Business news briefs
Trade gap fell
The U.S. trade deficit narrowed sharply in December, falling 21 percent from November to $38.6 billion as exports rose while oil imports plummeted. The smaller trade gap means the economy almost surely grew in the October-December quarter an improvement from the government's estimate last week that it shrank in the final months of 2012.
sales fall again
McDonald's says a key sales figure dropped again in January as it struggled with ongoing weakness in Japan and supply chain issues in China. The company said global sales at restaurants open at least 13 months dropped 1.9 percent for the month. The figure is a key metric because it strips out the volatility of newly opened and closed locations.
U.S. wholesalers cut their stockpiles 0.1 percent in December from November while their sales were unchanged, suggesting businesses were cautious at the end of a weak quarter. Less restocking reduces factory production, which slows economic growth.
Norwegian Air Shuttle says Boeing has warned it of possible delays in the deliveries of its first 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The airline said delivery of the planes, scheduled to be operational in May and June, might not be possible. The announcement comes as more than 50 Dreamliners have been grounded globally following last month's battery fire on a Japan Airlines 787.
China trade up
as prices ease
China's trade picked up and inflation eased in January as a shaky economic recovery gained traction. Analysts said the January data, impacted by the Lunar New Year holiday, looked promising but the trajectory of the recovery remains gradual and too weak to support a global rebound without improvement in the United States and Europe.
Euro leaders agree
to budget deal
European Union leaders Friday agreed to a budget worth nearly $1.3 trillion to support farming, transportation and other infrastructure, as well as big research projects for the 27-nation bloc. After two days of negotiations, the EU's 27 leaders agreed to a slightly smaller communal budget for the next seven years that reflects the climate of austerity in a region still struggling to emerge from a crippling debt crisis.
HP sets labor
rules for China
Computer maker Hewlett-Packard is pledging to crack down on its Chinese suppliers to reduce the use of low-paid student interns and other temporary workers. The guidelines are the latest attempt by a major U.S. technology company to weed out labor abuses at factories that make the gadgets of an Internet-connected world.