Northeast Bank closes on $29 million transaction

Northeast Bank has closed on a $29 million transaction that will net it $16 million in new capital, the bank said Wednesday.

As part of the deal, the specially formed FHB Formation investment group will inject $16 million of new capital into the Lewiston-based bank and buy a $13 million, or 60 percent, stake in the institution.

The bank’s headquarters will remain in Lewiston, but two new lines of business — an online service that allows bank customers to direct funds to charities and a venture that will have Northeast buy loans from across the country and service them — will be based largely in Boston. 

20 million vehicles recalled in 2010, most since 2004

Automakers recalled about 20 million vehicles in 2010, led by high-profile recalls by Toyota that prompted new scrutiny of the auto industry’s safety record.

The number of recalls this year was the largest in the United States since 2004, according to an analysis of federal data by The Associated Press. The auto industry set a record with 30.8 million recalled vehicles that year.

Toyota Motor Corp. recalled about 7.1 million vehicles in 2010 to fix faulty gas pedals, floor mats that could trap accelerators, defective braking and stalling engines. 

Amazon wants to help you return that tacky present

Amazon.com Inc., the source of many presents good, bad or ugly, has patented a system that would let people exchange unwanted gifts for those they actually want — even before they get them.

For now, though, it’s just an idea, so until Amazon figures out how to implement it, you may be stuck with that sweater from Grandma, even if she bought it online.

Based on Amazon’s patent filing, recipients of unwanted gifts would be able to exchange items that are too big, too colorful or otherwise unwanted for something of equal value. They could also pay the difference for a more expensive item or get a gift certificate.

They could do this before they actually receive the gift, thus saving themselves the hassle of repackaging and mailing the unwanted present. 

Energy prices fall despite East Coast blizzard, cold

Energy prices fell Wednesday while the East Coast continued to dig itself out of Monday’s blizzard and a cold snap swept across other parts of the country.

Heating oil, natural gas and other energy commodities usually get more expensive as the weather chills. But analysts said most traders already have locked in their energy contracts for the year, and those still buying are looking ahead to 2011. With the U.S. sitting on higher than average heating oil and natural gas supplies, temperatures would need to drop much lower for a longer period to raise prices, analyst Tom Kloza with Oil Price Information Service said.

Benchmark oil for February delivery gave up 37 cents to settle at $91.12 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. 

Software glitch to blame for Skype outage last week

A software glitch caused Skype’s major outage last week, the Internet calling and messaging service said Wednesday.

In a blog post, chief information officer Lars Rabbe said the 24-hour outage that cut service for nearly all of Skype’s users stemmed from a problem in a version of Skype’s software for computers running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system.

Rabbe said the issue, which began last Wednesday, started when a group of servers running offline instant messaging overloaded. This caused some computers to get delayed responses from those servers, and an older version of Skype’s Windows software improperly processed the responses.

On average, 124 million people use Skype each month