Markets climb, led by small-company stocks
NEW YORK — The prospect of continued stimulus from the Federal Reserve and rising optimism among small business owners helped push stock prices back to record levels.
Small business owners were slightly more optimistic in April, according to a survey released Tuesday by the National Federation of Independent Business. That helped push the Russell 2000, an index of small-company stocks, up 1 percent.
The Russell index is 15.7 percent higher since the start of the year, and is doing better than the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, which includes larger, global companies. Small stocks are doing well because they are more focused on the U.S., which is recovering, and don’t have as much revenue from recession-plagued Europe as larger companies do.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 123 points to close at 15,215 on Tuesday, a gain of 0.8 percent. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index rose 16 points to 1,650, or 1 percent, while the Nasdaq composite rose 23 points to 3,462, a gain of 0.7 percent.
Hedge fund boss lobbies for breakup of Sony
TOKYO — The U.S. hedge fund manager renowned for shaking up Yahoo Inc. has set his sights on Sony Corp., proposing that the Japanese electronics giant spin off up to 20 percent of its movie, TV and music division and use the money to strengthen its ailing device manufacturing unit. Sony rejected the plan, but analysts latched onto the idea as a way for Sony to unlock hidden value.
Sony’s U.S.-traded shares closed up $1.87, or 9.9 percent, at $20.76 on Tuesday after hitting a 52-week high of $22.22 earlier in the day.
In a Tuesday letter to Sony President Kazuo Hirai, first published in The New York Times, Third Point LLC CEO Daniel Loeb suggests Sony take 15 to 20 percent of the entertainment unit public by offering current Sony shareholders the opportunity to buy shares in it.
More major retailers sign Bangladesh safety pact
NEW YORK — Italian fashion brand Benetton, Spanish retailer Mango and British retailer Marks & Spencer have become the latest global retailers to agree to sign a one-of-a-kind pact to improve safety at Bangladesh factories following a building collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers in the country last month.
The move, announced by the three companies Tuesday, comes after H&M, a trendy Swedish fashion chain that is the largest clothing buyer in Bangladesh, said Monday that it would sign the same five-year legally binding factory safety contract.
Within hours, C&A of the Netherlands, British retailers Tesco and Primark, and Spain’s Inditex, owner of Zara, followed.
Airlines collect record baggage fees in 2012
NEW YORK — U.S. airlines collected more than $6 billion in baggage and reservation change fees from passengers last year — the highest amount since the fees became common five years ago.
Passengers shouldn’t expect a break anytime soon. Those fees — along with extra charges for boarding early or picking prime seats — have helped return the industry to profitability.
Airlines started charging for a first checked suitcase in 2008 and the fees have climbed since. Airlines typically charge $25 each way for the first checked bag, $35 for the second bag and then various extra amounts for overweight or oversized bags.