US unemployment rate falls below 5 percent
The US economy added 151,000 jobs in January, a slowdown from recent months but still a sign of a solid job market. Employers raised pay, more people felt confident enough to look for work and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.9 percent, its lowest level since 2008. Friday’s Labor Department report showed that the job market remains resilient even as the economy struggles in areas such as manufacturing and faces severe weakness overseas. The January hiring gain, though modest, followed robust job growth of 280,000 in November and 262,000 in December.
Healey asked to investigate home services
State officials, hit with a surge in spending on home health care services, have asked Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate providers that they suspect of submitting fraudulent bills. Governor Charlie Baker’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services referred a dozen agencies to the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Division after reviewing internal data and fielding consumer complaints that pointed to possible fraud. State officials did not name the agencies or detail what kind of wrongdoing they suspect.
Google parent surpasses Apple in value
If you Google “world’s most valuable company,” the answer comes up Alphabet Inc. The stock market value of Alphabet, the parent company of search giant Google, surpassed Apple Inc.’s for the first time Tuesday. Alphabet ended the day up 1.7 percent at $531 billion; Apple dipped 2 percent to $524 billion. Apple’s share price has been bruised in recent months by concerns that iPhone sales are cooling off. Alphabet’s shares caught up with Apple thanks to its report after the bell on Monday that quarterly earnings had surged on rising ad revenue. Apple passed Exxon Mobil Corp. as the most valuable company in 2011.
Comcast stanches the bleeding
Comcast is trumpeting its best year for traditional TV services in nearly a decade, even though it continues to lose TV subscribers. Analysts say Comcast’s TV gains are largely coming from competitors, like AT&T and Dish, rather than young new customers. Comcast says it is stemming its losses by luring customers with new TV-Internet packages, while keeping TV customers around for longer with the help of a fancier cable box. Comcast said Wednesday that it added 89,000 TV customers in the last three months of 2015, which it said was its best quarter since the 2006.
Still life in bitoech IPOs
Investors breathed a little life into the moribund market for new stocks on Wednesday, sending shares of two biotech companies sharply higher on their first day of trading. Editas Medicine Inc., a Cambridge startup, rose 12.5 percent to $18. China’s BeiGene Ltd. climbed more than 18 percent to $28.33. The gains came after Editas raised $94.4 million and BeiGene, which has its US headquarters in Waltham, raised $158.4 million in the first two initial public offerings of 2016 in the United States. Editas shares closed at $18.50 Friday, and BeiGene’s at $30.50.
Redstone steps down as CBS, Viacom chairman
Billionaire Sumner Redstone resigned as chairman of CBS Corp., then followed that move by stepping down as chairman of Viacom Inc.. the two companies controlled through his family’s holding company, National Amusements Inc. of Norwood. CBS chief executive Les Moonves will replace Redstone on the board of the television network. At Viacom, Redstone, 92, was replaced by CEO Philippe Dauman. Redstone’s daughter, Shari, supported Moonves’s promotion, but not Dauman’s. She said no member of the family trust — which includes herself and Dauman — should get the Viacom chairman’s job.
FDA rejects expanded use of Vertex drug
US regulators dealt a blow to Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. on Friday, rebuffing the company’s application to sell its first cystic fibrosis drug to a new subset of patients. The Food and Drug Administration said it could not approve the Boston biotech company’s application in its current form. The company sought to extend the use of Kalydeco, which now treats about 2,000 cystic fibrosis patients in the United States with 10 different mutations, to about 1,500 others aged two and older who have one of 23 different types of genetic mutations. Vertex shares fell about 5 percent Friday.
IRobot sells defense unit
IRobot Corp. is exiting the business that first put it on the technology map: military robots. The Bedford maker of Roomba self-guided home vacuums said it is selling its defense and security division, also known as D&S, to Arlington Capital Partners, a Washington private equity firm, for $45 million. The division made the robots that searched the wreckage of the World Trade Center in Manhattan after 9/11, probed roadside bombs in Iraq, and explored the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. IRobot will focus almost entirely on its consumer robots.
Abbot to pay $5.8 billion for Waltham device maker
Fourteen years after it was spun out from Johnson & Johnson, Waltham-based Alere Inc., a maker of medical diagnostics products, will be folded into another giant health care company. Abbott Laboratories said Monday that it would buy Alere for $5.8 billion, a vote of confidence in a company that has grown into a global leader in devices used for so-called point-of-care tests performed at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, and patients’ homes. Such tests, many of which can yield results in minutes, have become key tools in the shift of health care away from hospitals.
Closing date set at Flower Exchange
Vendors at the Boston Flower Exchange in the South End have been told they need to move out by the end of the year to make way for a new owner at the 5.6-acre site in the South End. It’s still not clear who that owner will be, or what will go there. When the building went up for sale last year, a bidding war among big-name developers drove the price north of $40 million, according to people familiar with the deal. But closing the sale has taken longer than expected. The prospect of a sale has hung over the place for a year now, and leases were set to expire at the end of 2016.