SonoSite profits fall in quarter by $2.2 million

Earnings at SonoSite fell to $2.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, compared to $6 million in the same quarter of 2008. The Bothell-based maker of portable ultrasound machines reported revenues Thursday, revealing the company brought in a total of $69.7 million in the last three months of 2009. That’s down from the $70.2 million in revenue reported for the same time period in 2008. Earnings for the company’s 2009 fiscal year were down overall, with income reported at $3.2 million, compared to $11.2 the year before. Revenue was also down from $243.5 million in 2008 to $227.4 million in 2009. “With a difficult year behind us we are stronger and more focused on growth initiatives for 2010 and beyond,” SonoSite President Kevin Goodwin said in a statement. Last month, the company appealed to stockholders in an effort to repurchase up to $100 million of its stock.

Google buys free Q&A Web service

Google Inc. has bought Aardvark, a free question-and-answer Web service. Aardvark co-founder Damon Horowitz confirmed the purchase Thursday. He would not disclose financial details. Aardvark was formed in 2007 by Horowitz and three others — two of whom are former Google employees. It lets users ask questions online that are routed to friends and friends of friends. The goal is to get relevant answers on any topic as quickly as possible. Users can ask questions through Aardvark’s Web site, Twitter, over Google Chat or via e-mail. Aardvark had more than 90,000 users as of last October.

Mortgage rates slip below 5 percent

Average rates for traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have fallen below 5 percent again, Freddie Mac said Thursday. The giant mortgage buyer’s weekly survey, conducted Monday through Wednesday, pegs the average rate nationally at 4.97 percent, with 0.7 percent of the loan balance on average paid in upfront charges, or points. Last week, 30-year rates averaged 5.01 percent. That continues a trend so far this year in which the average has come in either just above or just below 5 percent. The survey asks 125 lenders across the country the rates they are offering to borrowers.

U.S. jobless claims fewer than expected

The number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week to the lowest total in a month, a sign the job market may be improving. The Labor Department said that first-time claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 43,000 to a seasonally adjusted 440,000. Wall Street economists expected a smaller decline of 15,000, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. The jobless claims report was the first of the year that wasn’t affected by a holiday backlog. The easing of the backlog had elevated the numbers for the previous three weeks. The latest figures likely provide a clearer picture of the job market.

From Herald news services