- - Wednesday, May 25, 2011

COMMERCE

Durable goods orders were cut back in April

Businesses cut back on their orders for heavy machinery, computers, autos and airplanes in April, reducing demand for long-lasting manufactured goods by the largest amount in six months.

Orders for durable goods fell 3.8 percent and a key category that serves as a proxy for business investment was down 2.8 percent, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

The weakness was widespread across a number of industries and likely influenced by supply-chain disruptions stemming from the Japanese earthquake in March. Demand for motor vehicles and parts, an industry heavily dependent on Japanese component parts, saw a decline in orders of 4.4 percent in April, the biggest drop since last August.

BANKS

Cash transfers offered with cell numbers, email

Three of the nation’s four largest banks are launching a system that lets customers transfer money from their checking accounts using only a mobile number or email address.

The banks say the service, called clearXchange, will make payments easier than traditional money transfers, which require a bank routing number and move through a system controlled by Federal Reserve banks.

The service is a joint venture of Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. The banks expect to add other financial institutions, eventually creating an industrywide utility for moving money.

ClearXchange is an attempt by the banks to retain fee-weary customers who have embraced alternatives such as prepaid debit cards and eBay Inc.’s PayPal service.

The clearXchange system will be available nationally to customers of the three banks. The banks noted that clearXchange is linked to existing accounts, so customers don’t have to sign up and provide new personal information as they would with PayPal.

EUROPE

Battle pressed against Greek restructuring

FRANKFURT, GERMANY | The European Central Bank kept up its attacks on the idea of letting Greece restructure its crushing debt load, even as a top ratings agency argued that Germany’s banks would probably survive losses from such a move with credit ratings intact.

Juergen Stark, the European Central Bank’s chief economist, said Wednesday that cutting Greece’s debt by letting it pay later or less than the full amount owed to banks and other bondholders wasn’t a simple solution, despite opinions to the contrary.

“To think that there is an easy way out, in that a country’s debts are largely or fully relieved, is an illusion,” Mr. Stark said in Berlin. “Debt relief cannot and must not be the solution.”

Mr. Stark said Greek banks holding government bonds would suffer such heavy losses during a restructuring that they would need new capital from governments, a step that “would not be very cheap.”

TECHNOLOGY

Twitter buys tweet-tracking application

NEW YORK | Twitter says it has bought TweetDeck, a London-based startup that helps people read, write and organize the short messages posted on the online network.

Twitter is not giving financial terms, although published reports have pegged the price at $40 million. The San Francisco company said in a blog post Wednesday that the TweetDeck team has joined Twitter. TweetDeck will continue to be based in London and its users will continue to be able to use the application. TweetDeck has 15 employees.

Founded in 2008, TweetDeck lets Twitter users organize the brands, celebrities, news feeds and people they “follow” on the short-message platform. Users can also monitor their Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media accounts.

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