Fed chief wins 2nd term after closest vote ever
WASHINGTON — Embattled Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke won confirmation for a second term yesterday, but only by the closest vote ever for the crucial post and after withering criticism from lawmakers for bailing out Wall Street while other Americans suffered in recession.
The Senate confirmed Bernanke for a new four-year term by a 70-30 vote, a seemingly solid majority but 14 votes worse than the closest previous vote for a Fed chairman. U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka both voted in favor of Bernanke.
The fight over Bernanke's confirmation has been a test of central bank independence, a crucial element if the Fed is to carry out unpopular but economically essential policies. Its decisions on interest rates have consequences, from the success or failure of the largest firms to the typical home-buyer's ability to get an affordable loan to the price of cereal at the grocery or gas at the corner station.
SALES IMPROVE FOR HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
CINCINNATI — Two of the world's most familiar consumer products companies, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, say sales are improving for their toothpastes, soaps and other household items.
They're using promotions, tinkering with prices and rolling out new versions of popular lines to attract shoppers who had been turning to store brands or other cheaper options. They're also benefiting from consumers in overseas markets such as Brazil and China. Both firms reported better-than-expected earnings. Colgate-Palmolive profit rose 27 percent and sales rose 11 percent last quarter, while P&G's sales rose 6 percent.
PC SALES HELP BOOST MICROSOFT EARNINGS
REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft Corp. said its earnings in the most recent quarter jumped 60 percent, helped by a rebound in personal computer sales.
The PC industry bounced back during the 2009 holiday shopping season after one of its roughest years to date. Microsoft's earnings are closely tied to computer sales because its two most profitable divisions make the Windows operating system and Office business software.
Microsoft said its net income for the fiscal second quarter that ended Dec. 31 rose to $6.7 billion, or 74 cents per share, compared with $4.2 billion, or 47 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue increased 14 percent to $19 billion.