Business Highlights

AP News
Posted: Aug 08, 2012 6:25 PM
Business Highlights


McDonald's left hungry by rivals, economy in July

NEW YORK (AP) — The Golden Arches are starting to lose some of their shine.

McDonald's Corp. says a key revenue figure came in flat in July, its worst showing in more than nine years, as consumers pulled back amid a sluggish economy. After years of outperforming rivals with a string of popular new items, the results also suggest competition is intensifying for the world's biggest hamburger chain.

The last time the global sales figure dipped for McDonald's was in April of 2003. The figure had grown every month since then, even through the recession.


Chevron response to refinery fire under criticism

RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) — Investigators were looking at how a small, seemingly insignificant leak at one of the country's biggest oil refineries quickly spiraled into an intense fire that sent acrid black smoke into the sky and hundreds of people to hospitals with health complaints.

This latest disruption at Chevron's refinery about 10 miles northwest of San Francisco — one of the West Coast's biggest refineries — was expected to affect gasoline prices in the region.

The Richmond refinery produces about 150,000 barrels of gasoline a day — or 16 percent of the region's daily gasoline consumption of 963,000 barrels, according to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service.


Android extends dominance in smartphones worldwide

NEW YORK (AP) — Got an iPhone? You're in the minority.

There were four Android phones for every iPhone shipped in the second quarter, research firm IDC said Wednesday. That's up from a ratio of 2.5 to 1 in the same period last year.

The success of Samsung's Android phones helped Google's operating system extend its dominance in the smartphone market.

Samsung Electronics Co. and other phone makers shipped nearly 105 million Android smartphones in the April-June quarter, giving Android 68 percent of the worldwide market, up from 47 percent last year.


US worker productivity up 1.6 percent in 2nd quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. companies got slightly more out of their workers this spring after scaling back on hiring. The modest 1.6 percent annualized gain in productivity from April through June signals employers may need to hire more if demand picks up.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the increase followed a 0.5 percent decline in the January-March quarter, less than first estimated.

Productivity is the amount of output per hour worked. Rising productivity can boost corporate profits, but also slow job creation because it means companies are getting more from their current staff and don't need to add workers. Still, there are limits to how much companies can get from their existing workforces.


Citigroup tries another housing tack: own to rent

Citigroup will try something new to keep struggling homeowners out of foreclosure: turn them into renters.

CitiMortgage announced the program Wednesday and painted it as a way to help homeowners stuck in houses they can't afford. The New York-based bank, however, won't manage the program. Instead, it is handing the reigns to an investment firm.

It will work like this: Carrington Capital Management and its sister mortgage company will comb a mortgage portfolio for eligible homeowners — though they're homeowners in name only, since they are still paying for their houses. Carrington is looking for people who owe more on their house than it's worth, but also seem to have the means to keep making monthly payments.

Homeowners who choose to participate would have to transfer the ownership of their house to Carrington and another firm, Oaktree Capital Management. Carrington would then negotiate with the homeowners-turned-renters for "a manageable monthly payment" and how long the lease should last. The rental rates would be determined by local market conditions, Carrington said, and they should be less expensive than the homeowners' current mortgage payments.


Fannie Mae posts $2.2 billion net gain for Q2

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fannie Mae earned $2.2 billion from April through June, its second quarterly gain in net income since being taken over by the government during the 2008 financial crisis.

The mortgage giant attributed the increase to improving home prices and fewer foreclosures.

Fannie said Wednesday that it paid a dividend of $2.9 billion to the Treasury Department and sought no additional aid.

Fannie's net income attributable to common shareholders was 37 cents per share in the second quarter. That compares with a net loss of $5.2 billion, or 90 cents per share, in the same period last year.


Macy's posts 16 percent rise in 2Q net income

NEW YORK (AP) — Macy's reported a nearly 16 percent increase in net income for its second quarter, helped by cost-cutting and its strategy to tailor its merchandise to local markets.

The department store chain, which operates under its and upscale Bloomingdale's names, also raised its annual earnings guidance. Its shares rose almost 3 percent Wednesday.

Macy's Inc., which has been a standout among its peers throughout the economic recovery, is the first in a series of major retailers that will report second-quarter results that could provide insight into how Americans are spending. The results from Macy's may reassure economists concerned that shoppers are pulling back just as the crucial back-to-school selling season begins.


Tough coal market means big loss for Alpha Natural

NEW YORK (AP) — Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources Inc. said Wednesday that it lost $2.2 billion in the second quarter as the industry struggled to compete with cheap natural gas and demand waned in some key markets.

Alpha recorded about $2.5 billion in pretax charges for restructuring and the declining value of some assets. Even without those charges, its loss was larger than Wall Street expected.

Revenue rose 15 percent to $1.85 billion but that also came in below expectations.

The coal industry has been battered this year by a combination of factors: Many U.S. utilities are using cheap natural gas to generate electricity instead of coal. Mild winter weather further reduced demand. And recession in many European countries combined with a slowdown in once red-hot Asian growth stifled exports. Alpha mines thermal coal used for power generation and metallurgical coal used to produce steel.


Outback parent company's stock blooms after IPO

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Bloomin' Brands, which operates Outback Steakhouse and other restaurant chains, are proving a tasty treat for investors, though only after the portion size was reduced.

Shares rose $1.41, or 12.8 percent to close at $12.42 on Wednesday in the stock's first trading day on the Nasdaq.

The positive reaction from investors is a good sign for other IPOs expected this week. But it comes only after the company reduced its offering price and cut the number of shares that selling shareholders were offering, a sign that companies should keep expectations muted about how much cash they'll reap by going public.


HP to take record quarterly loss

NEW YORK (AP) — Hewlett-Packard Co. on Wednesday said that it will take a massive charge against its earnings for the latest quarter, leading to a record loss of nearly $9 billion.

The charge is the result of a writedown of the value of its services business, reflecting that the company overpaid when it bought Electronic Data Systems in 2008 for $14 billion.

HP said it will take an $8 billion charge for the reduced value of Enterprise Services in the quarter that ended in July. The division, which provides information technology and outsourcing services to corporations, has seen flat revenue for the last two years, and its operating profit has declined.


By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 7.04 points, or 0.1 percent, at 13,175.64. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.87 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,402.22. The Nasdaq closed down 4.61 points, or 0.2 percent, at 3,011.25.

Benchmark oil fell 32 cents to finish at $93.35 per barrel in New York.

Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, rose 14 cents to finish at $112.14 per barrel in London.

Heating oil increased 1.79 cents to end at $3.0159 per gallon. Gasoline fell 1.09 cents to finish at $2.9804 per gallon. Natural gas fell 3.1 cents to end at $2.9330 per 1,000 cubic feet.