Trade deficit shrinks as exports near record
WASHINGTON – The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in February as exports climbed close to an all-time high and the volume of imported crude oil fell to the lowest level in 17 years.
The Commerce Department says the gap between exports and imports shrank to $43 billion in February, down 3.4 percent from January’s revised $44.5 billion. It was the smallest trade imbalance since December, when the gap had declined to $38.1 billion, the lowest point in nearly three years.
Exports rose 0.8 percent to $186 billion, close to the record high set in December. Stronger exports of U.S. energy products and autos offset lower farm equipment and airplane sales.
Imports were flat at $228.9 billion with the volume of crude oil falling to the lowest point since March 1996.
In-store portrait studios close unexpectedly
ST. LOUIS – A financially troubled company is abruptly shuttering its more than 2,000 portrait studios that are found nationwide in locations such as Wal-Mart and Sears stores.
CPI Corp. said in a two-paragraph statement on its website that it’s saddened by the announcement and that it is trying to fulfill as many customer orders as possible. It urges customers with questions to contact their local store.
The company last month announced in a federal securities filing that it had received a fourth forbearance agreement from its lenders, and that it had until today to meet its loan obligations.
Liquidation approved for Corzine’s MF Global
NEW YORK – MF Global’s parent company has won court approval for its liquidation plan.
Judge Martin Glenn approved the plan Friday in U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan. MF Global Holdings Ltd. collapsed in late 2011. The firm failed after a calamitous $6.3 billion bet on bonds issued by debt-burdened European countries.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh is the trustee, meaning he is tasked with trying to recover money for customers and others that MF Global might owe. The judge’s approval comes a day after Freeh filed a report lambasting MF Global’s former CEO Jon Corzine and other top managers, saying they had ignored warnings of their chief risk officer.
Judge OKs settlement of Bank of America suit
NEW YORK – A New York judge approved Bank of America’s $2.43 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by shareholders over its acquisition of former competitor Merrill Lynch.
A Bank of America Corp. spokesman said a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Manhattan approved the settlement Friday.
In the lawsuit, shareholders had alleged that Bank of America and some of its officers made false or misleading statements about both companies’ financial health when Bank of America agreed to buy Merrill for $20 billion, at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America later disclosed that Merrill would take $27.6 billion in losses that year.
Anheuser-Busch says feds will OK Modelo buy
Anheuser-Busch InBev says it has reached a tentative agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over its disputed $20.1 billion acquisition of Grupo Modelo.
The Justice Department had sued to block the combination on concerns it would stifle competition in the U.S. The companies later revised terms, giving more control of Corona maker Modelo’s U.S. beer brands to a separate company.