Amazon passes Alphabet to become 2nd most valuable company

March 20 (UPI) — Amazon became the second most valuable company in the world Tuesday, surpassing Alphabet, the parent company of Google, in stock value.

Amazon’s stock market value increased 2.7 percent by the end of the day, bringing its total value to $768 billion at $1,586.51 per share. The stock jump was enough to pass Alphabet, which fell 0.4 percent for a total value of $762.5 billion.

The milestone comes days after Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos topped the Forbes annual billionaires list with a total wealth of $112 billion, becoming the first American to pass the $100 billion mark.

Last month, Amazon surpassed Microsoft in value.

Apple has a comfortable lead at the top spot with an $889 billion valuation.

But Amazon is rising fast, increasing in value by 85 percent over the past 12 months, including 35 percent so far in 2018, CNBC reported.

As neither company shows any signs of slowing down, Wall Street analysts predict at least one of them may soon reach a value of $1 trillion, which would be the first for any company.


Google pledges $300M for news initiative

March 20 (UPI) — Google pledged $300 million Tuesday to start a new initiative to “elevate and strengthen quality journalism” throughout the next three years.

The campaign to be known as the Google News Initiative includes programs to combat the spread of false information and to drive subscriptions to news publications, Google Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler wrote in a blog post.

“The commitments we’re making through the Google News Initiative demonstrate that news and quality journalism is a top priority for Google,” Schindler wrote. “We know that success can only be achieved by working together, and we look forward to collaborating with the news industry to build a stronger future for journalism.”

As part of the initiative Schindler said Google is creating a Disinfo Lab alongside the Harvard Kennedy School’s First Draft to combat misinformation during elections and breaking news event when the company said “bad actors” often attempt to target Google platforms to spread inaccurate content.


Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook under fire from politicians over data controversy

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic want answers after Facebook’s latest controversy involving the 2016 election.

The growing scrutiny comes after news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign, reportedly gained access to information about 50 million Facebook (FB) users.

The data was collected by a professor for academic purposes in accordance with Facebook rules, the company said. But then the information was transferred to third parties, including Cambridge Analytica. The transfer violated Facebook policies.

Facebook on Friday night said it has booted Cambridge Analytica from using its platform.

News of the data transfer sparked renewed questions about whether the social media company does enough to protect its users.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Saturday that her office is opening an investigation into Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote on Twitter Saturday that “Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary.”

“It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves,” she said. “They say ‘trust us.’

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WiFi-equipped school buses help students get online

ST. STEPHEN, S.C. — For eighth-grader Lakaysha Governor, her daily two-hour school bus commute had been spent catching up with friends and trying to tune out distractions from unruly preschoolers.

Now, thanks to Google, the aspiring forensic anthropologist said she’s able to spend that time finishing up her daily school work so she’s free to engage in her favorite activity once she gets home: reading.

Lakaysha is one of nearly 2,000 students in South Carolina’s rural Berkeley County benefiting from a grant from Google, which on Monday unveiled one of its 28 WiFi-equipped school buses in the area. The tech giant has also given the school district 1,700 Chromebooks, the stripped-down laptops on which public school children do their class and homework as school books largely are replaced by online worksheets and articles.

Some students like Lakaysha in this sprawling, rural district about 50 miles north of Charleston spend a total of two hours riding the bus to and from school each day. With much of students’ homework now online-only, that’s time lost in terms of trying to prepare for the next day.

Lilyn Hester, a Google spokeswoman based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told CBS affiliate WCSC-TV that the “Rolling Study Halls” pilot program at Berkeley County offers the district an opportunity to “bridge the digital divide.”

“A Rolling Study Hall is like an extended classroom. It addresses the needs of students that don’t WiFi or Internet access in their home” Hester said.


Papa John’s is no longer the official pizza of the NFL after ‘mutual decision’ to end sponsorship

Pizza chain Papa John’s is no longer the official pizza of the NFL.

Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie told investors Tuesday that the company and the league made the decision mutually stating that it was in the company’s best interest, according to ESPN.

“While the NFL remains an important channel for us we have determined that there are better ways to reach and activate this audience,” Ritchie said. “Thus we will shift our marketing for the broader NFL sponsorship to focus on our partnership with 22 specific NFL teams, a significant presence on league broadcast and digital platforms and on our relationships with many of the league’s most popular players and personalities.”

Papa John’s has been the official pizza of the NFL since 2010.


An unlikely company has the most to gain if Sears closes all its stores

Sears’ business is declining so rapidly that Wall Street analysts are now betting on who stands to win if the company closes all of its stores.

In that scenario, the retailer with the most to gain is Best Buy, according to a new analysis by UBS.

Best Buy might seem like an unlikely winner if Sears disappears. It’s best known for selling electronics, whereas Sears’ main businesses are apparel and appliances.

But Best Buy has been aggressively expanding its share of the appliance market in recent years. Thanks to that increasing emphasis on appliances, as well as its proximity to existing Sears and Kmart stores, Best Buy would get the biggest lift in same-store sales if all Sears stores closed, analysts found.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Oleksiy Maksymenko/imageBROK/REX/Shutterstock (4720435a) People entering Sears store, Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Toronto, Canada, Northern America VARIOUS

Home Depot and Lowe’s would also get a huge boost in appliance sales from the demise of Sears. Together, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Lowe’s would capture about 80% of Sears’ appliance business if all its stores closed, analysts said.

Amazon is missing from that list — even though Sears is now selling its Kenmore appliances through Amazon — because shoppers still prefer to buy appliances in physical stores, according to the analysts.


Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos just passed Bill Gates for world’s richest person

Jeff Bezos has leapfrogged Bill Gates again for the title of world’s richest billionaire. But they’re both having a pretty good day.

Amazon stock jumped 13.5% on Friday after the company turned in another incredible earnings report — more than a quarter-billion dollars in profit in three months.

Bezos owned nearly 80 million shares in Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) as of August, according to the most recent available data from FactSet. He made more than $10 billion from the one-day stock surge and is now worth well over $90 billion.

At the end of trading on Thursday, Gates occupied the top spot in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with a net worth of $88 billion. Bezos had $83.5 billion, and his big day on Friday was more than enough to close the gap.

But Gates also got a boost as Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) stock rose 7%. Gates owned 103 million shares as of September, according to FactSet. Microsoft stock climbed about $6 a share, so Gates added almost $600 million to his personal wealth.

Bezos briefly dethroned Gates once before, on July 27, when his net worth topped $90 billion because of a temporary surge in Amazon stock.
Amazon has been on a tear this year. It acquired Whole Foods and plans to establish a second headquarters somewhere in North America. More than 200 cities and regions have submitted bids to become the home for HQ2.

–CNNMoney’s Matt Egan contributed to this report.

US weekly jobless claims total 243,000, vs 251,000 expected

A job seeker (L) talks to representatives of Hilti at the Job Market at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Film Interactive Festival 2017 in Austin, Texas.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to more than a one-month low last week as claims in Texas and Florida continued to decline after being boosted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 243,000 for the week ended Oct. 7, the lowest level since late August, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 2,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.

A Labor Department official said Harvey and Irma along with Hurricane Maria affected claims for Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In addition, claims for Virginia were estimated.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 251,000 in the latest week. Claims have been declining since surging to an almost three-year high of 298,000 at the start of September as workers displaced by the hurricanes were left temporarily unemployed.

As a result of Harvey and Irma, nonfarm payrolls dropped by 33,000 jobs last month, the first decrease in employment in seven years. A rebound in job growth is expected in October, boosted by the return of the dislocated workers as well as the start of rebuilding and clean-up efforts in storm-ravaged areas.

Underscoring the labor market’s underlying strength, claims have now been below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a robust labor market, for 136 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.


BlackBerry shares soar as software sales hit record

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s BlackBerry Ltd reported stronger-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday as high-margin software sales hit a record, boosting investor confidence in its turnaround and sending shares up 14 percent.

Software and services revenue rose 26 percent to $196 million in the second quarter ended Aug. 31 from a year earlier, above the average forecast of $175 million of two analysts polled by Reuters.

The results bolstered hopes that Chief Executive John Chen was succeeding in rebuilding BlackBerry, whose revenue has declined for seven years as its smartphone business collapsed. Chen has discontinued handset manufacturing and focused on selling software to industrial companies, governments and corporations.

“Obviously a very good quarter for the software business, which is a good sign for BlackBerry,” said Nicholas McQuire, an analyst at CCS Insight.

The company reported quarterly profit of 5 cents a share, excluding special items, versus a break-even forecast by analysts.

Quarterly software and services revenue was buoyed by a sharp increase in licensing fees, to $56 million from $16 million a year earlier.

Licensing will eventually contribute about as much revenue as BlackBerry’s larger enterprise software business, Chen said in a call with reporters, according to Bloomberg News.

Chen told BNN television that the company hoped to close another autonomous-vehicle software deal directly with an unnamed carmaker later this year, which would follow a deal inked with Ford Motor Co last October that has started to produce revenue for BlackBerry.

“There’s some exciting growth opportunities,” Morningstar analyst Ali Mogharabi said, citing progress in getting BlackBerry technology into self-driving cars.

The company said on Sept. 20 that it would partner with auto supplier Delphi Automotive Plc on a software operating system for self-driving cars, sending its shares up 9 percent that day.

BlackBerry could earn licensing fees of $5 to $25 per car with advanced self-driving technology, up from the $1.50 to $5 it earns for just providing infotainment systems, Chen said on an analyst call.

Some investors said it was too early to call the turnaround a success.

“The company is at the intersection of some interesting trends … but it’s still early days for them,” said Lori Keith, a portfolio manager at Parnassus Investments, which does not own BlackBerry shares.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry said it expected adjusted full-year revenue of $920 million to $950 million. Analysts on average had forecast $924.4 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. It also forecast meeting its software sales growth target of 10 to 15 percent.

Licensing revenue for its software and brand name include royalties on BlackBerry-branded devices sold by China’s TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd and Indonesia’s BB Merah Putih.

BlackBerry also said on Thursday it signed a new deal for a Chinese manufacturer to sell BlackBerry Secure-branded devices starting early next year.

The company posted quarterly net income of $19 million, or 4 cents per share, compared to a loss of $372 million, or 71 cents a share, a year earlier. Total revenue excluding items fell 29 percent to $249 million.

BlackBerry’s Canadian-listed shares were up 12.5 percent at C$12.98 after rising as high as $13.47. Its U.S.-listed stock rose 13.2 percent to $10.45, the highest since June.

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