DOJ looks into how AT&T, Verizon handle defecting customers

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The Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into whether AT&T, Verizon and a standards-setting group worked together to stop consumers from easily switching wireless carriers.

The companies confirmed the inquiry in separate statements late Friday in response to a report in The New York Times.

The U.S. government is looking into whether AT&T, Verizon and telecommunications standards organization GSMA worked together to suppress a technology that lets people remotely switch wireless companies without having to insert a new SIM card into their phones.

The Times, citing six anonymous people familiar with the inquiry, reported that the investigation was opened after at least one device maker and one other wireless company filed complaints.

Verizon, which is based in New York, derided the accusations on the issue as “much ado about nothing” in its statement. It framed its efforts as part of attempt to “provide a better experience for the consumer.”

Dallas-based AT&T also depicted its activity as part of a push to improve wireless service for consumers and said it had already responded to the government’s request for information. The company said it “will continue to work proactively within GSMA, including with those who might disagree with the proposed standards, to move this issue forward.”

GMSA and the Justice Department declined to comment.

News of the probe emerge during a trial of the Justice Department’s case seeking to block AT&T’s its proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner to over antitrust concerns. That battle centers mostly on the future of cable TV and digital video streaming.

Verizon and AT&T are the two leading wireless carriers, with a combined market share of about 70 percent.

U.S. Market Weekly Summary – Week Ending 04.20.2018

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The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.5% this week in an advance led by the energy, industrial and consumer-discretionary sectors while consumer staples weighed.

The market benchmark ended the week at 2,670.14, up from last week’s closing level of 2,656.30. This marks the second weekly gain in a row for the index.

The energy sector had the largest percentage increase of the week, up 2.6%, followed by a 2.1% increase in industrials and a 1.7% gain in consumer-discretionary stocks. There were four sectors on the downside, led by consumer staples, which fell 4.4%. The remaining three declining sectors were real estate, telecommunications and technology.

The energy sector’s climb came as crude-oil futures have been trading near three-year highs ahead of a meeting of major oil exporters this weekend to review compliance with their agreement to cut production.

Among the energy sector’s gainers, Kinder Morgan (KMI) shares rose 7.4% this week as the company reported Q1 earnings per share above analysts’ expectations while its board boosted its cash dividend rate by 60%. Kinder Morgan also said it expects to meet or exceed its guidance for 2018 distributable cash flow and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Among industrials, shares of W.W. Grainger (GWW) were boosted by better-than-expected earnings, with the stock rising 3.5% on the week as the supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products also raised its 2018 sales guidance.

In the consumer-discretionary sector, (AMZN) shares rose 6.8% this week as the e-commerce company launched an international shopping experience service within its Amazon Shopping app. The service makes it possible for customers globally to shop on Amazon and have items shipped to their countries. also announced a partnership with consumer-electronics retailer Best Buy (BBY) for Amazon’s Fire TV Edition smart televisions to be offered at Best Buy stores.

On the downside, the consumer-staples sector was weighed down by a 17% tumble this week in the shares of Philip Morris (PM). The tobacco and cigarette company reported Q1 adjusted earnings per share above analysts’ expectations but missed the Street’s mean estimate for revenue amid a decline in shipments.

State Employment and Unemployment (Monthly)

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In March, unemployment rates were lower in 4 states, higher in 1 state, and stable in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Nonfarm payroll employment increased in 2 states and was essentially unchanged in 48 states and the District.

Gross Domestic Product by Industry, 4th quarter and annual 2017

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Durable goods manufacturing; construction; and professional, scientific, and technical services were the leading contributors to the increase in U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2017.

According to gross domestic product (GDP) by industry statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, 16 of 22 industry groups contributed to the overall 2.9 percent increase in real GDP in the fourth quarter.

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