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Twitter’s stock crashes back to reality

Twitter’s stock plunged Thursday, dropping 24 percent to close at $50.05 a share, after a fourth-quarter earnings report Wednesday showed significant declines in usage and a slowdown in the growth of the new users.

While such a steep one-day drop is extreme, it may have brought the shares down closer to a valuation that many Wall Street analysts think matches the company’s growth prospects. The stock is still nearly double the $26 price at which Twitter first sold shares to the public in November.

Twitter faces two big growth questions. One is usage: Can the social network attract more users and get existing users to spend more time on the service?

On that front, the company’s fourth-quarter results were disappointing, spurring the sell-off. The company added just 9 million new users over the quarter, growing just 3.8 percent from the third quarter. On average, users refreshed their message feeds about 10 percent less frequently, suggesting they were using Twitter less.

“In order to go mass market, TWTR will have to make its core product more user friendly,” Ben Schachter, an analyst with Macquarie Capital, wrote in a report Thursday, referring to the company by its stock symbol. “If the user growth doesn’t reaccelerate, improved monetization won’t be enough to drive the stock.”

—Vindu Goel, The New York Times

Senate confirms Baucus as ambassador to China

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 96-0 Thursday to confirm Sen. Max Baucus as the new ambassador to China.

Baucus, a Democrat, has represented Montana in the Senate since 1978. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he has been a major voice during many of the major policy debates of the past decade. He also was an architect of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

His departure from the Senate will have a domino effect among the Senate’s Democratic leaders. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who is now chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, will become leader of the Finance Committee; Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., is expected to replace Wyden on the energy panel. Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat, is expected to name a replacement for Baucus.

In his farewell address on the Senate floor Thursday, Baucus described what he called the defining period of his life — the year he took off from college to travel to India, Japan and China.

“Before I departed, I had never thought about a life of public service, but that trip opened my eyes; it charted my course,” he said. “I realized how people across the globe were interconnected, and I saw the indispensable role America plays as a leader on the world stage.

“The world is getting smaller,” he added. “Our natural resources are diminishing. We have to find a way to work together better.”

—Coral Davenport, The New York Times

A petition takes aim at a statue in briefs

BOSTON — When Sruthi Narayanan, a Wellesley College senior, first saw a nearly naked man who appeared to be stumbling on campus, she assumed he was a drunk, about to be arrested.

He was actually a new work of art.

The sculpture, “Sleepwalker,” is 5 feet 9 inches tall and made of epoxy, fiberglass and paint. The figure, with a bit of a paunch, is clad only in tight white briefs. His arms are stretched out in front of him, his face reddened and miserable. The work, by Brooklyn artist Tony Matelli, was commissioned by the Davis Museum at the college as part of an exhibition of Matelli’s work.

The appearance of “Sleepwalker” on Monday stoked anger among some of the students at the all-women’s college in Wellesley, Mass. They swiftly took to the Internet to petition the school to move the statue indoors. By Thursday afternoon, the petition had more than 500 supporters.

An explanation of the petition, which was started by two students, Lauren Walsh and Zoe Magid, calls the sculpture “a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community.”

The reaction has pitted students concerned with their peers’ discomfort against the college administration, which has focused on the sculpture as a catalyst for discussion.

“The community is debating everything from compassion to censorship, to freedom of expression and the significance of safe spaces,” H. Kim Bottomly, the college’s president, said in a statement Thursday. She said the students who led the petition were going to meet Thursday with Matelli and Lisa Fischman, director of the Davis Museum.

—Jess Bidgood, The New York Times

Next phase of Obama’s executive push: climate hubs

WASHINGTON — On the heels of the Senate’s passage of a long-awaited farm bill, the Obama administration is to announce Wednesday the creation of seven regional “climate hubs” aimed at helping farmers and rural communities respond to the risks of climate change, including drought, invasive pests, fires and floods.

White House officials describe the move as one of several executive actions that President Barack Obama will take on climate change without action from Congress.

In substance, the creation of the climate hubs is a limited step, but it is part of a broader campaign by the administration to advance climate policy wherever possible with executive authority. The action is also part of a push to build political support for the administration’s more divisive moves on climate change — in particular, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on coal-fired power plants.

Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture and a former Iowa governor, is to announce the creation of the climate hubs at a White House briefing.

—Coral Davenport, The New York Times