PC sales decline for quarter as consumers opt for tablets

Last year, the popularity of Apple Inc.’s iPad hurt PC sales. This year, that trend is continuing, as new data from two market research firms indicate PC shipments declined in the first three months of 2011.

On Wednesday, Gartner Inc. said that its research shows PC shipments dipped 1.1 percent compared to the same period last year, to 84.3 million. IDC said its numbers show PC shipments fell 3.2 percent to 80.6 million. The companies measure the market in different ways.

Gartner had expected 3 percent shipment growth, while IDC was looking for 1.5 percent growth.

Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa said that during the January-March period consumers weren’t as drawn to cheap PCs — usually a category that keeps the market growing. Rather, they were interested in tablet computers and other consumer electronics. 

Brokerage settles lawsuit by investors for $150 million

Attorneys for investors allegedly fleeced by brokerage firm Securities America Inc. say the company has agreed to pay $150 million to settle a class-action lawsuit.

The attorneys, Joe Peiffer of New Orleans and Hugh Berkson of Cleveland, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the money would go to investors covered by the lawsuit as well as those who proposed arbitration as a means of recovering $400 million lost through investments that proved worthless.

The settlement was worked out a month after a federal judge in Dallas rejected a deal that would have allowed the La Vista, Neb.-based company to pay only $21 million. 

Price of oil tops $107 a barrel despite Goldman warning

Oil rebounded Wednesday from a two-day decline, ending an up-and-down trading day above $107 per barrel.

The price of benchmark crude oil has fluctuated as analysts and traders disagree over how much higher it can go. Oil has surged as much as 35 percent since the middle of February. That helped push the average gas-pump price to $3.81 per gallon on Wednesday, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. A gallon of regular costs 25 cents more than a month ago and is 95 cents higher than last year.

Goldman Sachs, a major player in oil markets, thinks crude is overpriced and warned investors that it could be time to sell. OPEC and the International Energy Agency also have said that high prices could be forcing people to reduce driving and cut back on fuel purchases. 

Ivy League-trained doctor charged with securities fraud

An Ivy League-trained physician who became a health-care hedge fund manager surrendered Wednesday to face charges he evaded $30 million in losses for his funds by paying a prominent French doctor for secrets on the progress of a liver disease drug.

Joseph “Chip” Skowron III, of Greenwich, Conn., was charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice in a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He formerly worked at FrontPoint Partners LLC, where he oversaw six health care-related hedge funds. He was freed on $6 million bail, roughly the value of the Greenwich residence that he provided as collateral.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the case “yet another example of blatant cheating of both the market and the ordinary investor.”

The prosecutor noted at a news conference that Skowron was the 47th person arrested in the past 18 months on insider trading charges. 

Exxon CEO’s pay package dips to $21.5 million in 2010

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s top executive received slightly lower compensation last year, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson received compensation worth $21.5 million, about 1 percent lower than the previous year, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The drop came mostly from a 9 percent decline in stock awards that were worth $15.5 million in 2010 compared with $17 million in 2009. Tillerson’s salary increased 7 percent to $2.2 million, and his bonus rose 40 percent to $3.4 million.

He also received $443,921 in company perks including security services, life insurance and the use of company aircraft.

Tillerson has led the world’s largest publicly traded company since 2006. 

Consumer packaging firms to merge in $1.28 billion deal

Consumer packaging maker Silgan Holdings Inc. said Wednesday it will acquire Graham Packaging Co. in a cash-and-stock deal worth $1.28 billion.

The companies say the deal will save on costs and create a stronger force in packaging for beverage, food and consumer products ranging from sports drinks and beer to personal care products and motor oil.

Silgan said it will have 17,000 employees and 180 manufacturing plants in 19 countries once the deal is completed. It expects the combined company will achieve $50 million in savings by the third year after the sale closes.

Graham makes plastic containers for juices, sport and yogurt drinks, nutritional supplements, condiments, dressings and beers. It also makes quart bottles for motor oil. 

– From news service reports


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