US economy gets lift from housing, other tailwinds
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is a study in contrasts.
The housing, banking and auto industries are surging back to health and that has helped push the stock market to a five-year peak. Higher prices for homes and stocks tend to make people feel wealthier and spend more.
Yet unemployment remains high and hiring modest. The end of a Social Security tax cut is shrinking already flat pay. Federal budget fights have put businesses and consumers on edge.
Balanced between those tailwinds and headwinds, the economy is struggling to accelerate. By the end of this year, though, many analysts think the tailwinds will succeed in boosting growth and fueling a more robust economy in 2014.
They’re back: J. C. Penney adds sales
NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney is bringing back sales.
The struggling department store chain this week will begin adding back some of the hundreds of sales it ditched last year in hopes of luring shoppers who were turned off when the discounts disappeared, CEO Ron Johnson told The Associated Press.
Penney also plans to add price tags or signs for more than half of its merchandise to show customers how much they’re saving by shopping at the chain — a strategy used by a few other retailers. For store branded items such as Arizona, Penney will show comparison prices from competitors.
The moves are a reversal for Penney on the eve of the one-year anniversary when it vowed to almost completely get rid of the sales that Americans covet but that cut into a store’s profits. The idea was to offer everyday low prices that customers could count on rather than the nearly 600 fleeting discounts, coupons and sales it once offered.
Toyota sold nearly 9.75 million vehicles last year
TOKYO (AP) — Now it’s official: Toyota is once again the world’s top automaker.
Toyota Motor Corp. released its tally for global vehicle sales for last year Monday at a record 9.748 million vehicles — a bigger number than the estimate it gave last month of about 9.7 million vehicles.
It was already clear Toyota had dethroned General Motors Co. as the Detroit-based automaker fell short, selling 9.29 million vehicles.
GM had been the top-selling automaker for more than seven decades before losing the title to Toyota in 2008.
Crucial, long-overdue BlackBerry makeover arrives
TORONTO (AP) — The maker of the BlackBerry smartphone is promising a speedier device, a superb typing experience and the ability to keep work and personal identities separate on the same phone. It’s the fruit of a crucial, long-overdue makeover for the Canadian company.
Thorsten Heins, chief executive of Research In Motion Ltd., will show off the first phone with the new BlackBerry 10 system in New York on Wednesday. A marketing campaign that includes a Super Bowl ad will accompany the long-anticipated debut. Repeated delays have left the once-pioneering BlackBerry an afterthought in the shadow of Apple’s trend-setting iPhone and Google’s Android-driven devices.
Now, there’s some optimism. Previews of the software have gotten favorable reviews on blogs. Financial analysts are starting to see some slight room for a comeback. RIM’s stock has nearly tripled to $16.18 from a nine-year low in September, though it’s still nearly 90 percent below its 2008 peak of $147.
US durable goods orders rise 4.6 percent on aircraft
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. demand for long-lasting manufactured goods rose sharply in December on strong gains in volatile aircraft orders. But companies slowed their orders of goods that signal investment plans, indicating manufacturing could stay choppy in 2013.
The Commerce Department said Monday that overall orders for durable goods increased 4.6 percent in December compared with November. The gains were led by a 56.4 percent increase in military aircraft orders and a 10.1 percent increase in commercial aircraft orders.
Orders rose in other major categories, including machinery, communications equipment and primary metals.
Tight inventory slows US pending home sales
WASHINGTON (AP) — A measure of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell last month after reaching a 2 ½-year high in November. Sales were held back by a limited supply of available homes.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales dropped 4.3 percent in December from November to 101.7. That’s still 6.9 percent higher than a year ago.
The decline signals that sales of previously occupied homes may cool off in the coming months. There’s generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale.Continued...