Business digest: Sales rev auto industry with best month in 6 years

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2013 12:00 am

DETROIT (AP) — The major U.S. and Japanese automakers all posted double-digit U.S. sales gains last month as car buyers snapped up pickup trucks and small cars to lead the industry toward its best month in six years.

Honda reported the biggest gain with sales up almost 27 percent over August of last year. Toyota sales rose nearly 23 percent, while Nissan was up 22 percent. At General Motors, sales were up almost 15 percent for the company's best month since September of 2008. Chrysler and Ford each reported 12 percent gains.

Sales in August ran at an annual rate of 16.1 million cars and trucks, a pace not seen since November of 2007, a month before the start of the Great Recession.

Mustafa Mohatarem, GM's chief economist, predicted that rate of sales is here to stay. History, he said, shows that auto sales follow a trend, and that trend is now back above pre-recession levels.

“With the underlying economy fairly solid and with the still very high average age of the fleet, I have full expectations that we will continue to see a fairly steady industry,” Mohatarem said.

The average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads today is a record 11.4 years, according to the Polk research firm. That means more people have to replace cars and trucks that they kept through the recession.

NEW YORK (AP) — Procter & Gamble will introduce a lower-priced version of Tide in 2014, a liquid detergent called “Tide Simply Clean and Fresh,” as it seeks to attract shoppers on a budget.

P&G is known for its premium products like Tide and Bounty that cost more than competitors but are perceived by customers to be of higher quality.

But as growth in developed markets has slowed and P&G expands in emerging markets, the company has been working to become more balanced in its offerings, with goods at both the low and high end of the price spectrum.

Tide Simply Clean and Fresh is one of a number of new detergent products P&G plans to introduce in February 2014, CEO A.G. Lafley said Wednesday.

Other new products include a new Tide Plus collection that updates all existing liquid Tide detergents; Tide Ultra Stain release, which can be used both as a pretreatment for stains as well as a detergent; extra-large tubs of Tide Pods; single-dose units of Gain detergent; and Tide Oxy, a stain remover that can be used on laundry as well as around the house.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Economic growth held steady across the United States from July through late August, as Americans bought more cars and homes and auto factories added workers.

A Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday showed that all 12 of the Fed's regional banking districts reported modest to moderate growth. That's roughly in line with the Fed's previous survey of those districts from late May through early July.

The survey, known as the beige book, said that job growth was steady and that hiring in manufacturing improved modestly, especially at auto and auto-parts factories.

NEW YORK (AP) — If you ever wanted soup to come out of your coffee machine, you're in luck.

Campbell Soup Co. says it will start offering K-cup soup packs that can be made with Green Mountain's popular single-serve coffee machines. The soups include a K-cup pack of broth that is brewed over a packet of dry pasta and vegetables.

Green Mountain says its machines are designed so that the system is cleansed by the brewing process, meaning there wouldn't be a danger of the soup and coffee flavors mixing.

Campbell and Green Mountain say they'll launch three varieties next year, including Chicken Broth & Noodle.

The hedge funds Glenview Capital Management and Hayman Capital Management have swooped in on J.C. Penney shares, joining a list of hedge funds that have disclosed bullish views on the struggling retailer. Glenview said it has a 9.1 percent stake in the retailer, and J. Kyle Bass, the outspoken Texas hedge fund manager, said that his fund, Hayman Capital, had accumulated a 5.2 percent stake. News of their positions comes weeks after a rival hedge fund manager, William Ackman, resigned from Penney's board and sold his roughly 18 percent stake at a loss of nearly $500 million.

Toyota is recalling 200,000 vehicles worldwide for a hybrid-system problem and 169,000 vehicles for an engine bolt defect. Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Shino Yamada said Wednesday there were no accidents related to either recall. The first recall is over an inverter in the hybrid system for the Lexus RX400 and the Highlander models overseas, and the Harrier and Kluger hybrids in Japan. Some 141,000 vehicles are being recalled in the U.S. The defect may cause an alarm to go off, and the hybrid may stop running, according to Toyota. The second involves the Lexus GS350, IS350, Crown and Mark X models, including 106,000 vehicles in North America. The bolts may loosen, causing the engine to stall.

The world's biggest mutual fund keeps getting smaller. Bill Gross' Pimco Total Return Fund shed $41 billion, or 14 percent of its assets, in the past four months through losses and investor withdrawals. The fund suffered $7.7 billion in net redemptions in August, researcher Morningstar Inc. said Wednesday, the fourth straight month of withdrawals. Investors have been fleeing from bond funds since May, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first raised the possibility that the central bank would begin to scale back asset purchases. The fund has lost 3.9 percent this year, trailing 86 percent of peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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