Personal Finance

July 1, 2013

Apple applies for ‘iWatch’ trademark in Japan; U.S. factory index rises

Construction spending rose in May; turmoil in Egypt drives up oil price
Apple files ‘iWatch' trademark

Apple Inc. has applied for a trademark in Japan for “iWatch,” indicating it may be proceeding with rumored plans to produce a smart wristwatch.

A document obtained Monday from the Japan Patent Office’s website said the application was made June 3 and made public June 27.

It was not immediately clear when the application might be approved. Patent office and Apple officials in Japan were not available for comment late Monday.

Apple is rumored to be working on a smart watch that would run on a version of the operating system used by its iPhone and iPad. The company has not confirmed those rumors, but CEO Tim Cook has hinted that it may be developing a wearable computing device such as a wristwatch.

U.S. factory activity expands

U.S. manufacturing activity grew in June behind a pickup in new orders, exports and production. Better economic growth overseas is boosting U.S. exports and could help American factories rebound in the second half of the year.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its index of factory activity increased to 50.9 in June. That’s up from 49 in May, which was the lowest reading in four years.

A reading above 50 suggests growth, while those below indicate contraction.

A measure of export orders jumped to 54.5 from 51. That may be a response to growth in Japan and some European countries, economists said.

Still, a measure of manufacturing employment fell in June to 48.7, its lowest level since September 2009. That suggests Friday’s June employment report will show factories cut jobs for the fourth straight month.

The mostly positive manufacturing survey contributed to strong gains on Wall Street and followed a pair of upbeat reports of factory growth overseas. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 155 points in midday trading, while broader stock indexes also gained.

U.S. manufacturing had slowed this year after providing crucial support to the economy for the first three years after the recession ended in June 2009. Europe’s slump has weighed heavily on U.S. exports. And businesses cut back on their investment in machinery and equipment in the first quarter.

“The ISM rebound suggested the worst may be past for the global trade slowdown that has contributed to a significant recent soft patch in U.S. manufacturing,” Ted Wieseman, an economist at Morgan Stanley, said in a note to clients.

A report in Europe showed improvement in manufacturing activity in Britain, France and Italy and stabilization in Spain.

Construction spending up 0.5 percent

Spending on residential housing rose in May to the highest level in 4 1/2 years, helping to send overall construction spending higher despite a big drop in nonresidential activity.

Construction spending rose 0.5 percent in May compared with April when spending was up 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said Monday.

Private residential construction rose 1.2 percent to the highest level since October 2008, further evidence of a rebound in housing. Spending on nonresidential projects fell 1.4 percent, dragged lower by declines in office building and the category that includes shopping centers.

Public construction rose 1.8 percent with state and local activity up 1.6 percent and federal spending rising 0.6 percent.

Total construction rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $874.9 billion in May, up 5.4 percent from a year ago.

The rise in residential construction reflected a 0.4 percent increase in new single-family construction and a 2.5 percent jump in multi-family construction.

Oil rises above $98

The price of oil briefly rose above $98 a barrel Monday on concerns about protests in Egypt and their possible effect on Middle East oil supplies.

Also, a report showing a pickup in U.S. manufacturing offset data showing a slump in China’s manufacturing sector.

By midday in New York, benchmark crude for August delivery was up 88 cents to $97.44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil rose as high as $98.28 in the morning.

Court: No class-action status in Google book case

A federal appeals court says it is too early for authors to be considered as a group in litigation challenging Google Inc.’s plan to create the world’s largest digital library.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling Monday that a judge must consider fair use issues before deciding whether to consider authors as a class. The court says neither side will be harmed by a delay in deciding whether the Authors Guild can represent all writers.

So far, Google has copied more than 20 million books. The three-judge appeals panel that heard arguments earlier this year seemed reluctant to get in the way of the plans. One judge said it would be a “huge advantage” for many authors while another said it would have “enormous societal benefit.”

Steinway to be purchased for $438 Million

Steinway Musical Instruments Inc., owner of the 160-year-old piano maker, agreed to be bought by private-equity firm Kohlberg Co. for about $438 million.

The agreement includes a 45-day period in which Waltham, Massachusetts-based Steinway can solicit other proposals, according to a statement today. The stock, whose LVB symbol was inspired by Ludwig Von Beethoven, rose 16 percent to $35.17 at 11:13 a.m. in New York, above the $35-a-share offer, signaling investors are anticipating other bidders.

“As the economy recovers, they are well positioned for growth,” Arnold Ursaner, an analyst for CJS Securities in White Plains, New York, said in an interview. A rebound in the U.S. housing market, especially luxury homes, and improving consumer confidence bode well for piano sales, he said.

Chief Executive Officer Michael Sweeney has been working to increase production of Steinway’s grand pianos, which, combined with Boston Essex pianos, accounted for 61 percent of the company’s revenue last year. Sales in the piano operations rose 2.9 percent in the first quarter.

The Star’s news services

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