By ANNE D'INNOCENZIO
AP Retail Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Sparse crowds at malls and "50 percent off" signs at The Gap, AnnTaylor and other stores give a clue as to how the holiday season is going.
This is shaping up to be the most discount-driven holiday season since the country was in a deep recession. It's also one of the most disappointing for stores.
Sales are up 2 percent to $176.7 billion from Nov. 1 through Sunday, according to data obtained by The Associated Press from ShopperTrak.
That's a slower pace than expected: ShopperTrak is forecasting that sales will rise 2.4 percent to $265 billion for the two-month stretch.
The modest growth comes as the amount of discounting at stores is up 13 percent from last year -- the highest level since 2008, according to BMO Capital Markets.
Posted 3:30 AM EST on December 18, 2013
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) -- Toyota will seek to settle hundreds of lawsuits involving alleged unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles, according to a U.S. District Court filing in California
A motion filed Thursday by Toyota and plaintiffs asks for an order to establish an "intensive settlement process" in personal injury, wrongful death and property damage cases.
A Toyota spokeswoman tells the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1fquDFZ) the process will make resolution of pending cases more efficient.
Many of the hundreds of cases filed nationwide have been consolidated in courts in California.
In October, an Oklahoma jury became the first in the country to find Toyota liable in an unintended acceleration lawsuit, awarding $3 million in damages.
Toyota recalled millions of cars, starting in 2009, but has denied that electronics played any role in the problem.
Posted 12:53 PM EST on December 13, 2013
DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. safety regulators are looking into whether a Hyundai Elantra recall should be expanded.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a Recall Query to determine if 52,000 Elantra Touring cars from the 2009 through 2012 model years should be recalled.
In March, Hyundai recalled more than 186,000 Elantra compacts from the 2011 to 2013 model years because a ceiling support bracket can come loose when side air bags inflate. In one case a bracket cut a driver's ear.
The safety agency says that the 2009-2012 Elantra Touring models have a bracket design that's similar to the recalled cars.
In the recall, dealers were to install industrial adhesive strips to keep the brackets in place. The bracket design was changed in cars built after March 5, 2013.
Posted 10:48 AM EST on December 09, 2013
AP Photo NYBZ150
Eds: Updates with more details and background. With AP Photos.
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER
AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy grew at a 3.6 percent annual rate from July through September, the fastest since early 2012. But nearly half the growth came from a buildup in business stockpiles, a trend that could reverse in the current quarter and hold back growth.
The Commerce Department's second estimate of third-quarter growth released Thursday was sharply higher than the initial 2.8 percent rate reported last month. And it was well above the 2.5 percent growth rate for the April-June quarter.
Almost the entire third-quarter revision came from a big jump in stockpiles. Consumer spending, the lifeblood of the economy, was the weakest in nearly four years.
When excluding inventories, the economy grew at a 1.9 percent rate in the third quarter, down from 2.1 percent in the spring. That's in line with the same subpar rate that the economy has seen since the Great Recession ended four years ago.
Many economists believe that overall growth will be around 2 percent in the current October-December period.
Business stockpiles contributed 1.7 percent points to growth, twice the contribution reported last month in the first estimate. Companies are likely to cut back on restocking, especially if they don't see consumers stepping up spending.
In the third-quarter, consumers increased their spending at a tepid 1.4 percent annual rate. That was the slowest since the final quarter of 2009, a few months after the recession officially ended. Consumer spending typically drives 70 percent of economic activity.
But the spending activity in the third quarter was held back by flat spending on services. That may have reflected an unusually mild summer, which cut demand for air conditioning. One hopeful sign: Consumer spent on goods at the fastest rate since early 2012.
Other details in the report were mixed. Business investment in equipment was flat in the third quarter. Spending on housing construction remained strong, rising at an annual rate of 13 percent. Government spending edged up at a slight 0.4 percent annual rate in the summer. The biggest spending increase in state and local government spending since 2009 offset another decline in federal expenditures.
A number reports have offered some promise that the fourth quarter could be stronger than many economists are predicting.
In October, spending at retail businesses rose solidly, U.S. exports grew to a record level and employers added 204,000 jobs. November car sales rose 9 percent and are running at an annual rate of 16.4 million, the best performance of the year, according to Autodata Corp.
But early reports on holiday shopping have been disappointing. The National Retail Federation estimates that sales over the four-day Thanksgiving Day weekend -- arguably the most crucial shopping stretch for retail businesses -- fell for the first time since the group began keeping track in 2006.
Faster growth could make the Federal Reserve more inclined to begin slowing its bond purchases, which have kept long-term interest rates low and encouraged more borrowing and spending.
Many economists believe the central bank will not reduce the $85 billion-a-month pace when it meets later this month.
Posted 4:43 AM EST on December 05, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The big discounts certainly are a major draw, but holiday sales may also get a boost this year from the lower price of gasoline. AAA says the average price of gasoline has tumbled 49 cents from its peak this year to $3.29 a gallon, putting it on track for the lowest average since 2010. And history shows that when gas prices drop, consumers become more likely to splurge on dinners out. Impulse buys at the mall seem like less of a stretch. Many retail analysts have forecast a ho-hum sales gain of around 2 percent this year. Others predict a more optimistic increase of up to 3.9 percent. But some analysts say steadily cheaper gas could send holiday sales soaring above 5.4 percent. Cheaper gas might also help shore up consumers' fragile confidence in an economic recovery that's lumbered along for 4 1/2 years.
Posted 12:26 PM EST on November 27, 2013