Big discounts boost holiday retail sales 3.8%

AVIATION
Boeing confirms new 787 battery incident

Battery problems resurfaced on Boeing’s 787 on Tuesday after gas was discovered coming out of a battery on a plane parked at Tokyo’s main international airport.

Boeing said the problem on a Japan Airlines 787 was discovered during scheduled maintenance. No passengers were on board. The company said it appears that a single battery cell “vented,” or released gas.

Japan Airlines said a mechanic briefly saw white smoke rise from the area below the cockpit, but there was no sign it burned.

The battery has been removed from the aircraft for further investigation at its maker, GS Yuasa. JAL spokesman Kentaro Nakamura said the cause was under investigation and may take some time. He said Boeing officials were expected to join the probe in Japan.

He said the latest incident was unfortunate, but “it demonstrated that the safety measures taken last year have actually functioned.”

Nakamura said JAL has no immediate plans to ground other 787s it operates.

The incident comes a year after a fire in a lithium ion battery aboard a Japan Airlines 787 parked at Boston’s Logan International Airport. That was followed nine days later by another battery incident that forced an emergency landing in Japan by an All Nippon Airways 787.

Those problems prompted the Federal Aviation Administration and other authorities to ground all 787s for more than three months. The planes began flying again after Boeing changed the battery system, adding a tougher box to hold the battery and measures to contain any short-circuit or fire.

— Associated Press

RETAIL
Big discounts boost holiday sales 3.8%

U.S. retail sales rose 3.8 percent during the 2013 holiday season, the National Retail Federation said, but the trade body warned that deep discounting could hurt retailers’ profits.

Retailers offered the biggest promotions since the 2008 recession to get shoppers to spend, but many slashed profit forecasts last week because of the deals.

“The top line is fine — the bottom line is going to be the issue for these retailers,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

The sales figures, based on U.S. government data, were just shy of the 3.9 percent rise that the NRF forecast in October. The industry body looked at U.S. sales in November and December, excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

The NRF said total retail sales rose to $601.9 billion in November and December, below its estimate of $602.1 billion. Non-store holiday sales, an indicator of online sales, grew 9.3 percent, to $95.7 billion.

Earlier in the day, the Commerce Department reported
better-than-expected broader retail sales for December, including automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants. They rose 0.2 percent from November.

A week ago, data firm ShopperTrak gave a pessimistic view of holiday season sales, saying growth between Thanksgiving and Christmas fell to 2.7 percent from 3 percent a year earlier. ShopperTrak also said fewer customers visited stores during the holiday season.

— Reuters

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