FAA and Boeing Too Close for Comfort?

Morning Business Memo…

Both the FAA and Boeing are certain to face questions about the approval process for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. An official with Japan's transport safety board says four US officials, including two Boeing representatives, have arrived at an airport in western Japan to inspect a 787 jet that made an emergency landing earlier this week. The ANA jet landed after the pilot smelled something burning and received a cockpit warning of battery problems. The Wall Street Journal reports that in approving the Dreamliner, the FAA "relied exclusively on data generated by Boeing" that indicated the plane's lithium-ion battery "featured redundant safeguards that were essentially foolproof." Some safety experts played down the long-term impact of the battery problems, saying they should be fixed within months. But even if Boeing recovers quickly from the Dreamliner setback, the FAA's certification process may be up for review. "Boeing itself effectively had the lead in certifying the safety and reliability of the batteries," says the Journal.

Concerns about safety at Toyota have been in the headlines for a couple of years. Now the world's largest automaker says it has settled what was to be the first of hundreds of wrongful death lawsuits involving problems of sudden, unintended acceleration. A Toyota spokeswoman says the company reached the agreement in the case brought by the family of Paul Van Alfen and Charlene Jones Lloyd, who were killed when their Camry slammed into a wall in Utah in 2010. Last month, Toyota agreed to a settlement worth more than $1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits claiming economic losses suffered by Toyota owners, but hundreds more lawsuits over wrongful death remained. The Van Alfen case, the first of those to be tried, may have served as a bellwether for the rest.

The decline of personal computer sales hit Intel's profits. The world's largest chipmaker says its fourth-quarter earnings plunged 27 percent from the previous year. Intel had warned that the fourth quarter would be lackluster, and that the usual holiday bounce in PC shipments would be cut in half, even though Microsoft launched its new operating system, Windows 8.

Have you checked the value of your home recently? For the first time in years it could be worth more than you think. Home prices are bouncing back from their lows in all but a few local markets. Fewer homeowners are under water, owing more to the bank than their properties are worth. "We've seen 1.4 million borrowers regain equity. That's through the third quarter," says economist Molly Boesel with CoreLogic. There are also fewer foreclosures and short sales. "We saw an increase in non-distressed sales in 2012. That's the first increase we've seen in those non-distressed sales since 2005."

After years of economic stagnation in Japan is a true turnaround in the works? The Nikkei stock index gained nearly 3 percent overnight as the yen fell in value against the US dollar. The Japanese market has been up 10 weeks in a row: its longest winning streak since the late 80's. Japan's new government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has raised its inflation target, is pushing the central bank to loosen its money policy, and wants to boost public spending to spark economic growth. The yen's recent decline against the US dollar is seen as a plus for Japanese exporters. China appears to be coming out of its relative slump. The government says China's economy grew at an annual rate of 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter. That was more than expected and up from earlier in the year.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc

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