Business Briefs – August 14, 2016

J.C. Penney Reports Smaller Quarterly Loss As Sales Improve

NEW YORK (AP) – After a tough start to the year, J.C. Penney’s business enjoyed a bounce in the second quarter, fueled by efforts to bring back appliances and spruce up other sections of the store.

The Plano, Texas-based department store chain reported a smaller loss for the second quarter compared to a year earlier as sales improved. CEO Marvin Ellison believes the company can maintain the momentum with a slew of new brands and other enticements coming in the next few months.

In addition to its own efforts, Penney is benefiting from store closings by Macy’s and Sears Holdings Inc. Ellison told analysts Friday the company has seen sales improve in malls where its rivals shuttered their stores.

3 Years Into Nation’s Hemp Experiment, Crop’s Future Is Hazy

PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) – Three years into the nation’s hemp experiment, a 20-acre farm in southern Colorado exemplifies the crop’s hazy potential.

Hemp could be enormously profitable, but right now there are just as many questions as answers for Will and Ally Cabaniss, two Florida natives who moved to southern Colorado to embark on the hemp business.

“Every day brings something new and different,” said Will Cabaniss, holding up a red plastic cup containing a hemp seedling awaiting planting. “Right now we’re just building data for the industry, seeing what works and what doesn’t.”

Chinese Auto Sales Accelerate in July

BEIJING (AP) – China’s auto sales growth accelerated in July, an industry group said Friday, while General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. reported record demand for the month.

Sales in the world’s biggest auto market rose 26.3 percent to 1.6 million units, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said. Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 23 percent to 1.8 million units.

South Korea to Review Toxins Data Disclosure Process

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea plans to review if there was any negligence in the government’s handling of sick workers’ inquiries about workplace toxins, after an Associated Press investigation found the government repeatedly withheld such information following requests from Samsung.

Ko Dong-woo, a director at the Labor Ministry, said Friday that the ministry took the AP report seriously and would ensure officials properly evaluate information requests from workers seeking government compensation for work-related illnesses.

China Reports Weaker July Activity But Says Economy Stable

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese factory output and other economic activity weakened in July, data showed Friday, but an official tried to reassure companies and investors growth is stable.

Growth in retail sales, factory output and investment all decelerated from June levels, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Private sector analysts have warned economic growth, which held steady at 6.7 percent for the three months ending in June, was showing signs of weakening heading into the current quarter.

The data indicate “the third quarter has started off on a weak footing,” said Brian Jackson of IHS Markit in a report.

Tepid Retail Sales Lower Expectations For U.S. Economic Growth

WASHINGTON (AP) – A sluggish month of retail spending has tempered expectations for the U.S. economy’s growth in the coming months.

Consumers pulled back on shopping and eating out in July after three straight solid monthly gains, the government said Friday. Those declines were offset by increases in auto sales and online and catalog sales.

Many economists credited the surge in online and catalog spending, which rose 1.3 percent, mainly to deals offered during Amazon’s “Prime Day” on July 12.