased 0.8 percent last month compared with November. That followed a 1.3 percent rise in November, which partly reflected a rebound from Superstorm Sandy. Total industrial production increased 0.3 percent in December from November. That followed a 1 percent rise in November.
Goldman, Morgan Stanley will pay $557 million
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will pay a combined $557 million to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on homeowners who should have been allowed to stay in their homes. The agreements announced Wednesday with the Federal Reserve were similar to deals struck earlier this month with 10 other major banks and mortgage lenders.