Update on the latest business

By The Associated Press | Posted - Apr 25th, 2014 @ 11:11am



WALL STREET

Weak earnings from Ford, others drag stocks lower

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are heading lower in early trading following disappointing earnings reports from Ford and other big companies.

Amazon fell 9 percent after the huge online retailer forecast an operating loss for the second quarter as it continues to invest heavily in its business.

Ford fell 3 percent after reporting earnings that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Whirlpool also fell 2 percent after its own earnings didn't match what investors were looking for.

EARNS-FORD

Ford's profit falls 39 percent in first quarter

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford Motor Co.'s first-quarter profit fell 39 percent as sales and revenue declined in North America, its most important market.

Ford says it earned $989 million, or 24 cents per share, in the January-March period. That's down from $1.64 billion, or 41 cents a year ago.

The company fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet forecast earnings of 31 cents per share.

Revenue rose slightly to $35.9 billion, beating analysts' expectations. Worldwide sales were up 6 percent to nearly 1.6 million.

Ford's North American operations were hit with $100 million in weather-related charges during the brutal weather, including increased costs for parts shipments. The company also set aside $400 million for its warranty reserves for the repair of prior models.

Ford's North American pretax profit fell 37 percent to $1.5 billion.

JAPAN-EARNS-HONDA

Honda's profit doubles on weak yen, strong sales

TOKYO (AP) — Honda's profit for the fiscal fourth quarter zoomed to more than double the previous year's as the benefits of a weak yen added to strong sales.

Honda Motor Co. said Friday that January-March net profit totaled 170.5 billion yen ($1.67 billion), up from 75.7 billion yen the same period the previous year.

Quarterly sales surged 13 percent to 3.097 trillion yen ($30 billion).

The automaker sold nearly 1.2 million vehicles during the quarter, helped by purchases by Japanese seeking to beat a sales-tax rise on April 1.

The Tokyo-based maker of the Odyssey minivan, Accord sedan and Asimo robot expects to sell 4.83 million vehicles globally for the fiscal year ending March 2015.

It forecast a 21 percent rise in annual profit to 595 billion yen ($5.8 billion).

EARNS-BURGER KING

Burger King's profit rises on cost cuts

NEW YORK (AP) — Burger King reported a higher first-quarter profit as cost-cutting offset weak sales in the U.S.

The Miami-based chain said global sales at established locations rose 2 percent, including a 0.1 percent increase in the U.S.

McDonald's Corp. and Dunkin' Donuts also reported underwhelming sales for the first three months of the year.

Burger King Worldwide Inc. has been introducing an array of menu items to refresh its outdated image in the U.S. and striking deals with franchisees to expand its presence abroad.

For the quarter, the company earned $60.4 million, or 17 cents per share. Not including one-time items, it earned 20 cents per share, a penny more than Wall Street expected.

Revenue declined to $240.9 million as the company refranchised restaurants, falling short of the $241.3 million analysts expected.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

US consumer confidence jumps to 9-month high

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence surged in April, approaching the highest level since the recession began in 2007 as Americans reported greater optimism about their financial situation and the economy.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment rose to 84.1 in April from 80 in March. That's just a point below the 85.1 reached last July, which was the highest in nearly seven years.

Americans have cut back on debt and benefited from steady hiring and rising stock and home prices. Just 28 percent said this month that their finances were getting worse, down from 37 percent in March and the lowest level since April 2007.

Americans were also slightly more optimistic about future hiring, the survey found, though the gains were slight.

SECURITIES ARRESTS

Ex-Islanders partial owner admits investment fraud

NEW YORK (AP) — A former partial owner of the New York Islanders has pleaded guilty to securities fraud.

Stephen Walsh entered the plea Friday in Manhattan federal court. The 69-year-old Sands Point resident admitted participating in a fraud from 1996 to 2009.

At the time, he operated a securities business with Paul Greenwood of North Salem, Conn. The businesses included Greenwich, Conn.-based WG Trading Co. LP and Westridge Capital Management Inc. in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Authorities said the men misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars. Their clients included charitable and university foundations and pension plans.

Prosecutors say the men made millions of dollars in illegal wire transfers from client accounts. They say Greenwood bought horses and collectibles and Walsh bought an apartment and provided cash to his ex-wife.

Greenwood previously pleaded guilty.

MICHIGAN-TOYOTA LAWSUIT

Judge accepts deal in sudden acceleration suit

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A judge has accepted a settlement involving the family of a 77-year-old Flint-area woman killed when her 2005 Toyota Camry slammed into a tree after alleged sudden acceleration.

Terms of the settlement approved Friday between the family of Guadalupe Alberto and the automaker aren't being released. Genesee County Judge Archie Hayman in Flint says it's been a "long road" for the family and that his prayers are with them.

The Flint Journal reports that Alberto's daughter, Lilia Alberto, says a payment from the settlement will be distributed among family members.

Lawyers for both sides declined to comment after the hearing. Toyota said earlier this month that it was satisfied that a mutually acceptable agreement was reached.

Guadalupe Alberto died instantly in the April 2008 crash in Flint.

CHANTIX-FDA MEETING

FDA reviews psychiatric side effects of Chantix

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday it will convene a public meeting in October to review the risks of psychiatric and behavioral side effects with Pfizer's anti-smoking drug Chantix.

The agency says in a federal notice it will convene its panel of psychiatric drug experts to discuss the pill's risks and how to manage them.

Since 2009 Chantix has carried the government's strongest safety warning due to links to hostility, agitation, depression and suicidal thoughts. The warning was added after the FDA received dozens of reports of suicide and suicidal behavior among patients taking Chantix.

At that time the FDA also required Pfizer to conduct additional studies.

A spokeswoman for Pfizer said Friday that the company recently submitted new data to the FDA designed to show the drug's safety.

UKRAINE

S&P cuts Russia's credit rating

MOSCOW (AP) — The Standard & Poor's credit agency has cut Russia's credit rating from BBB to BBB-, citing the capital flight and risk to investment in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

Credit ratings are important for the economy because they determine how expensive it will be for a country or company to borrow on international markets.

The cut in Russia's rating is the most tangible economic result of Russia's policies toward Ukraine so far.

Moscow in March recognized a hastily called referendum in Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and annexed it weeks later, attracting condemnation of the West as well as sanctions targeting individuals. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday warned Moscow that unless it took immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, Washington would impose additional sanctions.

SPAIN-ECONOMY

Fitch upgrades Spain's credit rating

LONDON (AP) — The Fitch ratings agency has upgraded Spain's credit grade, citing an improvement in the outlook of the country's finances and economy.

The agency lifted the country's sovereign rating Friday by one notch to BBB+ from BBB.

In a report, Fitch said the "economic reforms of the labor market, pension system, fiscal framework and financial sector that have been enacted by the authorities since the start of the crisis have improved the longer-term outlook."

Spain was among the European countries hardest hit by the financial crisis. The property market's collapse in 2008 pushed the economy into recession and the government needed help from other eurozone countries to rescue its banks.

Although unemployment is still near 26 percent, Spain's economy is out of recession and the government borrowing rates have dropped.

AMAZON-PRIME PANTRY

Amazon launches grocery service for Prime members

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is taking aim at grocery stores and discounters like Wal-Mart with a grocery service that lets its Prime loyalty club members fill up to a 45-pound box with groceries and get it shipped for a flat rate of $5.99.

The mega online retailer says the service, called Prime Pantry, will offer Prime users an expanded selection of items that they usually pick up in grocery stores, in addition to larger in-bulk groceries more commonly ordered online, at competitive prices. Some items now available are single boxes of Cheerios, a six-pack of Bounty paper towels and Coca-Cola fridge packs.

Amazon has been bulking up services for its Prime membership program since it increased the annual membership price to $99 from $79 in March to help offset rising shipping costs.

PINTEREST-RETAILERS

Retailers get creative with Pinterest

NEW YORK (AP) — Target, Nordstrom and other big chains are literally pinning their hopes of attracting shoppers on social media.

Retailers increasingly are using Pinterest, a social media site that allows users to create collections of photos, articles, recipes, videos and other images that are called "pins," to draw business to their own sites.

Popular items on Pinterest are being prominently displayed in Nordstrom stores. Target is creating exclusive party-planning collections with top Pinterest users, or "pinners." And Caribou created a coffee blend that was inspired by the coffee chain's Pinterest fans.

The interest in Pinterest comes as retailers increasingly realize the power of social media sites to steer business their way. They've found while smartphone-toting Americans are spending time opining and posting photos online, they can be encouraged to spend money, too.

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