Toyota forecasts its largest annual profit
After years of setbacks, Toyota now predicts that it will book its largest-ever annual profit. The world's bestselling automaker said it expected to post 1.9 trillion yen ($18.8 billion) in net profit for the fiscal year ending in March, as a weaker yen and strong sales helped drive earnings. That is up from an earlier forecast of 1.67 trillion yen and above the previous high of 1.7 trillion yen six years ago before the global financial crisis. Still, the mood at Toyota's Tokyo office was less than joyous, with executives expressing caution. Recent global market jitters, driven by fears of the effects of a pullback in U.S. monetary stimulus, were especially worrying, they said. On Tuesday, the Nikkei 225-stock average, Japan's benchmark, slumped 4.2 percent to its lowest close since September.
Aircraft weakness pushes factory orders down
U.S. manufacturers saw orders for their products decline in December by the largest amount in five months although the setback for a key category that tracks business investment was not as large as first reported. Orders to U.S. factories fell 1.5 percent in December, the biggest drop since July, with much of the weakness coming from a plunge in aircraft orders, the Commerce Department reported. Orders had risen 1.5 percent in November after a 0.5 percent October decrease. Orders in a closely watched category that serves as a proxy for business investment declined 0.6 percent, a smaller fall than the 1.3 percent drop estimated in a preliminary report last week. The decrease followed a sizable 3 percent jump in November, an increase spurred by an expiring tax break.
Layoffs underway at restructuring Time Inc.
Time Inc., the magazine giant with brands including People, Sports Illustrated and Fortune, began a new round of layoffs Tuesday as part of a companywide restructuring that will result in the loss of about 500 jobs, according a person briefed on the matter. Joseph Ripp, Time Inc.'s chief executive, unveiled plans for the job cuts, but not the number of layoffs, in a letter to employees. The cuts were announced as Time Inc. prepares to be spun off from its parent, Time Warner.
RadioShack reportedly closing 500 stores
The '80s called. They want their stores back — 500 of them, to be exact. Two days after debuting a self-deprecating Super Bowl commercial that poked fun at its outdated retail stores, RadioShack will close 500 stores over the next couple of months, according to anonymous sources quoted by the Wall Street Journal. The company has more than 5,400 nationally, according to current store listings. The electronics retailer has been working with bankers Peter J. Solomon Co. to boost its liquidity and with consulting firm AlixPartner on how to revamp its operations, according to Reuters.
S&P downgrades Puerto Rico bonds to junk
The credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Puerto Rico's debt to junk status as the U.S. territory prepared to return to the bond market this month. S&P cut its rating one notch to "BB+," which is one level below investment grade. The agency noted that the downgrade would have been more severe without reductions in the Puerto Rican government's budget deficits and an overhaul of crumbling public pension systems by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla.
JPMorgan to pay $1.5M in harassment case
JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay nearly $1.5 million to settle a federal sexual harassment lawsuit that alleged the company created a hostile work environment for female mortgage bankers at its office outside Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the settlement money will be divided among 16 women who worked at the bank's call center in its Polaris Park office.
FROM NEWS SERVICES