U.S. wholesale price index reflects drop in gas prices

U.S. wholesale prices fell by a record amount in January, led by the biggest drop in gasoline prices in six years.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that its producer price index declined 0.8 per cent last month, the biggest drop in a data series that goes back to November 2009 when the government changed its calculation methods.

Excluding volatile food and energy costs, wholesale prices edged down 0.1 per cent in January after a 0.3 per cent rise for core prices in December.

Led by single-family units, U.S. housing starts decline

U.S. homebuilders slowed the pace of construction in January, breaking ground on fewer single-family houses ahead of the spring buying season.

Housing starts slipped 2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.07 million last month, down from 1.09 million in December, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

Leading that decline was a sharp 6.7 percent monthly drop in starts for single-family houses. Still, a healing economy has caused building activity to move at a faster clip, with single-family starts climbing 18.7 percent over the past 12 months.

U.S. factory production rises after flat December

U.S. factory production edged up last month as manufacturers cranked out more computers, clothing and steel, offsetting declines in autos and aerospace.

Factory production increased 0.2 percent in January after a flat reading in December, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday. The data suggests manufacturing is still supporting the economy, even though it is growing at a weaker pace than last year.

Strong hiring has given Americans more money to spend, which has boosted demand for cars, electronics and other manufactured goods. That is countering the impact of weak growth overseas, which has dragged down U.S. factories’ exports.

Money-laundering probe targets HSBC’s Swiss bank

Geneva prosecutors searched the premises of HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary on Wednesday after launching a money-laundering investigation over a report that the bank helped hide millions of dollars for drug traffickers, arms dealers and celebrities.

Prosecutors said they were investigating HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA for suspected aggravated money laundering. The investigation could be extended to people suspected of laundering money, they said.

– From news service reports