Business in brief: Hiring stagnates amid mild uptick
New York – A gauge of the U.S. service sector returned to growth last month, aided by the holiday season’s retail sales. The expansion reflected a slowly improving economy – but it was too slight to generate much hiring.
The Institute for Supply Management, a private trade group, said Wednesday its service index rose to 50.1 in December from 48.7 in November. A level above 50 signals growth. Seven industries out of 18 reported growth, led by agriculture and retail.
Job generation throughout the economy has been weak even as layoffs have slowed. Economists expect the Labor Department to report Friday that the unemployment rate ticked up to 10.1 percent in December from 10 percent in November and that the economy lost a net total of 8,000 jobs.
Netflix, Warner OK movie delays
San Francisco – Netflix Inc. will delay sending out Warner Bros.’ latest movies by nearly a month in a concession that the DVD-by-mail service made so it could gain rights to show its subscribers more movies over the Internet.
The 28-day rental moratorium on Warner Bros.’ newly released DVDs and Blu-ray discs is a first for Netflix, but it probably won’t be the last. Netflix hopes to reach similar deals with other major movie studios later this year, using the Warner Bros. agreement as a template.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s scheduled Jan. 19 releases of “The Invention of Lying” and “Whiteout” will be among the first movies that won’t be immediately available to Netflix’s 11.1 million customers.
The compromise gives Time Warner Inc.’s movie unit – and potentially other studios – a chance to boost the sales of DVDs, the movie industry’s biggest source of profits. Nearly three-fourths of DVD sales are made during the first four weeks the discs are in the stores, so turning off Netflix’s rental channel during that stretch might spur more impulse buying among consumers who can’t wait to see a newly released DVD.
Casino couple divvies up stock
Las Vegas – Casino billionaire Steve Wynn agreed Wednesday to transfer control of $741 million worth of his stock in Wynn Resorts Ltd., where he is CEO, to his wife, Elaine, as part of a divorce settlement.
The transfer, which involves more than 11 million shares, leaves the Wynns each with about 18 percent of the company’s outstanding stock, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed Wednesday. The transferred shares were previously communal property.
Elaine Wynn is a longtime member of the company’s board and was re-elected to a three-year term in May.