Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 22, 2018

Fed minutes pointing to more rate hikes weigh down stocks, Twitter cracks down on bots, and more

1

Fed minutes point to more interest rate hikes, pressuring stocks

Federal Reserve minutes released on Wednesday showed that central bank policy makers expressed confidence in the economy at their January meeting. Fed leaders cited "substantial underlying economic momentum" and said they were increasingly confident about reaching their target inflation rate of 2 percent, despite a recent uptick in price increases. The minutes nudged up expectations that the Fed will make the next in a series of gradual interest rate hikes at its March meeting. U.S. stocks rose after the data came out, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average reversed course and closed down by 0.7 percent. Dow futures slid further early Thursday, as did global stocks, on concerns about rising interest rates.

2

Twitter cracks down on bots

Twitter on Wednesday announced that it is banning automated tweets from multiple accounts in an effort to root out spam and political propaganda bots. Twitter has banned developers from letting users post, like, retweet, or follow simultaneously from multiple accounts. Developers have until March 23 to comply. Twitter is removing automation options from its TweetDeck app as part of what it calls "an important step in ensuring we stay ahead of malicious activity targeting the crucial conversations taking place on Twitter — including elections in the United States and around the world." Twitter also purged thousands of suspected bot accounts, prompting some fringe conservative media figures, such as pro-Trump host Bill Mitchell and white nationalist Richard Spencer, to complain they had lost hundreds of followers.

3

Ford North America leader Raj Nair ousted over 'inappropriate behavior'

Ford on Wednesday ousted North America President Raj Nair after he admitted unspecified "inappropriate behavior." "I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles that the company and I have always espoused," said Nair, one of the first executives promoted by new Ford CEO Jim Hackett. "I continue to have the utmost faith in the people of Ford Motor Company and wish them continued success in the future." Hackett did not provide any details on Nair's conduct, saying only that the decision came after "a thorough review" in an effort to provide "a safe and respectful culture."

4

Barclays shares rise after it reports loss but doubles dividend

Barclays shares opened 5 percent higher on Thursday after the British bank said it would more than double its dividend next year even though it posted a full-year net loss of $2.64 billion, compared to a $2.2 billion profit the previous year. Barclays said the swing to a loss was due partly to weak performance at its investment bank and a charge linked to U.S. tax reforms. The dividend hike will bring the payout to investors back to where it was two years ago before Barclays cut it to help cover the cost of a restructuring. Barclays' investment bank continued to lag in the last quarter of the year, with revenue down 17 percent compared to the same quarter a year earlier.

5

Shares in Angry Birds maker Rovio dive after profit warning

Angry Birds game maker Rovio Entertainment warned Thursday that it expected profits to fall this year, sending the Finnish company's stock plummeting by about 40 percent. Rovio grew fast after the 2009 launch of the original Angry Birds game, in which players use a slingshot to send vengeance-seeking birds at pigs that stole their eggs. The company cut a third of its staff in 2015 after swinging to a loss due to rising competition and a flood of free games. Rovio, which held its IPO last year, blamed higher marketing costs and other investments for its disappointing forecast on 2018 profit margins (9 to 11 percent) and sales ($320 million to $369 million). Analysts had forecast a 14.5 percent margin and $413 million in sales.

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