Macy’s Inc., seen as a barometer of spending among middle- to upper-income shoppers, on Wednesday reported a disappointing profit for its second quarter and cut its outlook for the year. The Cincinnati-based company blamed a shift in consumer spending toward autos and home improvement and away from apparel as the main factor, another sign of a yo-yo recovery that’s making people more cautious about purchases. For the period ended Aug. 3, the No. 2 U.S. department-store chain said it earned $281 million, or 72 cents per share — short of the 78 cents analysts expected.
Deere & Co., the world’s largest farm-equipment maker, raised its full-year earnings forecast Wednesday and reported quarterly profit that topped analysts’ estimates, thanks to Brazilian farmers buying more tractors. Net income rose to $2.56 a share in the three months through July, from $1.98 a year earlier, said the Moline, Ill.-based company. Deere said net profit will be about $3.45 billion in the fiscal year through October, up from a May forecast of $3.3 billion.
Steinway Musical Instruments Inc., whose status-symbol pianos can take almost a year to make, has agreed to be acquired by Paulson & Co., the hedge fund owned by billionaire John Paulson. The deal values the 160-year-old piano maker, which again will become a private company, at about $512 million. Paulson’s $40-per-share offer topped one of $35 from private-equity firm Kohlberg & Co. last month and trumped a competing bid from South Korea’s Samick Musical Instruments Co.
Consumers waiting for the previously announced revamp of Microsoft’s latest Windows operating system, Windows 8.1, will be able to get it beginning Oct. 17, available as a free update to Windows 8 machines. The release date, announced Wednesday, is nearly a year after the debut of Windows 8, an overhaul intended to work as well on tablet computers as on laptops and desktops — but blamed for confusing users and dampening PC sales.
The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service is revamping its priority mail program to become more competitive with FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. It is now offering free online tracking of priority mail, free insurance and date-specific delivery, along with redesigned boxes and envelopes. Postal officials predict the changes will generate $500 million in new revenue a year. Its losses this year total $3.9 billion.