Business briefs: Consumer confidence jumps to highest level in six years

March 26, 2014 

Consumer confidence surged this month to its highest level in more than six years as the economy showed signs of emerging from a deep winter chill.

The Conference Board's index, which is one of two key monthly measures of consumer attitudes, increased to 82.3 in March from 78.3 the previous month, the business group said Tuesday.

Economists had expected a slight increase after a drop in confidence in February. Instead, the index jumped to its best reading since January 2008, in the early days of the Great Recession.

The jump in consumer confidence came because of a big improvement in views about the short-term outlook for the economy, the Conference Board said.

Consumers were more optimistic that business conditions and the labor market would improve in the next six months. Their view of current economic conditions was about the same.

Republican Club to discuss Port competition

BRADENTON -- The Women of Manatee County Republican Club is featuring a discussion on Port Manatee at its April 4 meeting.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who also serves as Port Manatee's chair, is set to talk about the competition between Port Manatee and the Port of Tampa Bay at the April 4 meeting at the Bradenton Country Club, 4646 9th Ave. W. The luncheon is $17.

For information or reservations, call 941-795-6381 by April 2.

Facebook buys virtual reality co. Oculus for $2B

NEW YORK -- Facebook has agreed to buy Oculus for $2 billion, betting that its virtual reality may be a new way for people to communicate, learn or be entertained.

Facebook Inc. said Tuesday that the deal includes $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares worth about $1.6 billion. Oculus employees are also eligible for an additional $300 million if the company achieves certain targets.

Oculus makes the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that's received a lot of attention from video game developers. It has yet to be released, but Facebook says Oculus has received more than 75,000 orders for development kits for the headset.

House moves to block Obama coal rule

WASHINGTON -- The House has approved a bill to prevent the Obama administration from imposing a stream-protection rule for coal mining that government experts say would eliminate thousands of jobs.

The rule is intended to replace Bush-era regulations that set up buffer zones around waterways and were aimed chiefly at mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. The House bill would reinstate the 2008 rule.

The measure was approved Tuesday.

--Herald staff

and wire reports

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