10 Key Business Trends Data Points for Today

Listed below are the top 10 business trends data points for today, culled from the most authoritative business news and data sources. Today's trend data points to investment banks' record profits , jobless claims, economy growth forecasts, DOW record close,  holiday sales, video games, and consumer sentiment.

Investment banks post record 2006 profit 
Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns sent a not-so-subtle message to Wall Street on Thursday when announcing 2006 results — the word "record" appears a combined 37 times in their earnings reports. For all of fiscal 2006, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. reported record net income of $4 billion, up 23 percent from the previous year. Bear Stearns Cos.'s profit for the year soared 40 percent to $2.1 billion. Goldman Sachs full-year profit soared 70 percent to $9.4 billion.

Jobless claims drop for 2nd straight week
The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped sharply for a second straight week, pushing total claims down to the lowest level in two months. The Labor Department reported that 304,000 newly laid off workers filed claims for jobless benefits last week, a drop of 20,000 from the previous week when claims had fallen by 34,000.

Big business sees steady growth 
U.S. economic growth will remain steady in the next year as inflation moderates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce forecast on Thursday, brushing aside concerns that the downturn in housing could spark a full-blown recession. On overall growth, the group saw the economy expanding in the 2.0 to 2.25 percent range in the final three months of 2006, nudging up to around three percent by mid-2007. Thereafter, it would deliver a performance in line with long-run trend growth of around 3.25 percent.

Dow ends above 12,400, another record level, on profit reports 
Wall Street resumed its fourth-quarter rally Thursday, pushing the Dow Jones industrials to its first close above 12,400 after a series of strong company earnings and a drop in unemployment claims revived investors' confidence in the economy.

Nestle to buy Novartis nutrition unit for $2.5 billion 
Nestle SA, the world's biggest food and drink company, will buy the medical nutrition unit of pharmaceutical company Novartis for $2.5 billion, the companies said Thursday.

24 pct. growth in Web holiday sales seen
Online spending reached $17.6 billion in the period from Nov. 1 through Dec. 12, marking a 24 percent increase compared with the corresponding year-ago period, comScore reported Thursday. But sales growth on Monday, expected to be the busiest day of the season, was up only 19 percent to $661 million, less than the $700 million, or 26 percent growth, projected, indicating that shoppers were delaying their buying even online.

Russian vodka maker buys Vodka.com domain for $3 million 
The billionaire Russian entrepreneur behind Russia's biggest vodka maker has paid $3 million to acquire the vodka.com domain, part of a bid to expand into the U.S. market, a broker said on Thursday.

"Gears of War" No. 1 U.S. video game in Nov.-NPD 
Microsoft Corp.'s gory "Gears of War" video game, where soldiers slay alien invaders with chainsaw-mounted rifles, topped U.S. sales charts in November, market research firm NPD said on Thursday. The title, for Xbox 360, sold 1 million units to ring up sales of $61.5 million. The holiday season accounts for more than half of annual sales in the $13 billion U.S. video game industry.

International Remittance Market Sparking Interest From Big Banks 
Money transfer companies dominate the $233 billion international remittance market, but the business is poised for a shake-up as it starts to attract big banks. Dan Schatt, senior analyst at financial research and consulting firm Celent of Boston, says international remittance should grow 10.1% through 2008.

Pew poll shows U.S. homeowners optimistic about real estate market, despite slowdown 
Recent broad declines in prices have slightly dented the outlook of U.S. homeowners, as a new poll published recently shows they remain mostly optimistic about the value of their property. A nationwide poll conducted by the Pew Research Center between October and November showed that more than eight in 10 homeowners expect the value of their homes to go up either "a little" (55 percent) or "a lot" (26 percent) in the future.

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