Business briefing

The daily business briefing: April 24, 2018

Google's strong earnings give markets a lift, Sears CEO Edward Lampert offers to buy valuable brands, and more


Google earnings beat expectations, boosting stocks

Google parent Alphabet on Monday reported first-quarter sales and profit that beat analysts' expectations, thanks partly to strong ad sales despite rising concerns about online privacy. "Google continues to dominate both mobile and desktop search," said analyst Ivan Feinseth of Tigress Financial Partners. Global sales for the company rose to $31.1 billion, exceeding the average analyst estimate of $30.3 billion. Overall, quarterly profit reached $9.4 billion, or $13.33 per share, beating the average estimate of $6.56 billion, or $9.28 per share. Alphabet shares rose by 1 percent in after-hours trading. Global stocks got a lift from strong earnings reports from Google and other companies, steadying Tuesday after three days of losses.


Sears CEO offers to buy valuable brands

Shares of Sears Holdings jumped by about 7.6 percent on Monday after the hedge fund run by Sears CEO Edward Lampert offered to buy the struggling retailer's popular Kenmore appliance brand, and the Sears Home Services division's home-improvement and Parts Direct businesses. Lampert's ESL Investments stepped up after the company failed to find other buyers for the assets. Sears has been exploring possible sales of some of its businesses for two years. It sold its Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker last year for $775 million. Lampert reportedly is offering $500 million for the Sears Home Services businesses, although it wasn't immediately clear how much he was offering for Kenmore. ESL also offered to buy some of the company's real estate.


Brent crude pushes above $75-a-barrel mark for first time since 2014

Oil prices rose early Tuesday as tensions escalated between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Speculation that the U.S. would impose new sanctions against Iran also helped push up crude futures. The European benchmark Brent crude for June delivery pushed above the $75-per-barrel mark for the first time since 2014. U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate rose by 0.8 percent to $69.15 per barrel, putting it on track for its highest close since November 2014. President Trump has until May 12 to decide whether to extend Iran's sanctions waiver under its nuclear deal. "One can always count on President Trump's infamous unpredictability, but currently all bets are off on the U.S. staying in the nuclear agreement," PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga said in a note.


Hannity responds to report of HUD loans

Fox News conservative host Sean Hannity faced fresh criticism for failing to disclose his business dealings on Monday after The Guardian reported that he had invested more than $90 million in more than 870 homes in seven states, using shell companies to keep the purchases private. Hannity, who had railed against the high foreclosure rate under former President Barack Obama, used loans backed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to buy lower-income apartment complexes. Critics said Hannity should have told viewers about the HUD loans, just as he should have mentioned that he was a client of President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen. Hannity said the criticism was "ironic" given that his investments were aimed to help empower people in financial need.


Facebook publishes censorship guidelines after transparency calls

Facebook on Tuesday published its 27-page guidelines for its content moderators to clarify what posts it decides to take down. The move came after Facebook critics called for more transparency from the social network after the revelation that data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which did work for the Trump campaign, improperly accessed information on tens of millions of Facebook users. Facebook's community standards guidelines tell its thousands of human censors how to handle topics such as hate speech, violent imagery, misrepresentation, terrorist propaganda, and disinformation. "We want people to know our standards and we want to give people clarity," said Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management. "We are trying to strike the line between safety and giving people the ability to really express themselves."


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