LOS ANGELES (AP) - Many Americans took on more credit card debt and failed to make timely payments in the final quarter of 2013. Even so, the national late-payment rate remains close to its lowest level in six years. Credit reporting agency TransUnion said Tuesday that the rate of credit card payments at least 90 days overdue was 1.48 percent in the October-December quarter. That's up from 1.36 percent in the previous quarter, but down from 1.61 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. Average card debt per borrower rose 1.7 percent from the third quarter to an average of $5,325. It slipped 1 percent from a year earlier. A sequential uptick in late payments and card balances is common in the fourth quarter, which coincides with the holiday shopping season.
NEW YORK (AP) - Analysts say drivers can expect to see gasoline prices climb in the coming weeks. While gas prices have held steady into early February, an increase is almost inevitable this time of year. The price of crude oil has risen 8 percent over the past month, to $100 per barrel. And analysts expect fuel supplies to begin to decline as refineries dial back production to perform maintenance and make the switch to summer fuels. The increases are expected to be less severe than in the past few years, but Tom Kloza at Gasbuddy.com and the Oil Price Information Service says "they are going to be noticeable." Gasoline prices are already creeping higher. AAA says the nationwide average price has risen for seven days in a row to $3.34 per gallon, the highest level since October. California, Connecticut and New York drivers are paying an average of $3.65 or more, the most in the lower 48 states. Montana and South Carolina drivers are paying $3.10 or less.
PURCHASE, N.Y. (AP) - Soda and snack maker PepsiCo says its fourth-quarter net income climbed 5 percent, helped by higher prices and improved volumes. The company, which owns Gatorade, Quaker Oats and other products, also announced a five-year, $5 billion cost-saving program. It also plans to increase cash returns to shareholders in 2014 to $8.7 billion through higher dividends and stock buybacks. PepsiCo Inc.'s annual dividend will be raised by 15 percent, starting in June. For the period ended Dec. 28, the company earned $1.74 billion, or $1.12 per share. That compares with $1.66 billion, or $1.06 per share, a year ago. Excluding charges and other items, earnings were $1.05 per share. Analysts expected $1 per share. Revenue rose 1 percent to $20.12 billion. Analysts expected revenue of $20.1 billion.
NEW YORK (AP) - Burger King reported a higher quarterly profit as growth overseas helped lift a key sales figure. The Miami-based chain says global sales rose 1.7 percent at locations open at least a year, with particularly strong results in Asia. In North America, where it introduced lower-calorie french fries called Satisfries, the figure edged up 0.2 percent. For the quarter ended Dec. 31, Burger King says it earned $66.8 million, or 19 cents per share. That compares with $48.6 million, or 14 cents per share, a year ago. Not including one-time items, it said it earned 24 cents per share, above the 23 cents per share Wall Street expected. The sale of company-owned restaurants to franchisees led to lower revenue $265.2 million, which was below the $268.2 million analysts expected.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Cold weather caused U.S. retail sales to drop in January. Americans spent less on autos and clothing and at restaurants during a brutally cold month. The Commerce Department says retail sales fell 0.4 percent last month. That marked the second straight decline after a 0.1 percent drop in December. The drop suggests that the momentum from consumer spending at the end of 2013 has tailed off this winter. Auto sales fell 2.1 percent. Excluding volatile spending on autos, gas and building supplies, retail sales were flat compared with December. Americans spent more at gas stations because of rising prices. Their purchases of building materials also increased, possibly a sign of preparation for snowstorms. Over the past 12 months, retail sales have risen 2.6 percent.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 8,000 last week to 339,000, evidence that layoffs ticked up. Still, the increase wasn't enough to suggest the job market is worsening. The Labor Department says the four week average of applications, a less volatile measure, increased 3,500 to a seasonally adjusted 336,750. The average is roughly in line with pre-recession levels and suggests that, despite last week's rise, companies are cutting few jobs. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Last week's figure may also have been pushed up by cold weather, which can cause construction firms and other companies to stop work. A total of 3.52 million Americans received benefits as of Jan. 25 - the latest data available - up from 3.47 million the previous week.
PLANO, Texas (AP) - J.C. Penney Chief Financial Officer Ken Hannah is leaving the department store operator. The chain named Ed Record as Hannah's successor. Record's appointment is effective March 24. He will also serve as executive vice president. Record will be responsible for J.C. Penney Co.'s financial operations and will report to CEO Mike Ullman. Hannah will remain CFO during the transition process. The company did not give a reason for his departure. J.C. Penney is trying to recover from changes made by former CEO Ron Johnson. He was ousted last April after 17 months on the job, and the company brought back Ullman as CEO. The 45-year-old Record most recently served as chief operating officer at Stage Stores. J.C. Penney's stock added 4 cents to $6 in Thursday premarket trading.
CLEVELAND (AP) - Strong fourth-quarter results in Goodyear's core North American market helped the tire maker beat Wall Street estimates. Its shares rose more than 3 percent in premarket trading. The Akron-based company said Thursday it earned $228 million, or 84 cents per share, on sales of $4.8 billion. After one-time charges, Goodyear earned 74 cents, beating the Wall Street estimate of 65 cents. The company had broken even on sales of $5 billion in the last quarter of 2012. In the most recent quarter, Goodyear's North American segment operating income rose 72 percent to $199 million. The number of tires sold worldwide increased 2 percent to 40.7 million. With a new labor agreement, Goodyear said it has halted production at an Amiens, France, factory with a contentious past and will close it by March.
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Amtrak is including free Wi-Fi for train passengers traveling through Michigan and three other Midwest states. MLive.com reports that the rail service made the announcement Monday and that the Michigan Department of Transportation has spent about $1 million to install Wi-Fi on the trains. State Transportation officials anticipate that the free Internet connection will translate into more revenue through increased passenger train ridership. Amtrak has three routes in Michigan. The rail service says Wi-Fi also is now available on routes in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin. MLive.com says about 85 percent of Amtrak passengers in the United States now have Wi-Fi access.
REDMOND, Wash. (AP) - Microsoft has named Satya Nadella, an executive in charge of the company's small, but growing business of delivering software and services over the Internet its new CEO. Company founder Bill Gates is also leaving the chairman role for a new role as technology adviser. Nadella, who is 46, replaces Steve Ballmer and becomes only the third leader in the software company's 38-year history. Nadella, a 22-year Microsoft veteran, has been an executive in some of the company's fastest-growing and most-profitable businesses, including Office and its server and tools business. The company says Gates' new role will be as a technology adviser on the board and that he will devote more time to the company. John Thomson will be the company's new chairman.