Macy’s closing stores despite upbeat holiday sales numbers

NEW YORK — Macy’s is closing 29 stores in coming weeks despite the company reporting some improvement in comparable-stores sales during the crucial holiday shopping season.

In an email to The Associated Press, the Cincinnati-based retailer said the store closures include 28 Macy’s locations and one Bloomingdale’s store. It was unclear how that would affect employees at those stores.

Macy’s on Wednesday reported that its sales at stores opened at least a year fell 0.6% during the November and December period, which was not as bad as most industry analysts had anticipated. The company’s stock rose more than 2% in afternoon trading Wednesday.

Strong online sales boosted the results.

Like other department stores, Macy’s is struggling to adapt to a shift online by customers amid intense competition from off-price discounters like T.J. Maxx.

Macy’s has pursued a number of strategies as a way to get shoppers back. That includes expanding an off-price concept at its Macy’s stores called Backstage. It also recently teamed up with resale site ThredUp. The company’s Bloomingdale’s division has also launched a clothing rental service.

The company said it will provide an update on its growth strategy and three-year plan at its annual meeting with investors on Feb. 5.

In November, Macy’s cut its annual profit and sales expectations after posting a steeper-than-expected 3.5% drop in same-store sales for the third quarter.

It marked Macy’s first quarterly comparable store sales decline in almost two years.

Takata recall of 10M inflators could be last of air bag saga

DETROIT — Takata is recalling 10 million more front air bag inflators sold to 14 different automakers because they can explode with too much force and hurl shrapnel.

The recall is the last one the bankrupt company agreed to in a 2015 settlement with the U.S. safety regulators. It could bring to a close the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history.

The 10 million inflators are part of the approximately 70 million in the U.S. that Takata was to recall as part of the agreement with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Vehicles made by Audi, BMW, Honda, Daimler Vans, Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen are affected.

Automakers will determine what models are affected and launch their own recalls. Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Mazda already have made announcements.

The recalled inflators were used to replace dangerous ones made by Takata until a permanent remedy could be developed.

Takata used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate air bags. The chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to high heat and humidity and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister and hurling shrapnel.

Permanent replacements don’t use ammonium nitrate.

At least 25 people have been killed worldwide and hundreds injured by Takata inflators. About 100 million inflators are being recalled across the globe.

In paperwork posted Wednesday on the NHTSA website, Takata said the 10 million figure is an estimate and that many of the inflators were never installed in vehicles. The company said it doesn’t know how many vehicles were affected.

But the numbers are still huge. Subaru, for instance, on Wednesday issued recalls for nearly a half-million vehicles to replace Takata inflators that were used as interim fixes. The recalls cover vehicles from the 2003 through 2014 model years including certain Forester, Baja, Impreza, WRX, Legacy and Outback models. Also covered is the 2005 and 2006 Saab 9-2x made by Subaru for General Motors.

Owners can check to see if their vehicles have been recalled by keying in their 17-digit vehicle identification number on the NHTSA website.

All of the Takata recalls are being phased in by the age of the vehicle and location. Vehicles registered farther south, where conditions are hot and humid, get first priority.

The latest recalls could bring an end to a saga that began with the first recall in 2001 and mushroomed into what collectively is the largest recall in U.S. automotive history.

There are still a few unresolved issues, though. Takata had until the end of 2020 to prove that inflators using ammonium nitrate with a moisture absorbing chemical are safe. If it can’t be proved, then Takata will have to recall millions more inflators. NHTSA has not yet made a decision on those inflators.

Also, General Motors, Ford and Mazda are seeking exceptions from the recalls for Takata inflators on millions of other vehicles. The companies contend their inflators are safe.

The remnants of Takata were purchased by Chinese-owned Key Safety Systems for $1.6 billion. The successor company is called Joyson Safety Systems.

U.S. consumers took it easy on their credit cards in November

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers slowed their borrowing in November, mainly by piling up less credit card debt.

The Federal Reserve said today that consumer credit rose by a seasonally adjusted $12.5 billion in November, down from a gain of $19 billion in October.

The sharp slowdown reflected a $2.5 billion decline in borrowing in the category that covers credit cards that followed a strong gain of $7.9 billion in October. November’s was the weakest showing since credit card debt fell by $2.8 billion in March.

But borrowing for auto loans and student debt rose $14.9 billion in November. That was up from an October increase of $11.1 billion and was the strongest advance since August.

Consumer borrowing is closely watched for signals it can provide about Americans’ willingness to take on debt to finance consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity.

The Associated Press