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Written by fe Bureau | Updated: Jan 29 2011, 06:40am hrs
Microsoft results exceed Street expectations

Sales of Microsoft Corps Windows software fell short of outsized expectations, rekindling fears that the spread of mobile gadgets will erode its main PC-focused business. Microsoft surprised Wall Street with a better-than-expected profit, helped by resurgent corporate spending after the belt-tightening of past years. But its shares stayed flat as investors expressed concern about the weakness of overall computer sales amid a faltering US recovery. The worlds largest software maker, whose Windows operating system runs on 90% of the worlds computers, is heavily dependent on PC sales, which grew only 3% in the quarter. Now it is starting to feel the heat from investors eyeing the phenomenal take-up of Apple Incs iPad.Outstanding numbers when you take a first look at it, but when you delve into them, Windows missed expectations by $300 million, said Brendan Barnicle, analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.

GM January China auto sales increase 20%

General Motors, the largest overseas automaker in China, sold roughly 20% more vehicles in the country in January from a year earlier, a senior executive said on Friday. Even though the December numbers were really high because of the big push before the incentives disappeared, January is still running at an incredible level, Terry Johnsson, vice president for GMs China operations, said. GM, which operates auto ventures in China with state auto groups SAIC Motor Corp and FAW Group, sold 219,192 vehicles in the country in January 2010. It will release its January sales tally after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday in February.

UK consumer confidence plummets most since 94

UK consumer confidence plunged the most since 1994 this month as an increase in sales tax hurt shoppers appetite for spending, a report by GfK NOP showed. The index of sentiment fell 8 points from December to minus 29, the lowest since March 2009, the research group said in a statement in London today. All five measures of the index fell, with a gauge on the climate for making major purchases dropping 22 points to minus 29. Prime Minister David Cameron, who raised value-added tax to 20% from 17.5% this month, has vowed to stick to planned spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit even after the economy unexpectedly shrank in the fourth quarter. Household sentiment may be further undermined as inflation accelerates and the economy endures what Bank of England Governor Mervyn King warned will be a choppy recovery. Todays figures, when combined with the bleak economic forecast, will make talk of a double-dip recession unavoidable, GfK Social Research managing director Nick Moon said in the statement. With inflation on the up and the full force of the cuts yet to hit, these figures could be the beginning of a very painful period.