The Federal Aviation Administration says it has granted Amazon an “airworthiness certificate” allowing the company to test-fly drones that deliver packages. (Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeffrey P. Bezos, is also the owner of The Washington Post.) (Reuters)
Amazon can test delivery drones

Aviation regulators gave Amazon the green light to begin testing its Prime Air drones in the United States — a decision that, together with a new federal approval process, could pave the way for other companies interested in drone delivery.

The Federal Aviation Administration told Amazon this week that it will be free to conduct research and development on drone technology, with certain restrictions. Amazon’s drones can’t fly higher than 400 feet or faster than 100 miles per hour. They’ll also have to remain within the drone operator’s direct line of sight, fly only during the day and operate over private property.

The two-year exemption lets Amazon push ahead with its plans to ship small packages by drone. The company hopes cutting the wait time between order and delivery will encourage consumers to buy more online.

The FAA’s latest exemption lasts for two years.

Amazon isn’t the only company that has dreamed of delivering goods with unmanned aerial vehicles. From beer to pizza to tacos, drone delivery could be applied to many industries. That’s why Amazon’s exemption is so important, and why a new program from the FAA to streamline requests for exemptions could open the door to many drone delivery businesses.

Aviation regulators gave Amazon the green light to begin testing its Prime Air drones in the U.S. (Reuters)

Now that Amazon has received approval for research and development for drone delivery, others wishing to do the same might get expedited treatment under the summary grant process. But, FAA spokesman Les Dorr said, each application will be evaluated individually.

— Brian Fung

Stocks rally on GE divestment, buyback

U.S. stocks ended a strong week with a broad rally Friday as investors lauded GE’s decision to divest most of its high-risk GE Capital business and repurchase up to $50 billion of its shares.

All 10 primary Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index sectors ended up on the day, but the S&P Industrials index, driven by gains in GE shares, was by far the best performer and rose 1.5 percent.

General Electric rose 10.8 percent, to $28.51, hitting its highest level since September 2008 after it said there was potential to return more than $90 billion to investors through 2018.

Friday marked the biggest one-day jump for the stock, as well as the most active session, since March 2009. More than 351 million shares changed hands.

“This is indicative of a broader trend, a refocus on shareholders, and that can provide a support for markets,” said David Lebovitz, global market strategist for JPMorgan Asset Management in New York. “If we continue to see buybacks and higher dividends, and I suspect we will, that makes a more convincing case for equities going forward.”

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 98.92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,057.65, the S&P 500 gained 10.88 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2102.06, and the Nasdaq Composite added 21.41 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4995.98.

For the week, the Dow is up 1.6 percent, the S&P 1.7 percent, and the Nasdaq 2.3 percent. The Dow and S&P notched their second straight week of gains, helped by a pickup in merger activity.

Investors are looking ahead to the first-quarter earnings season. While some companies reported this week, next week will see results from a number of major firms, including several banks. Profits of companies on the S&P 500 are projected to have declined by 2.9 percent in the first three months from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data.

— Reuters

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