Software glitch stalls options trading

Trading on the biggest exchange for financial options resumed Thursday after an outage caused by software problems.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange reopened at 12:50 p.m. Eastern time after being closed from the start of the trading day. The shutdown forced traders to scramble for alternatives.

The outage followed a scare in financial markets Tuesday when hackers sent a false Associated Press tweet reporting White House explosions. Stocks plunged for two minutes as computerized trading systems unloaded.

Initially, there was speculation that CBOE computers had been hacked, but exchange officials believe hackers were not involved, said spokeswoman Gail Osten. She said it was a “software issue” that stopped the exchange from opening.

The CBOE is the largest U.S. options exchange. It is the only place to trade two popular options — one a bet on the future price of the Standard and Poor’s 500-stock index, the other a kind of insurance against wild stock-price swings.

Unemployment insurance claims decrease. (The Washington Post/Source: Labor Department)

— Associated Press

Oil producers report
rise in key outputs

Quarterly results from Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips on Thursday showed that while overall growth remained elusive, output rose in key basins in the United States where the oil and gas companies are spending heavily to increase crude production.

North American shale basins and the Gulf of Mexico are seen as more secure places for energy companies to invest because they typically offer a steady source of growth. Conoco said in December that more than half of its nearly $16 billion budget for this year would be spent in North America.

Exxon’s U.S. oil and natural gas liquids production rose 2 percent in the first quarter, compared with an overall output decline of 3.5 percent.

Conoco said oil and gas production rose a combined 42 percent in North Dakota’s Bakken shale and Texas’s Permian Basin and Eagle Ford shale. Conoco’s total output from continuing operations edged 1 percent lower.

The fourth-largest U.S. oil company, Occidental Petroleum, said its daily domestic oil and gas production rose to a record 478,000 barrels of oil equivalent.

Exxon’s first-quarter profit was $9.5 billion, compared with $9.45 billion a year ago. Conoco had a first-quarter profit of $2.1 billion, down from $2.9 billion a year ago. And Occidental reported a first-quarter net profit of $1.36 billion, compared with $1.56 billion a year earlier.

— Reuters

Also in Business

l’s net income declined in the first quarter even though revenue increased 22 percent, as the online retailer continued to spend heavily on order fulfillment and rights to digital content. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer and the seller of Kindle devices and services, said Thursday that it earned $82 million in the first quarter. That’s down 37 percent from $130 million a year earlier, but it’s higher than analysts expected.

l  Samsung Electronics said Friday that its first-quarter net income jumped 42 percent over a year earlier to a record high thanks to robust smartphone sales even during a typically slow season for the electronics market. The world’s largest smartphone maker said its net income reached 7.2 trillion won ($6.5 billion) in the first three months of 2013, compared with 5 trillion won a year earlier.

l  Starbucks reported second-quarter profits that met analysts’ estimates as U.S. customer traffic improved while sales stagnated in Europe. Net income advanced 26 percent to $390.4 million, from $309.9 million a year earlier, the company said Thursday. Comparable-store sales rose 6 percent in the Americas while declining 2 percent in Starbucks’ Europe, Middle East and Africa division.

— From news services

Coming Today

l  8:30 a.m.: First-quarter GDP released.

l  Earnings: Burger King Worldwide, Chevron.