Business Tidbits

Poor in Cages Show Dark Side of Hong Kong Boom

HONG KONG (AP) – For many of the richest people in Hong Kong, one of Asia’s wealthiest cities, home is a mansion with an expansive view from the heights of Victoria Peak. For some of the poorest, like Leung Cho-yin, home is a metal cage.

The 67-year-old former butcher pays 1,300 Hong Kong dollars ($167) a month for one of about a dozen wire mesh cages resembling rabbit hutches crammed into a dilapidated apartment in a gritty, working-class neighborhood.

The cages, stacked on top of each other, measure 16 square feet. To keep bedbugs away, Leung and his roommates put thin pads, bamboo mats, even old linoleum on their cages’ wooden planks instead of mattresses.

Humbled Toyota Rolls Out New Tundra Pickup

DETROIT (AP) – Back in 2007, Toyota trumpeted its bulked-up Tundra as a game-changer that would cut into Detroit’s dominance of the U.S. pickup market.

“The truck that’s changing it all,” was the tagline from an ad that featured the beefy Tundra pulling a 10,000-pound trailer up a steep ramp.

But after six years on the market, the Tundra hasn’t changed much of anything. Instead, Toyota learned that unlike car buyers, American pickup owners are still fiercely loyal to their Fords, Rams and Chevrolets. And that Detroit feverishly guards its lead in the high-margin truck business.

US Unemployment Aid Applications Decline to 366,000

WASHINGTON (AP) – Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, indicating companies continue to hire at a modest but steady pace.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 350,500, the lowest in nearly five years. The average  is low because of seasonal factors, which reduced applications sharply last month.

US Consumer Debt Up in December on Student, Auto Loans

WASHINGTON (AP) – Americans stepped up borrowing in December to buy cars and attend school. But they cut back sharply on credit card use, continuing a trend that could hold back growth this year.

Consumer borrowing rose $14.6 billion in December from November to a total of $2.78 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. That’s the highest level on record.

The increase was driven entirely by gains in student and auto loans. Borrowing in the category that measures those loans increased $18.2 billion to $1.93 trillion, the biggest monthly gain since November 2001.

US Productivity Fell At 2 Percent Rate

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. worker productivity shrank in the final three months of 2012 although the decline was caused by temporary factors.

Productivity contracted at an annual rate of 2 percent in the October-December quarter, the biggest drop since the first quarter of 2011, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Productivity had risen at a 3.2 percent rate in the July-September quarter.

Labor costs rose at a 4.5 percent rate in the fourth quarter, the fastest gain since the first quarter of 2012.

LinkedIn’s 4Q Results Soar Past Street Views

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Online professional-networking service LinkedIn’s fourth-quarter performance added another line yesterday to its sterling resume as a public company.

The results extended LinkedIn Corp.’s uninterrupted streak of exceeding analysts’ projections for both earnings and revenue. It marked the seventh consecutive quarter since LinkedIn’s May 2011 IPO that the company has pulled that off, to the delight of investors.

The run of pleasant surprises is one of the reasons that LinkedIn’s stock has tripled from its initial public offering price of $45. The shares surged $12.11, or nearly 10 percent, to $136.20 in extended trading after the numbers came out.