Business roundup

August 11, 2011
economy
Executives upbeatdespite turmoil

Americans are still spending money at casinos, amusement parks and concerts. Some are even shopping at Bloomingdales and looking at new homes.

Even as the stock market’s wild swings heighten fears of another recession, many business executives see bright spots. Worrisome signs abound, too, especially for companies struggling to recover. But for a lot of corporate leaders, the general state of the economy has not changed much in the past three weeks of upheaval.

Executives addressed the turmoil this week during earnings conference calls and in interviews. From their vantage point, the economy looks less troubled than major stock indicators such as the Dow Jones industrial average, which has tumbled by 12 percent since July 21.

“Overall, it’s kind of business as usual,” said Michael Rapino, chief executive of concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment. He expects all of the company’s shows to go on this fall after seeing North American attendance rise by 13 percent in the April-June period.

Executives at rebounding companies still sound upbeat. Businesses are leaner and, even more important, in a stronger financial position than they were three years ago. And in another reassuring sign, people are spending money in search of a good time.

MGM Resorts International chief executive Jim Murren said the Las Vegas Strip was still bustling last weekend, and all signs point to his company’s hotels being near capacity through the rest of the month. The lines are still long at Walt Disney’s amusement parks, chief executive Robert Iger said.

— Associated Press

lending
Late mortgages dipfor a sixth quarter

The percentage of late-paying mortgage holders — those who were 60 days or more late with their payment — decreased in the spring for the sixth straight quarter, according to the credit reporting agency TransUnion.

The rate fell to 5.82 percent compared with 6.67 percent a year ago. It peaked at 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The drop reflects stricter lending policies at banks, said Tim Martin, who watches the housing market for TransUnion’s financial services business unit.

Fixed mortgage rates have fallen to or near record lows. Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell this week to 4.32 percent from 4.39 percent. The average rate on a 15-year fixed mortgage fell to a record low of 3.50 percent from last week’s record of 3.54 percent.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

l  Kohl’s reported that profit rose 17 percent in the second quarter despite the uncertain economy, in large part due to the success of its store-label brands such as Vera Vera Wang and Food Network. The company also raised its guidance for the full year, counting on one of its biggest brand launches in its history with celebrities Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony to drive shoppers into its stores.

l  The parent of American Airlines is one step closer to spinning off regional airline American Eagle as a separate company. AMR described terms of the spinoff to shareholders in a regulatory filing Thursday. It expects to complete the deal by year-end. Company officials declined to say Thursday whether they received any offers to buy Eagle.

l  Sara Lee’s fourth-quarter income fell 41 percent as it sold off businesses and higher prices drove shoppers away. The company, based in Downers Grove, Ill., said it has potential bidders for its international bakery business and hopes to make an announcement soon.

l  Boeing booked 19 new orders for its 777 and said it needs to build its commercial planes faster to keep up with demand. Boeing now has a backlog of 293 of its 777s.

— From news services

Coming Today

l  8:30 a.m.: Retail sales report.

l  9:55 a.m.: Consumer sentiment index.

l  10 a.m.: Business inventories report.

l  Earnings reports: Dillard’s, J.C. Penney, ZAP Jonway electric vehicles.

— From news services

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