- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2011

GOLD

Price shoots past record $1,800 an ounce

The price of gold surpassed $1,800 an ounce Wednesday for the first time as investors pulled their money out of stocks and snapped up precious metals contracts.

Gold is fast becoming a favorite port in a storm of uncertainty. Investors are clinging to what they see as a hedge against volatile stock and currency markets.

December gold contracts backed off their highs and traded around $1,785 an ounce during midday trading after reaching a record $1,801 an ounce earlier in the day on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold prices have shot past a series of milestones over the past two years on an uninterrupted climb. Gold was trading at about $900 in the summer of 2008, before the financial crisis unfolded that year.

Resulting turmoil in currency and stock markets has burnished gold’s luster.

STOCKS

Apple surpasses Exxon as most valuable company

NEW YORK | Apple Inc. became the most valuable company in the United States, surpassing Exxon Mobil Corp. on Wednesday.

Apple briefly flirted with the top spot Tuesday before settling back slightly below the oil giant. Wednesday marks the first time that Apple managed to stay No. 1 after the stock market closed.

Apple’s stock fell 2.8 percent to close at $363.69, which brings the iPhone and iPad maker’s market capitalization to $337 billion. Exxon’s stock fell 4.4 percent to close at $68.03. That gives the oil company a market cap of $331 billion.

Exxon had been the most valuable company since 2005, and Apple only took No. 2 in May 2010 when it surpassed Microsoft Corp.

EMPLOYMENT

Job openings rose in June; levels are low

Employers posted more job openings in June, a sign that hiring could improve a bit in the coming months.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the number of available jobs rose to 3.1 million, up from 3 million in May. It was the highest total since March.

Still, roughly 4.5 unemployed people, on average, were competing for each available job in June. That’s down only slightly from 4.6 in May. In a healthy economy, the ratio is about 2 to 1.

June’s total number of openings was higher than the 2.1 million posted in July 2009, one month after the recession officially ended and the lowest total since the government began recording the data a decade ago. But it is also significantly below the 4.4 million openings in December 2007, when the recession began.

ALASKA

Permanent Fund loses $2 billion

ANCHORAGE | If you think your retirement account has taken a hit with the wild swings on Wall Street, consider this.

The Anchorage Daily News reported that the Alaska Permanent Fund’s value dropped more than $1 billion Monday when the Dow Jones industrial average fell 634 points.

The fund was established decades ago to share Alaska’s oil wealth with its residents.

The fund reported a value of $40.1 billion on June 30, its highest-ever finish to a fiscal year.

But since then, it has lost about $2 billion, including a $394 million drop Friday and more than $1 billion Monday.

SEC

Brokerage firm accused of defrauding schools

Federal regulators are accusing brokerage firm Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. of civil fraud in its sales of risky complex investments to five Wisconsin school districts that lost the whole of the $200 million they invested.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the lawsuit Wednesday against St. Louis-based Stifel Nicolaus and former Senior Vice President David Noack. The SEC said they misled officials of the school districts by telling them the investments made in 2006, which ended up failing, were safe. The investments were linked to default insurance protection policies on corporate bonds. The school districts’ credit ratings were downgraded as a result.

It was the latest SEC case targeting brokerage firms’ sales of complex investments in the run-up to the financial crisis that hit with full force in 2008. Last year Goldman Sachs paid $550 million to settle similar civil fraud charges. That was the largest penalty against a Wall Street firm in SEC history.

Goldman was accused of steering investors toward complex mortgage investments without telling the buyers that the securities had been crafted with input from a client that was betting they would fail. In June, JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to pay $153.6 million to settle the SEC’s civil fraud charges that it misled buyers of mortgage investments just as the U.S. housing market was collapsing.

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