In Brief: Stock market, housing gains boost U.S. net worth
WASHINGTON – A surging stock market and rebounding home prices boosted Americans’ wealth to a record in the final three months of last year, though both trends have slowed so far in 2014.
U.S. household net worth jumped nearly $3 trillion during last year’s fourth quarter to $80.7 trillion. Stock and mutual fund portfolios gained nearly $1.7 trillion, or 9 percent, according to a Thursday report by the Federal Reserve.
The value of Americans’ homes rose just over $400 billion, a 2 percent gain. And checking account balances, pension plan assets and retirement savings also increased.
225 Staples stores to close by end of ’15
Staples has become the second major chain to announce the mass closing of stores this week, providing the latest evidence of how the retail landscape is being remade by shifts in American shopping habits.
The nation’s largest office-supply company said Thursday that nearly half of its sales are now generated online, and it is working aggressively to cut costs and become more efficient. It aims to close more than 10 percent of its North American stores by the end of next year, up to 225 stores, as part of a plan to save about $500 million.
Staples Chairman and CEO Ron Sargent said the stores have fallen short of expectations over the past three years, and the company launched a plan last year to reinvent Staples.
On Tuesday, RadioShack announced plans to close up to 1,100 stores after its losses widened during a dismal holiday season.
German builder puts blame on Six Flags
FORT WORTH, Texas – The German manufacturer of a roller coaster from which a woman fell to her death is blaming Six Flags for the accident.
Gerstlauer Amusement Rides filed court papers Thursday related to the lawsuit the woman’s family has brought against it and Six Flags after her death last year.
Gerstlauer says the Texas Giant was not “defective or unsafe in any manner.” It blames Six Flags workers for not properly checking Rosa Esparza’s safety belt or stopping the ride when a supervisor noticed Esparza’s restraint bar was too high.
The manufacturer also says Six Flags only added seat belts to the ride after Esparza’s death.
Both Six Flags and Gerstlauer have blamed each other for Esparza’s death.
Apple’s request for Samsung ban denied
SAN JOSE, Calif. – A federal judge in California has denied Apple’s request to permanently ban Samsung from selling 23 older-model smartphones and tablets smartphones that a jury found infringed on patents held by the maker of iPhones and iPads.
Judge Lucy Koh on Thursday said Apple failed to prove that the South Korean company’s patent infringement caused irreparable harm to Apple sales.
Apple accused Samsung of ripping off designs for its iPhone and iPad. A jury in 2012 found that close to two dozen of Samsung’s products used technology controlled by Apple.
Apple’s allegations involved touchscreen features such as tapping and swiping.
Koh said she was not convinced those features drive consumer demand for Samsung products.
The two biggest smartphone makers are scheduled to begin a third patent trial later this month.