Business briefs: Fed's regional report finds moderate growth

  • Updated: April 17, 2013 - 8:12 PM

The U.S. economy is growing at a “moderate” pace, as housing’s rebound and the continued recovery in the auto sector offset weaknesses stemming from federal government budget cuts, the expiration of the payroll tax cut and winter weather, the Federal Reserve said. The Beige Book report released by the Fed, covering the period from late February to early April, is just slightly stronger in tone than the last Beige Book, which said the economy was growing “at a modest to moderate” pace. Of the Fed’s 12 districts, five reported “moderate” growth, five reported “modest” growth, and New York and Dallas reported slight accelerations. Consumer spending grew modestly, with higher gasoline prices, the expiration of the payroll tax cut and winter weather restraining growth.

American scrambles to get back on track

American Airlines played catch-up Wednesday, resuming most flights and even adding a handful that weren’t on the schedule to help passengers stranded by a massive technology failure that grounded the carrier’s entire U.S. fleet a day earlier. But some cancellations persisted, and delays were still common. About a third of American flights were late as of midafternoon. American blamed Tuesday’s breakdown on a software problem that knocked out computer systems needed for booking flights, tracking bags, loading and fueling planes and more.

McDonald’s to pay $700K over halal claims

A judge finalized a $700,000 settlement between McDonald’s Corp. and members of Michigan’s Muslim community over claims a suburban Detroit restaurant falsely advertised its food as prepared according to Islamic law. Ahmed Ahmed, the Dearborn Heights man who represents plaintiffs in the class-action suit, claims he bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at the restaurant but found it wasn’t halal. Islam forbids consumption of pork, and God’s name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered. The McDonald’s restaurant chain and one of its franchise owners agreed in January to the tentative settlement.

Auto sales in Europe continue to slide

European new car sales contracted in March for an 18th consecutive month, industry data showed, led by declines in Germany and France. New vehicle registrations in the European Union fell 10.2 percent in March from a year earlier, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association reported from Brussels, to 1.3 million vehicles from about 1.5 million in March 2012. Over the first three months of the year, sales totaled just less than 3 million units, 9.8 percent below the year-earlier level, for the worst start to a single year since the association began collecting the data in 1990, when only 15 nations’ sales were considered.

Grocer Fairway goes public, has growth plans

Investors filled up their shopping carts with shares of Fairway Group Holdings on Wednesday. The stock of the grocery store chain surged 33 percent when it made its public debut on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Fairway opened at $18.07 a share after pricing its initial public offering at $13 a share on Tuesday evening, above the expected range of $10-$12, raising $177.5 million. The stock gave up some of its initial gains during the day and closed at $17.35 a share on heavy volume, up $4.35. Once known primarily for its popular market on New York’s Upper West Side, Fairway is now a 12-store grocery chain with ambitions of opening 300 outlets across the country.

Apple’s stock dips back below $400 mark

Apple Inc. dropped below $400 for the first time since December 2011 after one of its audio-chip suppliers, Cirrus Logic Inc., reported an inventory glut that suggests iPhone sales may fall short of analysts’ expectations. Apple’s shares declined 5.5 percent to $402.80 at the close, and earlier touched $398.11. Cirrus, which makes sound components for the iPhone and iPad, is an indicator of demand for Apple’s top-selling products, according to Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. Apple’s stock has fallen 43 percent from a record in September amid concerns about slowing profit and sales, narrowing margins and intensifying mobile competition.

J.C. Penney brings back old hand for design

J.C. Penney Co. rehired Ken Mangone to head product design as Chief Executive Myron Ullman works to stabilize the plunging sales caused by Ron Johnson’s failed overhaul of the department-store chain. Mangone is returning as executive vice president of product development, design and sourcing, Daphne Avila, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. Mangone left Plano, Texas-based J.C. Penney in December having been at the company since 1999, according to his profile on LinkedIn. J.C. Penney ousted Johnson as CEO on April 8 and replaced him with his predecessor Ullman after annual sales slumped 25 percent to $13 billion, leading to a net loss of $985 million.

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