AUTO INDUSTRY
Ford recalls 1.4 million cars over steering wheel

Ford said Wednesday that it is recalling nearly 1.4 million cars in North America after the company discovered that steering wheels in two vehicle models could come off while driving. The automaker said bolts on the steering wheel may become loose, leading to a loss of control and an “increased risk of a crash.”

Ford said it is aware of two accidents, with one injury, that are reportedly related to the defect. The affected models are the Ford Fusion and the Lincoln MKZ. The vast majority of the recalled cars are in the United States, but nearly 80,000 are in Canada and Mexico, the company said. Ford said dealers will replace, at no charge to customers, the potentially faulty steering wheel bolt with a longer, sturdier one.

Ford is also recalling about 6,000 Fusions with manual transmissions and certain engines in a separate issue: a risk of fire from clutch plate fractures. The company said it is not aware of fires, accidents or injuries caused by the issue.

— Hamza Shaban

RETAIL
Consumer spending dipped in February

U.S. consumers spent less at auto dealers, gas stations and department stores in February, causing overall retail sales to slip 0.1 percent despite signs elsewhere of a robust economy and the Republican-backed tax cuts starting to take effect.

It was the third consecutive month of declining retail sales, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, though they’re still 4 percent higher from a year ago. The core retail sales that economists monitor — which exclude autos, building materials, gasoline and restaurants — improved 0.1 percent in February after essentially being flat in January.

Auto sales fell 0.9 percent last month, while purchases at gas stations tumbled 1.2 percent. Sales at department stores declined 0.9 percent.

Spending at online and catalogue retailers climbed, as did spending at building materials stores, restaurants and clothiers. That offset much of the decline elsewhere.

— Associated Press

GROCERY INDUSTRY
Walmart to expand home delivery

Walmart plans to expand its grocery home-delivery service to more than 100 metropolitan areas this year, the company said Wednesday.

The service, now in six cities, will roll out to more than 40 percent of U.S. households by the end of the year, Walmart said. Deliveries will be handled by Uber and other providers, and will carry a $9.95 service fee, with a $30 minimum purchase.

“We’re moving fast,” Tom Ward, Walmart’s vice president of digital operations, said in an interview. “We will be pretty aggressive with it.”

The move into home delivery is part of Walmart’s broader push to get more of its in-store shoppers to also start buying online, where they typically spend twice as much.

Walmart said the orders will be picked by in-store employees, who will receive three weeks of additional training. Orders placed by 1 p.m. will be delivered the same day.

— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.2 percent in February, a sign that inflation is beginning to rise for producers. A pickup in wholesale services prices offset a drop in the cost of food and energy. The Labor Department said Wednesday that the February increase in its producer price index was half of January's 0.4 percent gain. Energy prices fell 0.5 percent in February, and food prices fell 0.4 percent as fresh and dry vegetable prices plunged 27.1 percent, the most since May 2007. The wholesale price of services rose 0.3 percent.

Chipotle said that its longtime head of marketing is leaving the company, a week after the burrito chain installed a new chief executive. Mark Crumpacker, who has led Chipotle's marketing efforts for nine years, will step down Thursday. Last year, Crumpacker pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge. Chipotle, which has not recovered from several food safety scares, recently hired Taco Bell executive Brian Niccol as its new CEO.

Walt Disney Co. is reorganizing several of its businesses around two senior executives, parks chief Bob Chapek and strategy head Kevin Mayer, putting them in a potential bake-off to succeed Bob Iger as chief executive. Mayer was named chairman of Disney's direct-to-consumer businesses, which will include streaming operations, as well as its international media networks, Disney said in a statement. Chapek will head a combined theme park and consumer products business.

— From news services

Coming today

10 a.m.: Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.

4 p.m.: Treasury releases international money flows data for December.