Morning Business Memo … Amazon (AMZN) is still king of the jungle. Fourth-quarter profits fell 45 percent, but operating income soared and Amazon shares jumped 9 percent in premarket trading after the company issued its latest report. Despite a disappointing holiday shopping season for most retailers, quarterly sales at the world's largest online retailer jumped 22 percent from the previous year. Overall profits were dragged down by Amazon's big spending on warehouse building as it moves to cut delivery times and improve customer service. But operating income, an important measure of business performance, rose from $260 million the year before to $405 million. Amazon CEO Jeff Bozos says e-book sales rose about 70 percent last year. The Kindle Fire HD, introduced in 2012, was Amazon's best- selling product.
Amazon is far from the only stock that's reached a recent high.
The Dow Jones index opens this morning at less than 50 points shy of 14,000. The index has been up seven out of the past eight trading days. Stock averages are now approaching an all-time high. The S&P 500 is up nearly 6 percent this month. That's a big boost for many retirement savings plans.
The tax season officially kicks off today. Taxpayers can now begin filing electronically. The 2012 tax-filing season is starting later than usual because it was only this month that Congress passed legislation to address expired tax cuts.
Getting ready to file your taxes usually takes hours. "You need to gather all your income tax documents," says Kathy Pickering at H&R Block. "That's going to be your W2s, your 1099s, receipts for charitable contributions."
One way to save time is to "look at your last year's return," says Pickering. Savings can be used to cut your tax bill. You have until the April 15 tax deadline to contribute to an IRA.
Boeing's battery problems with the Dreamliner began months before the new jet was grounded. Officials at Japan's All Nippon Airways say they replaced 10 lithium-ion batteries in the year or so because they didn't charge properly or connections with electrical systems failed. The New York Times reports "In five of the 10 replacements, All Nippon said that the main battery had showed an unexpectedly low charge.
An unexpected drop in a 787's main battery also occurred on the All Nippon flight that had to make an emergency landing in Japan on Jan. 16." We're right in the middle of earnings season. Twenty big corporations issue their quarterly reports today. The government releases its first snapshot of fourth-quarter growth this morning. Economists expect that annual growth slowed sharply, compared wtih the third quarter.
Policymakers at the Federal Reserve end their meeting today. They are not expected to ease the bond-buying program that's keeping the cost of borrowing money very low.
The embattled CEO and founder of Chesapeake Energy is out. Aubrey McClendon will step down April 1. The company's chairman says Chesapeake needs a new leader to help develop oil and gas assets. Chesapeake shares rose 9 percent after the statement was issued
Richard Davies is business correspondent at ABC News Radio.