Business Tidbits

Sharp Fall in U.S. Jobless Claims Boosts Outlook

WASHINGTON (AP) — The outlook for the U.S. job market is brightening after a government report showed a sharp drop in the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits.

Weekly applications fell 27,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 341,000, the Labor Department said yesterday. Outside of a few weeks last month affected by seasonal distortions, that’s the lowest level in nearly five years.

The four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations, stayed near a five-year low.

Eurozone Recession Deepens As Germany Falters

BERLIN (AP) — It was only a matter of time. With many of its debt-ridden euro partners in recession, Germany could only swim against the tide for so long.

Figures yesterday showed that output in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, contracted by more than anticipated in the last three months of 2012. And it was the German drop that lay behind a deepening recession across the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said the eurozone’s economic output shrank by 0.6 percent in the final quarter of 2012 from the previous three-month period. The decline was bigger than the 0.4 percent drop expected in markets and the steepest fall since 2009, when the global economy was in its deepest recession since World War II.

IRS Website Overrun By Refund-Seeking Taxpayers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service has a message for taxpayers eager to learn the status of their tax refund: Please don’t check the IRS website every five minutes — once a day is enough.

The IRS says its “Where’s my refund?” website and smartphone app are being overwhelmed by eager taxpayers. The agency says its systems are only updated once a day, usually overnight, and the same information is available on the website, the IRS2go smartphone app and IRS toll-free phone lines.

To avoid delay, the agency says the best time to check on refunds is evenings and weekends.

GM Turns 2012 Profit Despite Losses in Europe

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has strung together a tidy three-year run of profits by making big dollars in its backyard.

Now the question is whether its U.S. operations can keep making enough to carry the company and cover widening losses in Europe.

General Motors Co. yesterday posted a profit of $4.9 billion for 2012, down 36 percent from a year earlier, when it made $7.6 billion. Its net income fell because of European losses and a truckload of one-time accounting gains and losses in both years. Last year’s pretax profit, which excludes the one-time items, still dropped, but only by 5 percent to $7.9 billion. Revenue for the year rose 1 percent to $152.3 billion.

PepsiCo 4Q Results Top Wall Street’s Expectations

NEW YORK (AP) — PepsiCo’s net income rose 17 percent in the fourth quarter as it raised prices and sold more of its snacks and drinks around the world.

The company’s earnings and revenue beat analysts’ estimates. It also provided an annual earnings outlook in line with Wall Street expectations and raised its quarterly dividend by 5.6 percent.

The results mark the end of what CEO Indra Nooyi said would be a “transitional year,” with the company embarking on a cost-cutting program and stepping up investment in its flagship brands. PepsiCo’s brands include Frito-Lay, Gatorade and Quaker.

CBS 4Q Results Fall Short Of Expectations

LOS ANGELES (AP) — CBS Corp.’s revenue and earnings grew in the final quarter of the year, but the results fell short of analysts’ forecasts, sending shares down in after-market trading.

Advertising revenue grew 3 percent, CBS said yesterday. The company pointed out that last year’s licensing revenue bump from the sale of CW network shows to Netflix and Hulu wasn’t repeated. Local broadcasting revenue grew less than expected and the Simon & Schuster book publishing business declined faster than analysts thought.

Net income in the three months through Dec. 31 was $393 million, or 60 cents per share. That’s up from $370 million, or 55 cents per share, a year earlier.