Government finances
U.S. posts biggest surplus in five years

The United States posted its biggest monthly budget surplus in five years in April, the Treasury Department said Friday, adding that revenues are running at a record high so far this year, thanks to higher taxes and an improving economy.

The April surplus was $113 billion, about $6 billion higher than economists’ expectations and the highest surplus since April 2008, according to the Treasury. The surplus in April 2012 was $59 billion.

Treasury usually posts a surplus in April, when most Americans pay their taxes, but Washington’s budget fortunes are shifting more quickly than most analysts had anticipated.

The better state of the government’s finances will probably be a factor in budget battles in Congress over whether further belt-tightening is needed.

The administration and Republican lawmakers seek a broad deal to cut the budget deficit but clash over the White House’s insistence that any reductions in spending on health and retirement programs be offset with higher taxes.

More cash means the United States also gets more time before it runs out of borrowing room under the legal limit on the nation’s debt. A temporary suspension of the debt ceiling expires next Saturday, but Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the nation will be able to keep borrowing until at least early September as the Treasury deploys emergency cash maneuvers.

— Reuters

Indexes again post
record-high closings

The Dow and Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index ended at record highs Friday, and stocks posted a third consecutive week of gains as a rise in Google and other technology shares offset a slide in energy stocks.

The Nasdaq led gains, boosted by a 1 percent rise in Google’s stock, which also led the S&P 500’s rise.

Indexes were flat for much of the session but managed a late-day surge. On Thursday, the S&P 500 broke a five-day streak of record closing highs.

Stocks have risen on the Federal Reserve’s accommodative monetary stance and some encouraging corporate earnings, but analysts said momentum could wane without further positive signs.

“I think it’s going to be hard to maintain these levels in the short term,” said Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer of equities at Calvert Investment Management, which has about $13 billion in assets. “There are not a lot of positive catalysts to keep it going.” She said that spending cuts by the federal government could pressure the economy in the near term.

— Reuters

Also in Business

l  Two ranking JPMorgan Chase directors — presiding director Lee Raymond and William Weldon — issued a letter to shareholders Friday arguing against recommendations by proxy advisory firms to split the duties of Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive, and to vote against some directors. The letter is a response to reports in the past seven days from advisory firms Institutional Investors Services and Glass Lewis & Co., which concluded that investigations of the bank’s $6.2 billion loss on the “London Whale” derivatives trades showed the board had failed in its oversight of JPMorgan executives. The incident is cited in policy debates in Washington as evidence big banks need to be broken up or required to hold much more capital for the safety of the financial system.

l  Boeing could keep building its Super Hornet fighter jet and a modified electronic attack version through 2020, the company said, given prospects for more than 200 foreign sales and what the aircraft maker sees as up to 150 more sales to the U.S. Navy. The F/A-18 is one of Boeing’s last fighter jets in production since it lost the F-35 contract to Lockheed in 2001. Boeing also is producing F-15s for Saudi Arabia. The company has sought to parlay delays and cost overruns on the F-35 program into more sales of its jets, but its efforts have taken on new urgency in recent years as F/A-18 production begins to wind down.

l  Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management have mounted an aggressive challenge to Michael Dell’s controversial $24.4 billion offer to take the computer maker Dell private, offering $21 billion in cash to shareholders while vying to wrest control of the company from its co-founder.

l  In honor of Mother’s Day, Twitter is encouraging users to stop tweeting Sunday, close down their apps and use their smartphones for the very thing they’re designed to do — make a phone call.

— From staff reports­
and news services

Coming Next Week

l  Sunday: Dylan Collins makes more money in a day than many have in their 401(k)s, but can he make a career of it?

l  Monday: U.S. retail sales report

l  Tuesday: Senate Finance Committee hearing on Medicare payments

l  Wednesday: Housing market index