Business Tidbits

Italy Turmoil Raises Questions About ECB Backstop

ROME (AP) – Why have Italy’s muddled election results spooked global investors so much? Because they raise unsettling questions about the availability of the financial safety net that has kept Europe from catastrophe for the past six months.

That safety net is a crucial offer from the European Central Bank to buy unlimited quantities of struggling countries’ bonds. The big catch was that participating countries had to commit to austerity measures — such as spending cuts and tax increases to lower their deficits.

And if there’s any clear message from the Italian elections, it’s that voters rejected austerity.

Apple CEO Promises Investors ‘Great Stuff’ To Come

CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) – Apple CEO Tim Cook sought to reassure shareholders worried about the company’s sagging stock price that the iPhone and iPad maker is on the verge of inventing more breakthrough products that will prove it hasn’t lost its creative edge.

The company is working as hard as ever, and we have some great stuff coming,” Cook told shareholders Wednesday before taking their questions during Apple’s annual meeting at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

True to Apple’s secretive nature, Cook didn’t provide any further product details, although at one point he said the company is considering entering other categories besides its popular line of digital music players, smartphones and tablet computers.

Orders Jump for Key U.S. Long-Lasting Factory Goods

WASHINGTON (AP) – Orders for U.S. factory goods that signal business investment plans jumped last month by the most in more than a year, suggesting companies are confident about their business prospects.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders for so-called core capital goods, which include industrial machinery, construction equipment and computers, rose 6.3 percent in January from December. A sharp fall in demand for commercial aircraft caused overall durable goods orders to drop 5.2 percent, the first decline since August.

Orders for commercial aircraft are volatile from month to month and can cause large swings in the overall figure. Boeing reported orders for only two planes in January, down from 183 in December. Orders for defense equipment also plummeted by the most in more than 12 years.

Penney Reports Another Massive Loss in 4Q

NEW YORK (AP) – Boy, it just wasn’t J.C. Penney’s year.

The mid-priced department store chain on Wednesday reported another much larger-than-expected loss in the fiscal fourth quarter on a nearly 30 percent plunge in revenue in the latest sign that shoppers aren’t happy with the changes it’s made in the past year.

The results mark a full year of massive quarterly losses and revenue declines that have missed Wall Street estimates since J.C. Penney Co. began a turnaround strategy that included ditching most of its coupons and sales events in favor of everyday low prices, bringing in hipper designer brands such as Betsy Johnson and remaking outdated stores.

Target 4Q Hurt by Canada Investment, Weak Year’s End

NEW YORK (AP) – Target is drawing its bull’s-eye on Canada in 2013.

Its investment in a Canadian launch this year and weaker-than-expected year-end sales caused Target Corp.’s net income to fall 2 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. But the second largest discounter in the U.S. said its foray into Canada, policy of matching competitors’ prices and new designer lines will help its business this year.

The big-box retailer, known for its cheap but trendy merchandise, pulled out all the stops to lure in cautious shoppers during the winter year-end season, which runs from November through December. It launched a line of gifts created by 24 high profile designers in partnership with luxury department store Neiman Marcus and offered to match prices of online competitors such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com and Toysrus.com.