Venture capital shifting overseas

As the U.S. economy lags, 57 percent of U.S. venture capitalists are investing abroad this year, up from 46 percent last year, according to a new survey of 400 venture capitalists worldwide. The study, by Deloitte & Touche for the National Venture Capital Association, found that the U.S. still holds the top spot in tech innovation in all major areas, but that other countries are quickly catching up. (Reuters) For example, Germany is a close No. 2 in clean technologies, India is a strong second in software innovation, and Japan is catching up with the U.S. in telecommunications. (USA Today) “While the U.S. isn’t losing ground,” said Mark Jensen of Deloitte, “the globalization of innovation is under way.” (CNet News)

The spreading ripples of high gas prices

With gas prices at record highs, mass transit use was up 3.3 percent in the first quarter, the American Public Transportation Association said yesterday, building on last year’s 50-year high in usage. (Los Angeles Times, free registration) The related drop in demand for automobiles, especially for trucks and SUVs, hit American automakers hard in the last month, according to Edmunds. (MarketWatch) GM is stopping production at four North American truck plants, a Canadian union official said today. (Reuters) Gas prices are even threatening the viability of auto racing, especially in the lower tier. High-octane racing fuel is at $8.25 a gallon. (The New York Times)

Toll Brothers reports third straight loss

Toll Brothers, the biggest U.S. luxury home builder, reported its third straight quarterly loss, although the $93.7 million loss was significantly less than analysts had expected. Excluding $175 million in after-tax writedowns tied to land values, Toll Brothers would have earned $81.3 million. (Bloomberg) Toll blamed the shortfall on weak demand amid the prolonged housing slump, now entering its second year. (Reuters) “Demand continues to be weak in most markets as our clients worry about selling their existing homes or entering the market before prices stabilize,” Toll Brothers CEO Robert Toll said. (MarketWatch)

The boutique boom

The words “boutique” and “brand” may not fit together logically, but hotel chains of all size are working hard to develop boutique brands. Boutique hotels—also called lifestyle or design hotels—have simply been outperforming their more mainstream rivals in all but two years since 2001. Hotelier Ian Schrager is generally credited with starting the boutique trend in 1984, with his Morgans Hotel in Manhattan, but the concept of a boutique brand took off with Starwood’s W hotels. “If you have something unique and distinctive, people will beat the doors down to come to it,” said Schrager, who is now working with holdout Marriott to develop a boutique chain of its own. (The New York Times)