Demand for autos, planes energizes factory orders

U.S. factory orders rose strongly in July on the biggest jump in demand for autos in more than eight years and a surge in commercial airplane orders. The increase suggests supply chain disruptions created by the Japan earthquake crisis are easing.

Factory orders climbed 2.4 percent, the largest increase since March, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Orders for motor vehicles and parts rose 9.8 percent, the largest one-month gain since January 2003.

The increase followed a decline of 0.4 percent in June, one of several reports that stoked fears the country could fall back into a recession. Economists at RDQ Economics said the July gain suggests manufacturing will grow modestly.

Manufacturing has been one of the leading sectors since the recession officially ended two years ago. But higher energy prices and a parts shortage caused by the Japanese natural disasters slowed activity this spring. 

Netflix price hike expected to benefit Redbox the most

Netflix is giving Redbox a golden opportunity to gain some ground.

Beginning today, the largest U.S. video subscription service will hit its nearly 25 million U.S. subscribers with rate increases of as much as 60 percent. The sticker shock is expected to make Redbox, which rents DVDs for $1 per day through kiosks, even more enticing to movie lovers.

“We are very cognizant of the value of the dollar,” said Gary Cohen, Redbox’s senior vice president of marketing and consumer experience. “Redbox is all about simplicity, convenience and value.”

Netflix Inc.’s higher prices will drive business to video rental chain Blockbuster and other home entertainment rivals too, but none are better positioned to take advantage of the disruption than Redbox, said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter.

That’s because millions of people are expected to keep paying for a Netflix service that streams video over high-speed Internet connections, but will look for other places to rent DVDs at a low price. Two-thirds of the U.S. population now lives within a five-minute drive of a Redbox vending machine. 

Illegal trader who netted $11 million gets five years

A Connecticut hedge fund worker who made more than $11 million through illegal trades was sentenced Wednesday in New York to five-and-a-half years in prison.

The judge in Manhattan federal court declined to be lenient with Craig Drimal for his role in the biggest hedge fund insider-trading case in history. U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan said Wall Street wasn’t getting the message that insider trading is serious and can ruin careers and result in long prison terms.

Drimal was among more than two dozen hedge fund workers and corrupt employees of public companies convicted in a scheme that prosecutors say reaped more than $50 million in profits.

He was caught in a phase of the federal investigation that found several securities traders relying on tips from two corrupt lawyers at a Manhattan law firm who had information about pending mergers and acquisitions.

Drimal pleaded guilty in April. He said he is “deeply sorry.” 

Steuben Glass stops making lead crystal after 108 years

The Ohio owner of luxury and art glass maker Steuben Glass is ending production of handcrafted lead crystal in western New York after 108 years.

Schottenstein Stores Corp. of Columbus, Ohio, bought the business from longtime owner Corning Inc. in 2008. Schottenstein said Wednesday that declining sales in the choppy economy have been eroding Steuben Glass’ profitability. The Steuben Glass store in New York City will remain open until its inventory, from wine glasses to ornamental art, is sold.

The brand’s only factory, which employs 60 people in Corning, will close Nov. 29.

— From news service reports