Business

In brief: Auto, gas sales boost sluggish retail sector

WASHINGTON – Americans spent less at most retail stores in July and inflation remained tame as high unemployment and weak job growth fueled fears of a slowing economic recovery.

A busy month for car dealerships and higher gas prices lifted overall retail sales 0.4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Friday. It was the first overall gain in three months.

Still, most retailers reported declines. Excluding autos and gasoline sales – which accounted for one-fourth of the July figures – retail sales fell 0.1 percent last month. Sales were down 1 percent at department stores and also dropped at specialty clothing stores, furniture stores, hardware stores and appliance stores.

DETROIT – General Motors Co. is likely to file paperwork next week that describes its plan to sell shares to the public, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.

The Detroit automaker had planned to file the papers on Friday but delayed the move to build distance between the filing and two major announcements it made on Thursday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the company is not commenting publicly on the stock sale.

GM said Thursday that CEO Edward Whitacre would step down as CEO Sept. 1 and be replaced by board member Daniel Akerson. It also reported a $1.3 billion second-quarter profit, its second-straight positive quarter.

NEW YORK – J.C. Penney Co. cut its profit outlook for the rest of the year, a sign of jitters that Americans, still stinging from the recession and worried about jobs, aren’t going to spend more anytime soon.

The reduced outlook came Friday as Penney reported a second-quarter profit as it benefited from tight inventory controls and exclusive store-label brands. Shares fell almost 2 percent, or 40 cents, to $20.40 per share.

Penney, based in Plano, Texas, earned $14 million, or 6 cents per share, in the three months ended July 31. That compares with a loss of $1 million, or break-even per share, in the same quarter last year.

Briefcase

• Asset manager Blackstone Group said Friday it is paying $542.7 million to take Dynegy Inc. private in a three-way deal that will see Dynegy also sell four power plants to NRG Energy Inc. New York-based Blackstone is taking on more than $4 billion in Dynegy debt as well, bringing the deal’s total value to $4.7 billion.

• IBM Corp. said Friday that it has agreed to buy the marketing services company Unica Corp. in a $480 million deal that would give IBM more tools to meet its customers’ growing demand for targeted advertising. The all-cash acquisition brings IBM deeper into the advertising business, a relatively new area for the company.

• Cash-strapped states from Maine to Hawaii are tearing up the pink slips – for now – relieved that the $26 billion state aid bill passed by Congress this week has saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. But it might be the last time the federal government comes to the rescue. The legislation is a stopgap for long-term budget problems, letting states put off hard choices at a time of record federal deficits.



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