Apple fine-tunes anticipation
CUPERTINO, Calif., Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Apple products U.S. consumers have yet to see are bolstering stock values of the world's most valuable company, analysts say.
"We continue to believe that a smaller form factor iPad is indeed imminent," Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes said in a research note to investors.
While Apple has not introduced a smaller iPad that would compete directly with digital readers such as Amazon's Kindle Fire, Reitzes already expressed his confidence in the product, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
"We believe that a smaller iPad will combine the ease of use expected of Apple products with high-performance hardware in a size that is more conducive as a companion device, remote, e-book or game player," he wrote.
The Wall Street Journal reported Peter Misek, a managing director at Jefferies, is placing his confidence in the next-generation iPhone, which he predicts will be "the biggest handset launch in history."
The iPhone 5 is expected to include a larger screen, a more sophisticated camera and faster processors, the Times reported.
The company's share value, meanwhile, is riding the crest of the product development rumors, pushing the company to record valuations.
Shares closed Friday at $648.11, a jump of nearly 2 percent on the day and a climb of 22 percent since May.
"In Apple's case, product launches have an inordinate impact. They have such a meticulous, product-focused extreme attention to detail that we haven't seen before in other companies," Misek said.
Panel lambastes Barclays and FSA
LONDON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- A parliamentary committee in Britain has called the need for stronger bank regulations an "urgent" matter in the wake of the Libor rate-fixing scandal.
"Urgent improvements, both to the way banks are run and the way they are regulated, is needed if public and market confidence is to be restored," said the Treasury Select Committee, which put the blame on the recent scandal on banks and regulators alike.
The British Broadcasting Corp. reported Saturday the committee called Barclays' attempts to manipulate a benchmark lending rate known as the Libor or London interbank offered rate "disgraceful."
A committee report also called the Bank of England "naive" but not responsible for the scandal. Instead, the committee blamed the regulatory failure on the Financial Services Authority, Britain's major bank regulator.
Former Barclays Chief Executive Officer Bob Diamond, who resigned after it became public the bank settled a regulatory case against it for $450 million, gave "highly selective" evidence to regulators, the committee said.
The committee focused its report on the "great damage" the scandal had done to the reputation of the British banking industry as a whole.
Furthermore, "Senior management at Barclays were issuing instructions to manipulate artificially the bank's submissions. It is unlikely that Barclays was the only bank attempting this," said Conservative Member of Parliament Andrew Tyrie, the committee's chairman.
SEC puts the drop on ZeekRewards.com
WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. bank regulators have charged Internet company ZeekRewards.com is, in fact, a Ponzi scheme that is close to financial failure.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said the company was run "in classic Ponzi scheme fashion."
"The obligations to investors drastically exceed the company's cash on hand, which is why we need to step in quickly, salvage whatever funds remain and ensure an orderly and fair payout to investors," the agency said in a statement.
CNNMoney.com reported Saturday ZeekRewards began in early 2011 and already had 1 million investors who were told they would share in company profits.
Ponzi schemes, however, are companies that often don't have any profits at all. Sometimes they make modest attempts to look legitimate, but the schemes rely on using money from new investors to pay off older ones.
The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday the company was accused of duping investors out of $600 million and that Rex Venture Group founder Paul Burks of Lexington, N.C., which owns ZeekRewards.com, agreed to pay a $4 million fine and give up his interest in the company to settle the case against him.
Burks did not have to admit to any wrongdoing, the Journal said.
Union members ratify Caterpillar contract
JOLIET, Ill., Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Machinists at a Caterpillar Inc. plant in Illinois are set to return to work after a strike that lasted for more than three months, company officials say.
Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at the plant in Joliet approved the contract Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported. The company more than tripled a ratification bonus to $3,100 before the vote.
Union members said the contract -- which freezes pay for those hired before 2005, doubles health-insurance premiums and reduces the benefits of seniority -- passed by a narrow margin. Many of those who voted against it were angry.
"I can't believe they did this," a tearful Vickey Pogliano said. "I'm shocked. I know there is a lot of people hurting but they didn't see the big picture."
About 780 employees struck May 1, although 100 had returned to work, union members said. The company said strikers will be brought back over about two weeks beginning Monday.
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LONDON, May 20 (UPI) --British investigators say they are "urgently reviewing" whether to join a European Union probe of three oil companies for alleged gasoline price-fixing.