Economy picking up pace
The economy picked up pace since November, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book survey of regional activity showed on Wednesday. “Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts indicated that economic activity has expanded since the previous Beige Book report, with all twelve Districts characterizing the pace of growth as either modest or moderate,” the report said. Christmas season sales were “modestly” higher from 2011, and the economies of New Jersey and neighboring New York State, heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October, were rebounding, the Fed said. However, it added that trends in unemployment and prices were “relatively unchanged,” putting no pressure on the Fed to tighten monetary policy in its next policy meeting on Jan. 29 and Jan. 30.
EBay beats forecasts
EBay Inc finished last year with a flourish as bargain-hunting holiday shoppers flocked to its Internet shopping mall and digital payment service to help lift the company’s fourth-quarter earnings above analysts’ projections. The results announced on Wednesday showed eBay earned US$757 million, or US$0.57 per share, during the final three months of last year. That represented a 62 percent decrease from net income of US$2 billion, or US$1.51 per share, at the same time in 2011. Revenue climbed 18 percent from the previous year to nearly US$4 billion, in line with analysts’ forecasts. For all of last year, eBay earned US$2.6 billion, or US$1.99 per share, on revenue of US$14.1 billion.
Carrefour ekes out growth
French company Carrefour SA says it eked out sales growth in the fourth quarter, boosting its annual results as it looks to Latin America amid sinking sales in Europe. The company — Europe’s largest retailer by sales — said in a statement yesterday that sales in the quarter were up 0.8 percent to 22.9 billion euros (US$30.4 billion). It said sales for all of last year were up 1 percent to 86.6 billion euros. Sales in Europe were down all year, with big drops in Spain and Italy, while those in Latin America were up nearly 5 percent in the fourth quarter.
Renesas to cut more jobs
Struggling Japanese chipmaker Renesas Electronics Corp said yesterday it plans to widen an early retirement scheme as it scrambles to cut costs to shore up its bleeding balance sheet. The company said it had proposed to its labor union that more than 3,000 jobs be added to an existing plan to slash 11,500 positions through voluntary reductions and factory floor cuts. “Now the total number of job cuts is expected to reach about 15,000,” a Renesas spokeswoman said, adding that no upper limit had been set on reductions, which amount to about a third of its workforce. Employees aged 40 and over would be eligible, the company said.
Unemployment rate rises
Employers unexpectedly cut payrolls last month and the unemployment rate rose, signaling weakness outside the mining industry is discouraging hiring. The number of people employed fell by 5,500 after a revised 17,100 gain in November, the statistics bureau said yesterday. The jobless rate rose to 5.4 percent compared with a revised 5.3 percent the previous month. The data validate the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision to lower the benchmark interest rate last month, the fourth reduction last year.