ADP: Private-sector hiring rose last month

Hiring by private-sector businesses showed further signs of strengthening in December, according to a closely followed report that bodes well for the upcoming release of national employment data. Automatic Data Processing Inc. said that businesses added 238,000 net new jobs last month, with small firms and the construction sector showing increasing momentum. The tally is up from a revised figure of 229,000 new jobs that ADP calculated for November. Public- and private-sector job growth for November, as reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 203,000. The labor agency is scheduled to release its December jobs report on Friday, along with any revisions to its November employment statistics.

Eurozone unemployment stays above 12%

Europe's labor market remained stagnant in November, but analysts saw reason for hope elsewhere in the economy, including a surge in retail sales. The unemployment rate in the eurozone stood at 12.1 percent, a stubbornly high level that has held since April, Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, reported. As the sovereign debt crisis seized the region and economic malaise set in, the jobless rose from just under 10 percent in early 2011 to the current record level. The November rate was in line with economists' expectations. For the full E.U., the jobless rate was unchanged at 10.9 percent.

Barnes & Noble names insider its new CEO

Barnes & Noble Inc. promoted Michael Huseby, who has served as its chief financial officer and president, to chief executive as the chain struggles to retain customers increasingly shifting to digital books. Huseby also has been elected to the board, the New York-based company said. Barnes & Noble, which has more than 670 stores, has been heavily investing in its Nook digital unit. After some initial success with its Nook e-readers and tablets, the division's sales slumped during the holidays in 2012 and haven't recovered. Cratering sales led to the July departure of CEO William Lynch.

J.C. Penney mum on December sales results

Shares of J.C. Penney Co. tumbled after the retailer raised doubts about its turnaround by releasing a two-paragraph statement on holiday results that didn't include sales data it had provided the previous three months. The shares sank 10 percent to $7.37. J.C. Penney began reporting monthly same-store sales in September to show investors that it was rebounding from steep sales declines. Sales by that measure rose 0.9 in October and 10 percent in November. The company didn't release December results, only saying that it was pleased with its holiday performance.

Inflation in China cools off to 2.5 percent

China's inflation rate eased in December to 2.5 percent amid signs the world's second-largest economy might be cooling. The consumer price rise reported Thursday was down from November's 3 percent. Inflation for the full year of 2013 was 2.6 percent, below the ruling Communist Party's target of 3.5 percent. Lower inflation could ease pressure on Chinese leaders as they try to focus on promised reforms aimed at making the economy more productive and keeping growth strong. China's economic growth dropped to a two-decade low of 7.5 percent in the second quarter of last year. It rebounded the following quarter, but analysts say the recovery is likely to fade.

Twitter stock slides further after downgrade

Twitter's stock price continued a recent decline, closing down 3.5 percent to $59.29 after an analyst lowered the short messaging service's rating on concerns that its stock price is too high. Shares of Twitter Inc. surged 53 percent in December as investors disregarded the company's lukewarm early-November initial public offering. But the company's soaring stock price has given analysts pause, even as they remain upbeat about Twitter's business model. Youssef Squali of Cantor Fitzgerald sees big things ahead for Twitter but says the December surge was unwarranted. Squali lowered his rating on Twitter's stock to "sell" from "hold," calling the stock's price "excessive." He thinks a fair value for the stock is $32.