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CombiMatrix of Mukilteo said it has launched a rapid diagnostic test that can detect the bird flu and other known strains of influenza.

CombiMatrix’s stock jumped 62.3 percent to close at $2.24, up 86 cents, after parent company Acacia Research announced the product Wednesday.

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The Influenza Microarray will be sold to research institutions and government agencies, said Bret Undem, CombiMatrix vice president. Each diagnostic chip retails for around $550, and consists of 10,000 gene probes. The test takes less than four hours using only a cheek swab, he said.

Shares declineon holiday outlook’s shares tumbled 13.9 percent Wednesday after the Internet retailer startled Wall Street with a soft sales outlook for the holiday shopping season.

In an earnings report after the markets closed Tuesday, the Seattle company said it is projecting sales of $2.86 billion to $3.16 billion for the quarter ending Dec. 31. The mean estimate, $3.01 billion, falls below the average Wall Street estimate of $3.08 billion.

Amazon shares dropped $6.42 to close at $39.75 Wednesday.


Stock won’t be delisted after all

The Nasdaq said yesterday that Bsquare stock regained compliance and will not be delisted.

The Bellevue company, which provides consulting services for smart devices, such as handheld computers, regained compliance with the $1 minimum bid-price requirement after it conducted a 1-for-4 reverse stock split Oct. 6. Its stock has traded around $2 since then, closing Wednesday at $2.19, up 22 cents for the day.

The company’s symbol will return to BSQR from BSQRD on Nov. 24.


Deal will support Israeli startups

Microsoft signed a deal with Israel’s government Wednesday to jointly aid Israeli startups, with the U.S. company pledging technological and global marketing support. Microsoft forged the deal with Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist during Chairman Bill Gates’ first visit to Israel. Microsoft will invest $1.4 million in the project over three years.

Puget Energy

Shares to be sold to reduce debt

Bellevue-based Puget Energy announced Wednesday that it will sell 15 million shares of common stock to reduce its short-term debt to finance construction by its subsidiary, Puget Sound Energy. Puget Energy stock closed Wednesday at $21.31 a share, down 15 cents.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, The Associated Press and Reuters

Southwest Airlines

Carrier looking at fuel surcharge

Southwest Airlines, the most-profitable U.S. carrier, expects fuel costs to rise as much as $600 million next year and may add a surcharge to fares because of the expense, Chief Executive Gary Kelly said.

The airline has protected 85 percent of its fuel needs for this year at $26 per barrel of crude oil by using financial instruments, known as hedges, that limit the effect of price variations. No other major U.S. carrier is as well protected. Southwest’s hedges next year will decline to 70 percent of its fuel needs at $36 a barrel.

Crude oil averaged $63.21 a barrel in the third quarter.

Southwest has a portion of its fuel needs hedged each year through 2009.

“We are probably facing a time somewhere in the near future where no airlines will be making money,” Kelly said.

Southwest is the only major U.S. airline to remain profitable since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The carrier hasn’t added fuel surcharges to fares help cover higher costs, as some rivals have done.


Sale of Hertz gets federal approval

U.S. antitrust regulators have approved Ford’s plan to sell Hertz, its rental-car subsidiary.

In a notice posted Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission said it completed its review of the deal and would take no action.

Ford announced last month it planned to sell Hertz to a group of private equity investors composed of Clayton Dubilier & Rice, Carlyle Group and Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity. The total transaction is valued at $15 billion including debt.

Ford, which has owned Hertz since 1994, said it wants to concentrate on its core automotive business. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Ford shares fell 11 cents to close at $8.52 Wednesday.

Compiled from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press