Netflix online viewers log a billion hours of watching

Netflix subscribers watched more than 1 billion hours of online video last month as the advent of high-speed Internet connections and high-powered mobile devices change people’s viewing habits.

The milestone announced Tuesday by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings came a day after Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney issued an upbeat report about the Los Gatos, Calif., company’s future. Those factors helped lift Netflix’s stock by more than 6 percent in Tuesday’s abbreviated trading session.

The stock is still struggling to recover from last fall’s sharp increase in U.S. prices, which triggered a backlash among customers and investors alike. Netflix shares gained $4.19 Tuesday to close at $72.04, well off their peak of nearly $305 last July.

The rising usage of Netflix’s Internet video service may turn out to be a mixed blessing as the company phases out its DVD-by-mail rental service to focus on its goal of building a lucrative franchise in Internet-streamed video.

Delivering Internet video is quicker and less expensive than discs, but the streaming selection isn’t as extensive as what’s available on DVDs. To compensate, Netflix has been spending tens of millions of dollars during the past two years to add more compelling titles.

 

Duke, Progress complete merger, name new CEO

Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Inc. said Tuesday they had completed their merger now valued at about $32 billion to form the nation’s largest electric company. But the normally routine event came with a twist.

Bill Johnson, who was tapped to lead the combined company as president and chief executive, has decided to leave by “mutual agreement,” the companies said.

Duke CEO Jim Rogers, who was expected to be executive chairman, has instead been named CEO of the new company, still called Duke Energy and still with headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.

Whether it was Johnson or the company’s board that had a last-minute change of heart is unclear.

The combined company will serve about more than 7 million customers in North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Florida and South Carolina.

 

Rise in factory orders pushes stocks higher

Stocks climbed Tuesday in an abbreviated holiday trading session after an encouraging report about manufacturing. Energy stocks rose the most because of increased tension over oil-rich Iran.

Major stock indexes wavered in early trading, then moved decisively higher after the government reported that factory orders rose in May. Caterpillar, Alcoa, Boeing and other stocks that depend on manufacturing rose.

The report was welcome after a trade group reported on Monday that U.S. manufacturing shrank in June for the first time since July 2009, the first month after the Great Recession ended.

The price of oil climbed more than 4 percent after Iran threatened to block a critical Persian Gulf shipping route.

 

Factory orders increased 0.7 percent in May from April, the Commerce Department said. Core capital goods, which include machinery and computers, rose 2.1 percent.