WASHINGTON – Cold weather across much of the nation contributed to a drop in retail sales in January. Americans spent less on autos and clothes and at restaurants – a decline that suggests that momentum from consumer spending at the end of 2013 has tailed off.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent last month. That marked the second straight decline after a 0.1 percent drop in December.
Freezing cold and heavy snowfall raked much of the United States, cutting into store traffic and weighing on post-holiday sales. Major store chains have reduced their profit outlooks.
Jobless aid applications rise
WASHINGTON – The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 8,000 last week to 339,000, evidence that layoffs ticked up. Still, the increase wasn’t enough to suggest the job market is worsening.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, increased 3,500 to a seasonally adjusted 336,750.
The average is roughly in line with pre-recession levels and suggests that, despite last week’s rise, companies are cutting few jobs.
Last week’s figure may also have been pushed up by cold weather, which can cause construction firms and other companies to stop work.
A total of 3.52 million Americans received benefits as of Jan. 25 – the latest data available – up from 3.47 million the previous week.
AIG profits up, cuts planned
NEW YORK – American International Group Inc. moved to a profit for its fourth quarter and increased its dividend, while saying that it is cutting 3 percent of its workforce to better focus its business.
AIG took a $265 million severance charge during the quarter related to the reductions, which will primarily be in its property casualty business. The company would not say how many jobs will be cut or where they are located. Based on AIG’s global workforce of 63,000, the jobs eliminated work out to about 1,900.
The New York company got one of the biggest bailouts of the financial crisis but subsequently repaid the money and underwent a massive restructuring, shrinking its size by more than half to focus on its core insurance business.
UPS boosting dividends
ATLANTA – UPS said it is increasing its quarterly dividend by 8 percent as a result of the shipping company’s improved cash flow.
The Atlanta-based company said late Thursday that it will pay a dividend of 67 cents per share March 11 to shareholders of record as of Feb. 24. That’s up from its most recent dividend of 62 cents per share.
UPS said the company generated $5.3 billion in free cash flow during 2013, allowing it to reinvest in the business and improve returns to shareholders.
Hackers didn’t target gamblers
LAS VEGAS – A Nevada gambling regulator said Thursday that the hackers who knocked down all Las Vegas Sands websites for three days and counting did not steal any patron data, including credit card information.
Nevada Gaming Control Board chairman A.G. Burnett said regulators’ first priority after the world’s largest casino operator was hacked Monday was to ensure the safety of player information and the integrity of the gambling systems.
Burnett said Sands has confirmed that hackers did not compromise these two areas.