Holiday retail sales beating expectations

A rebounding economy and big discounts fueled Americans to spend more briskly in stores than expected during the winter holiday shopping season. Sales at 1,000 retail chains nationwide rose 4.6 percent to $270.1 billion in November and December, ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based technology company, said. The results beat ShopperTrak's forecast for a 3.8 percent increase and mark the strongest growth since 2005 when sales rose 5.2 percent. The ShopperTrak data offers the first glimpse of holiday spending, although it does not include online sales. A fuller picture comes next week when the National Retail Federation releases its holiday results based on government data that include online sales.

Coca-Cola says it will cut at least 1,600 jobs

Coca-Cola Co. said it will cut between 1,600 and 1,800 jobs in coming months to trim costs. The world's biggest beverage maker said it began notifying workers in the U.S. and some international locations Thursday. It said job types are across all parts of its business and include about 500 cuts at its Atlanta headquarters. The company, which makes Sprite, Powerade, Vitaminwater and other drinks, has about 130,600 employees around the world, according to FactSet. In an e-mailed statement, Coca-Cola said it will "continuously look for ways to streamline our business," suggesting additional cuts could be announced later. Coca-Cola and rival PepsiCo Inc. have been looking for ways to cut costs as their soda businesses have flagged in North America.

Auto, student loans push consumer debt up

U.S. consumers increased their borrowing in November, as stronger demand for auto and student loans offset a drop in credit card debt. The Federal Reserve said consumer borrowing rose by $14.1 billion after a $16 billion increase in October. The gains have pushed consumer debt excluding real estate loans to a record level of $3.3 trillion. The latest figures suggest that an improving economy and strong employment gains over the past year may be making consumers more comfortable with ramping up their borrowing. The category that includes credit card debt fell by $946 million after an increase of $1.48 billion in October. The decline was outweighed by a $15 billion increase in the category that covers auto and student loans. Borrowing for education and cars has risen rapidly this year.

Initial jobless claims declined last week

Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that employers expect ongoing economic growth and the need to hold on to workers. The Labor Department said that applications for unemployment benefits fell 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 294,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, slipped 250 to 290,500. That average has plunged 16 percent in the past 12 months, as averages have stayed at historically low sub-300,000 levels since September. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. As fewer workers are being let go, employers are bringing on new employees to meet customer demand.

Inhumane treatment alleged at egg supplier

An animal rights group released a disturbing video of laying hens at a farm in Northern California that supplies eggs to Whole Foods and Organic Valley, among other retailers and distributors. The group, Direct Action Everywhere, contended the hens' treatment was inhumane and said it planned to protest this weekend at Whole Foods stores in a number of U.S. cities. The hens in the video belong to Petaluma Farms, whose owners assert the group is distorting and exaggerating the conditions under which its organic and conventional eggs are raised and sold under the brands Judy's Family Farm and Rock Island. It also supplies eggs sold by Whole Foods stores in Northern California under the grocer's 365 label.

Apple touts jobs created by apps, growth

Apple, which has faced criticism for manufacturing its computing devices overseas instead of in the U.S., is putting a number to the jobs it has created or supported at home: 1.03 million. Applications designed for Apple's smartphones and tablets have helped create more than 627,000 U.S. jobs, while 334,000 jobs have resulted from its spending and growth, and 66,000 people work directly for the company in the U.S., Apple said on its website. Revenue generated through its App Store rose 50 percent to a record in 2014, Apple said. Apple touted its employment figures in advance of the Labor Department releasing data Friday.

Nike accused of trying to steal tech talent

Nike Inc. was accused by a MasterCard Inc. unit of conspiring to steal scarce technology talent by encouraging two top cybersecurity managers to break their contracts with the credit card company as worries of hacking and breaches of customer privacy deepen. MasterCard International Inc., a unit of the payment card company, alleges in a complaint filed in federal court in White Plains, N.Y., that Nike "conspired" with ex-Chief Information Security Officer William Dennings and a former senior engineering manager when it urged them to quit their jobs and join the Beaverton, Ore.-based apparel company. A Nike representative didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.