Archive for April, 2010

Viacom profit jumps as advertising picks up (AP)

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 | Finance News

NEW YORK – Viacom Inc.'s cable TV channels got better ratings and took in more advertising revenue in the first quarter, boosting the company's net profit 38 percent.

The results released Thursday by the New York media conglomerate offer another sign that businesses are putting more money into winning consumers' attention again. Media of all kinds suffered last year as companies slashed ad spending.

Viacom, whose cable channels include BET, MTV Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, said Thursday that domestic ad sales grew 1 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Worldwide advertising rose 3 percent.

The figures came a day after Comcast Corp. reported a jump in ad revenue at its cable channels, including E! Entertainment Television, Style Network and the Golf Channel.

Viacom said its first-quarter profit came to $245 million, or 40 cents per share. That rose from $177 million, or 29 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

On average, analysts expected 38 cents per share, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.

Revenue slipped 4 percent to $2.8 billion. Analysts had predicted $2.9 billion.

The strong cable TV results helped offset declining revenue at Paramount Pictures — although the film studio narrowed its losses by slashing costs and focusing on a smaller slate of films.


Aetna 1Q profit up 29 pct on lower medical costs (AP)

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 | Finance News

NEW YORK – Health insurer Aetna Inc. says its first-quarter profit grew 29 percent as health care costs declined.

Aetna earned $562.6 million, or $1.28 per share, up from $437.8 million, or 95 cents per share, a year earlier. It says it earned 77 cents per share excluding one-time items. Revenue was unchanged at $8.62 billion.

Thomson Reuters says analysts expected a profit of 72 cents per share and revenue of $8.59 billion for the Hartford, Conn., company.

Aetna says it spent 82.5 percent of its premium revenue on medical care, down from 83 percent. A year ago Aetna struggled because medical costs were too high compared to its premiums.

The third-largest U.S. health insurer raised its annual profit forecast to a range of $2.75 to $2.85 per share.


Obama to name Yellen as Fed’s No. 2 (AP)

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 | Finance News

WASHINGTON – Putting a bigger stamp on the Federal Reserve, President Barack Obama is set to name Janet Yellen as vice chairwoman of the central bank and fill two other vacancies on the board, which has enormous power over Americans' pocketbooks.

The nominations are subject to Senate approval. If the Senate confirms all three nominees, Obama will have appointed five of the seven members of the Federal Reserve Board.

Obama's moves come as the Fed, whose decisions influence economic activity, employment and inflation, is facing political and economic challenges.

The Fed is steering the economy out of the worst recession since the 1930s, and legislation to overhaul the financial system would eliminate some of the Fed's authority while giving it new responsibilities. Some lawmakers think the Fed overstepped its authority by bailing out some big financial firms during the 2008 financial crisis.

Fed interest rate decisions affect the rates consumers pay on home mortgages and other consumer and business loans. On Wednesday, the Fed ended a two-day meeting by sticking to its pledge to hold rates at historic lows for an "extended period" to help energize the recovery.

Yellen is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. As vice chair, the second-highest ranking Fed official, her duties would include helping build support for policy positions staked out by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who has begun a second term.

Obama also is expected to nominate Sarah Raskin and Peter Diamond to the Fed board. Raskin is the Maryland commissioner of financial regulation. Diamond is an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

An official with advance knowledge of the moves spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the announcement was pending.

Yellen was a top adviser to President Bill Clinton and is considered a dove on monetary policy. That means she would be expected to be more concerned about high unemployment, currently holding at 9.7 percent nationally, than about rising inflation.

She would succeed Donald Kohn, who plans to depart at the end of June. Kohn has been a member of the Fed board since 2002.

Yellen and Diamond, who is an authority on Social Security, pensions and taxation, are Ph.D. economists. With Kohn's departure, the Fed would have just one professional economist, Bernanke. Of its other current members, Daniel Tarullo was a Georgetown University law professor, Kevin Warsh brought Wall Street experience and Elizabeth Duke was a banker. Warsh and Duke were nominated by President George W. Bush.

Raskin, who served as counsel to the Senate Banking Committee, would expand the Fed's expertise over financial regulation. That would include consumer issues, which are important to Obama and Congress as they seek to impose tighter oversight on the financial industry.


AP Economics Writer Jeannine Aversa contributed to this report.


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