Business news


Economy nearly flatlines in Europe

LONDON — Europe appears headed for a recession – if it isn’t in one already.

Economic growth has all but stopped in Europe, statistics showed Tuesday. The stall comes just when Italy, Greece and other nations need growth to help them out of the chokehold of debt.

The European Union economy grew a paltry 0.2 percent in the third quarter compared with the three months before, the EU statistics agency said. That is the same growth rate as the previous quarter, and far slower than the 0.7 percent before that.

The picture is probably worse. The statistics did not include Italy and Greece, the two countries in the most debt trouble.

A recession also would be bad news for the U.S., which sells 20 percent of its exports to Europe, and for Asia. Taken as a whole, Europe has the largest economy in the world, producing $16.2 trillion in goods and services each year.

U.S. retail sales give sign of hope

WASHINGTON — Amer­icans spent more on autos, electronics and building supplies in October. The fifth consecutive monthly gain in retail sales suggests the economy maintained solid growth at the start of the fourth quarter.

Retail sales increased 0.5 percent, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Healthy auto sales helped, but even without them, sales rose 0.6 percent – the best showing since March.

When excluding autos and sales at gasoline stations, sales rose 0.7 percent, also the biggest increase since March.

Consumers spent more on electronics, appliances, hardware and building supplies. Sales also rose at grocery stores, bars and restaurants, and health care stores. Sales at department stores and specialty clothing stores fell.

Overall, the statistics were encouraging. Economists said the sales suggest the economy is growing at roughly the same 2.5 percent annual pace as the July-September quarter.

Another report showed producer prices fell for the first time in four months, which might make it easier for retailers to use discounts and maintain the sales momentum through the holiday shopping season.

Apple fills Jobs’ chairman post

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple Inc. has named Arthur Levinson as its non-executive chairman, a move that rewards a longtime Apple board member who chose it over Google Inc. when the technology giants began to compete with each other.

Levinson, 61, fills the vacancy left open when co-founder Steve Jobs died last month at age 56 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jobs had been chairman for less than two months, a position created when he stepped down as chief executive in August.

Robert Iger, the president and CEO of The Walt Disney Co., was tapped as a director. He repaired frayed relations between Jobs and Dis­ney after taking the reins of the media company in 2005.

Levinson is chairman of pharmaceuticals company Genentech Inc. He showed his loyalty in 2009, when a federal investigation pressured him to choose between keeping his board seat at Apple or at Google.

In other news

WAL-MART STORES INC. posted a quarterly gain in revenue at U.S. Walmart stores open at least a year, reversing nine consecutive quarters of declines, but its overall third-quarter profit fell 2.9 percent.

DELL’S THIRD-QUARTER net income rose 9 percent though revenue remained flat from last year as the computer maker continued pruning less profitable parts of its business. The company predicted full-year revenue will come in near the low end of the guidance it issued in August, which was itself a reduction from Dell’s earlier expectations.

THE HOME DEPOT INC.’S third-quarter net income rose 12 percent as consumers spent a bit more on home-improvement projects and repaired their homes after Tropical Storm Irene.

STAPLES INC. said Tues­day that its profit climbed 13 percent in the third quarter, helped in part by improved sales of office and break room supplies to businesses.