Nation roundup for January 15


Toyota retakes auto sales crown

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota has once again dethroned General Motors as the world’s top-selling automaker.

The Japanese company sold 9.7 million cars and trucks worldwide in 2012, although it’s still counting. GM sold 9.29 million.

Both companies saw higher sales, but Toyota’s growth was far larger as it rolled out new versions of popular models like the Camry. GM executives promised sales growth this year, especially in the U.S. Both companies say publicly that they don’t care about who wins, but concede that the crown is an important morale booster for employees.

GM was the top-selling carmaker for more than seven decades before losing the title to Toyota in 2008. But GM retook the sales crown in 2011 when Toyota’s factories were slowed by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Hospital releases President Bush

HOUSTON (AP) — Former President George H.W. Bush was released from a Houston hospital and went home Monday after spending nearly two months being treated for a bronchitis-related cough and other health issues, a family spokesman said.

Bush, 88, the nation’s oldest living former president, was admitted to Methodist Hospital on Nov. 23. His stay included a week in intensive care last month.

“I am deeply grateful for the wonderful doctors and nurses at Methodist who took such good care of me,” Bush said in a statement released by spokesman Jim McGrath. “Let me add just how touched we were by the many get-well messages we received from our friends and fellow Americans. Your prayers and good wishes helped more than you know, and as I head home my only concern is that I will not be able to thank each of you for your kind words.”

Coke to address obesity in ads

NEW YORK (AP) — Coca-Cola became one of the world’s most powerful brands by equating its soft drinks with happiness. Now it’s taking to the airwaves for the first time to address a growing cloud over the industry: obesity.

The Atlanta-based company on Monday will begin airing a two-minute spot during the highest-rated shows on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in hopes of flexing its marketing muscle in the debate over sodas and their impact on public health. The ad lays out Coca-Cola’s record of providing drinks with fewer calories and notes that weight gain is the result of consuming too many calories of any kind — not just soda.

Apple stock falls on iPhone report

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple held down the Standard & Poor’s 500, pushing it further below the five-year high it reached last week, after the technology giant’s stock sank following a report that demand for the iPhone 5 may be weaker than expected. The Dow Jones industrial average edged higher.

The Dow rose 18.89 points to 13,507.32 Monday, having fallen as much as 29 points at the start of the day. The S&P 500 fell 1.37 point to 1,470.68. The Nasdaq composite index fell 8.13 points to 3,117.50

The S&P 500 closed at a five-year high of 1,472 on Thursday, following a solid start to the fourth-quarter earnings reporting period and amid optimism that the outlook for global growth is brightening.

Apple’s stock, which isn’t included in the Dow but accounts for 10.3 percent of the Nasdaq index and 3.7 percent of the S&P, slid $18.55 to $501.75 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the company has reduced its orders for iPhone 5 components due to weak demand. Apple slipped below $500 a share for the first time in nearly a year in early trading. The stock has slumped 28 percent since closing at a record $702.10 in September.

Computer maker Dell surged $1.41, or 13 percent, to $12.29 following a report that it’s in talks with buyout firms. The company is considering going private with at least two firms, Bloomberg news reported, citing unidentified sources.

Earnings reporting will pick up this week with many big U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America releasing results.

“The market is definitely in wait and see mode,” said Brian Gendreau, a market strategist at Cetera Financial Group.

Investors will be scrutinizing revenues to assess whether the drawn-out debate over the “fiscal cliff” had an impact on consumer spending. A series of tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect Jan. 1 were only averted by a last-minute deal.

Earnings growth has likely peaked for now because companies have been relying on cost cutting, rather than growth, to boost profitability, says Ron Sloan, a senior portfolio manager at Invesco. Analysts currently forecast that fourth-quarter 2012 earnings for S&P 500 companies will increase 3.3 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ. That compares with 8.4 percent from the same period a year earlier.

“We have to make this transition….from depending on margins and cost-cutting to an old-fashioned, animal spirits, industrial recovery where companies are willing to spend money to hire people,” said Invesco’s Sloan.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans, an alternate member of the Fed’s Open Market Committee, said Monday in a speech in Hong Kong that central banks should help create conditions to foster “robust demand growth” as the U.S. and other advanced economies try to reduce debt.

President Barack Obama is currently urging Congress to increase the nation’s borrowing limit so it can continue paying its bills. The government has hit its $16.4 trillion debt limit and is expected to run out of ways to meet all of its obligations around March 1, perhaps earlier. Republicans wants spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

Failure to lift the borrowing limit, or debt ceiling, would be “a self-inflicted wound” to the economy and cause turmoil on financial markets, Obama told a White House news conference on Monday.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, was little changed at 1.86 percent.

Among other stocks making big moves:

— H.H. Gregg, a home appliances retailer, fell 45 cents, or 5.7 percent, to $7.44 after the company lowered its earnings forecast for fiscal 2013, citing declining demand for flat screen televisions.

— Harry Winston Diamond Corp. gained 62 cents to $15.08 after the company agreed to sell its namesake retail jewelry and watch division to Switzerland’s Swatch Group in a deal valued at $1 billion.

— Sprint Nextel fell 23 cents, 3.9 percent, to $5.69 after JPMorgan cuts its rating on the stock to “neutral” to “overweight.” The bank’s analysts expect the company to spend big on capital investment this year and say that the outlook for subscriber growth in uncertain.

— United Parcel Service gained $1.32, or 1.7 percent, to $79.24 after the company scrapped plans to grow in Europe through the acquisition of Dutch delivery company TNT Express because of opposition from European regulators. The $6.9 billion deal would have been the largest acquisition in UPS’s history.

 

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