U.S. auto sales stayed strong in January

Coming off the best sales year in nearly a decade, the auto industry showed little sign of slowing down in January. The broad-based gains, which included double-digit increases by General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Honda, occurred in a month that traditionally is slower for dealerships in the United States. Once again, sport-utility vehicles and trucks were the best sellers. Overall, sales rose 14 percent over January 2014, with 1.15 million vehicles sold in the United States, for a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.66 million vehicles, the highest rate since 2006, according to Autodata.

Smucker to buy Meow Mix maker for $3.2B

J.M. Smucker Co. is buying Meow Mix maker Big Heart Pet Brands in a $3.2 billion cash-and-stock deal, giving it a presence in the fast-growing pet food industry. Big Heart Pet Brands, based in San Francisco, also owns brands such as Milk-Bone, Kibbles 'n Bits and Pup-Peroni. Smucker, whose brands include Crisco and Folgers, values the deal at $5.8 billion when including debt. Smucker will pay $1.3 billion in cash and issue 17.9 million shares of its common stock for the company.

Macy's to buy beauty chain Bluemercury

Macy's, the big department store operator, said it had agreed to acquire Bluemercury, the spa and beauty chain, for $210 million. For Macy's, which also owns the Bloomingdales chain of department stores, adding Bluemercury gives it a third brand and an enlarged growing national presence. Based in Washington, Bluemercury operates 60 stores in 18 states and has a growing e-commerce business. Most of the stores sell a range of cosmetics and beauty products, including a proprietary line of high-end skin care items, and also offer spa treatments. Macy's said it expected the deal to close in the first quarter, and also announced several management changes and raised its earnings guidance for 2014.

Coca-Cola to roll out premium milk product

Coca-Cola Co. is coming out with premium milk that has more protein and less sugar than regular milk. And it's betting people will pay twice as much for it. The national rollout of Fairlife over the next several weeks marks Coca-Cola's entry into the milk case in the U.S. and is one way the world's biggest beverage maker is diversifying its offerings. Fairlife, which Coca-Cola formed with dairy cooperative Select Milk Producers in 2012, says its milk goes through a filtration process that's akin the way skim milk is made. The drink has already started appearing on shelves and is expected to roll out nationally over the next several weeks. At a supermarket in Indianapolis, a 52-ounce bottle of Fairlife was being sold for $4.59.

Factory orders down for a fifth month

Orders to U.S. factories dropped for a fifth consecutive month in December, while a key category that signals business investment plans fell for a fourth straight month. Factory orders declined 3.4 percent in December after a 1.7 percent drop in November, the Commerce Department reported. It was the biggest drop since a 10 percent plunge in August and marked the fifth straight month that orders have fallen. Demand in a key category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans edged down 0.1 percent after bigger declines in the previous three months. The stronger U.S. dollar and global weakness have hurt American exports.

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