May 7, 2014 in Business

Briefcase: Saturn Aura shifter problem prompts GM recall

From Wire Reports

DETROIT – General Motors is recalling nearly 60,000 Saturn Aura midsize cars because the automatic transmission shift levers can show the wrong gear, and GM says it has known about the problem for more than two years.

The problem, caused by failure of the transmission shift cable, has led to 28 crashes and four injuries but no deaths during the past seven years, GM said in a statement issued Tuesday. The Auras can roll away unexpectedly because the driver may think the car is in “park” when it’s in another gear.

In November 2011, GM covered the cars with an extended 10-year, 120,000-mile warranty because of the problem. But drivers had to experience trouble with their shifters for the coverage to kick in.

U.S. trade deficit shrinks as exports rebound

WASHINGTON – The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in March as exports rebounded to the second-highest level on record, led by strong gains in sales of aircraft, autos and farm goods.

The deficit declined to $40.4 billion, down 3.6 percent from a revised February imbalance of $41.9 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The February deficit had been the biggest trade gap in five months.

Weaker home sales hamper price increases

WASHINGTON – U.S. home prices rose at a slightly slower pace in the 12 months that ended in March, a sign that weak sales have begun to restrain the housing market’s sharp price gains.

Data provider CoreLogic said prices rose 11.1 percent in March compared with March 2013. Though a sizable increase, that was down from February’s 12.2 percent year-over-year increase.

Home sales and construction have faltered since last fall, slowing the economy. A harsh winter, higher buying costs and a limited supply of available homes have discouraged many potential buyers.

Chrysler drops models, realigns brands

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Chrysler Group is dropping the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan and introducing a new Chrysler compact car as part of a wider effort to make the brands more distinct.

The company revealed its future product plans Tuesday.

Chrysler and Dodge have long suffered from an internal rivalry, with minivans and sedans competing for the same customers.

Chrysler brand chief Al Gardner said the company wants to change that by making Chrysler its mainstream brand and Dodge its sporty, performance brand.

Chrysler will keep the Town and Country minivan and will add a plug-in hybrid version in 2016. Chrysler will also get a new full-size crossover.

Dodge is dropping the Avenger sedan, which competes too closely with the Chrysler 200.

‘Frozen’ propels Disney beyond expectations

LOS ANGELES – Disney posted second-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street forecasts, helped by the blockbuster success of movies like “Frozen” and “Thor: The Dark World.”

Net income in the three months through March jumped 27 percent to $1.92 billion, or $1.08 per share, from $1.51 billion, or 83 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Excluding charges for foreign exchange losses and restructuring, adjusted earnings came to $1.11 per share, beating the 96 cents expected by analysts.

Revenue grew 10 percent to $11.65 billion, trumping the $11.25 billion analysts expected.

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