Business Briefs – January 7, 2016

Eurozone Set for Better Economic Growth — China Permitting

LONDON (AP) – It’s not ideal timing. Just as the eurozone economy finally appears to be picking up speed, its future is clouded by concerns over China and the world economy.

China’s turmoil is a threat the 19-country eurozone could do without. The health of its trading partners is crucial for the region. Without China, the eurozone would have suffered even more than it did during its debt crisis of the past six years.

The eurozone is in a better place than it has been for years. Growth is solid, unemployment is falling and concern that Greece might fall out of the euro has dropped off the radar.

A Stronger JC Penney Emerges From the Shopping Season

NEW YORK (AP) – Talk about a comeback.

J.C. Penney reported a 3.9 percent increase in comparable-store sales during the end of the year.

It was a reversal of fortunes this crucial selling season, with the usually resilient Macy’s reporting that sales in stores open at least a year slumped 5.2 percent between November and December. Macy’s is now cutting up to 4,800 jobs, reorganizing and closing 40 stores. It also slashed its profit outlook.

Macy’s estimated that 80 percent of its decline was weather-related.

U.S. Applications for Jobless Aid Dropped Last Week

WASHINGTON (AP) – Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, suggesting that the job market remains healthy and insulated from the turmoil abroad in Europe and China.

Applications for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less volatile 4-week average dipped 1,250 to 275,750. Over the past 12 months, the number of people receiving benefits has fallen 8.3 percent to 2.2 million.

U.S. employers appear to be secure, even as the Chinese stock market is collapsing, oil prices are plunging and Europe continues to slowly nurse its way back to financial health

Average U.S. Rate on 30-Year Mortgage Slips to 3.97 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates were mixed this week, with the key 30-year rate slipping back under the 4 percent mark.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.97 percent from 4.01 percent a week earlier. That rate has risen from its 3.73 percent average a year ago. Still, borrowing costs are well below the historic average of 6 percent for a 30-year loan.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages this week rose to 3.26 percent from 3.24 percent.

Workers Are Saving More for Retirement, Led by Millennials

NEW YORK (AP) – Workers are saving more for retirement, and the youngest are boosting their savings rates faster than any other age group.

Millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 are saving a median of 7.5 percent of their pay for retirement, including whatever match they get from their jobs, according to a survey by Fidelity Investments. That’s up from 5.8 percent two years ago, when the last survey was conducted, and it is the largest jump among all age groups.

Financial advisers suggest socking away 15 percent of pay.

Walgreens Beats 1Q Profit Forecasts, Narrows 2016 Forecast

NEW YORK (AP) – Walgreens trumped Wall Street earnings expectation for its fiscal first quarter, and the nation’s largest drugstore chain started 2016 cautiously by narrowing its forecast for the new year.

The company said Thursday that it hiked the bottom end of a forecast by 5 cents per share. It now expects to earn between $4.30 and $4.55 per share for the year.

Walgreens earned $1.11 billion in the quarter, with adjusted earnings of $1.03 per share. Analysts anticipated earnings of 97 cents per share, according to Zacks Investment Research. Its revenue of $29.03 billion missed analyst expectations for $29.56 billion.