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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
Hewlett-Packard surge lifts tech stocks, mortgage rates climb, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
Hewlett-Packard's earnings were a nice surprise for Wall Street.
Hewlett-Packard's earnings were a nice surprise for Wall Street. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

1. HP EARNINGS REPORT GIVES TECH STOCKS A BOOST
Hewlett-Packard shares gained as much as 8 percent early Friday after the computer maker's quarterly results beat Wall Street's expectations, even though profit and sales dropped. The news lifted most tech stocks. It also reinforced investor optimism, which has been stoked by slowly improving jobs and housing markets, as well as reports of fourth-quarter earnings growth of around seven percent for the big corporations of the S&P 500 Index, up from expectations of 1 percent growth. "Earnings have been one more piece in a positive overall puzzle," says Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo. [MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal]
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2. MORTGAGE RATES CREEP UP
Finance experts have long said that mortgage rates would slowly creep up from the record lows of recent months, and their predictions are starting to come true. Interest rates inched higher this week, with the rate on a fixed-rate, 30-year home loan averaging 3.56 percent, up from 3.53 percent last week. Rates have climbed by nearly a quarter of a percent since the start of 2013. Last year, 30-year rates dropped from 3.9 percent at the start of the year to a record low of 3.31 percent in November. The jump since then will cost most borrowers thousands of dollars over the life of a loan, which could cool the recent refinancing fever. "Refinancing is definitely going to slow down," said Steve Cook, managing editor of Real Estate Market Watch. [CBS News]
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3. GOOGLE UNLEASHES TOUCHSCREEN CHROMEBOOK PIXEL
Google on Thursday unveiled its Chromebook Pixel, a touch-screen, cloud-based laptop aimed at poaching Apple fans. The machine's aluminum case even looks like much of Apple's Mac line-up. Pixel, with what Google calls the industry's highest-resolution display, targets people who access photos and applications via remote servers, and the price (starting at $1,299 for a 32 GB Wi-Fi version) comes with a terabyte of data storage in the cloud for three years. Google says it's "a real game changer in terms of people living in the cloud." Many critics were underwhelmed, saying that with its limited storage and other drawbacks, a $1,299 Pixel is "a rip-off." [USA Today, Forbes]
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4. JAPANESE REGULATORS FIGURE OUT SOME OF BOEING DREAMLINER GLITCHES
Japan's Transport Ministry says it has identified the cause of a fuel leak on a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner, although it hadn't figured out what caused batteries to overheat on two of the new jumbo jets. The ministry's air-safety regulators said fuel apparently leaked out on one plane because foreign matter stuck to fuel valves, and a coating was improperly applied. Boeing reportedly plans on Friday to show regulators a plan to prevent trouble with the aircraft's lithium-ion batteries, including adding insulation around them and installing a venting mechanism and stronger, heat-resistant case to contain battery fires. [Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg]
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5. EUROZONE FACES ANOTHER BAD YEAR
The European Commission on Friday painted a dismal economic picture for Europe, predicting that the 17-nation eurozone would shrink 0.3 percent in 2013. The outlook is only slightly better for the 27-nation European Union, which will grow by a paltry 0.1 percent as the region's governments struggle to strike a balance between stimulating growth and slashing spending to trim crippling deficits. "The way forward will be a walk on a tightrope," says Carsten Brzeski, a senior economist with ING in Belgium. [New York Times]

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