Higher prices boost Kimberly-Clark 4Q profit

The sluggish retail environment — with shoppers spending sparingly and retailers focusing on top sellers — coupled with fluctuating production costs is forcing Kimberly-Clark Corp. to make cautious predictions for 2010.

The maker of Kleenex, Huggies and Scott paper towels reported Friday that its fourth-quarter profit rose 17 percent, but the results fell short of analyst predictions.

The company said promotions it launched to keep consumers spending cut into profits and it’s likely the trend will continue in 2010, in which the company predicts a “slow and modest economic recovery.”

Overall, Kimberly-Clark has been weathering the recession well, analysts say, by raising prices as far back as 2008 to account for rising costs for key components like pulp. [Read the full article]

Regional bank SunTrust Banks Inc. posted a narrower fourth-quarter loss Friday, as mortgage servicing and other fee income improved and credit-related expenses eased.

For the final three months of the year, the company lost $316.4 million, or 64 cents per share, compared to a loss of $374.9 million, or $1.07 per share the same time last year.

The performance beat Wall Street expectations. Analysts, on average, expected a loss of 75 cents per share for the quarter and a loss of $2.01 billion for the year.

In the final quarter, SunTrust said average consumer and commercial deposits were $117 billion, up 14.4 percent from $102.2 billion the same quarter in 2008.

Non-interest income rose to $742.3 million, up 3.4 percent from $717.7 million. Non-interest expenses, meanwhile, fell 8.4 percent to $1.45 billion.

Net charge-offs, or loans written off as unrecoverable, were $820.5 million for the quarter. [Read the full article]

The sluggish retail environment — with shoppers spending sparingly and retailers focusing on top sellers — coupled with fluctuating production costs is forcing Kimberly-Clark Corp. to make cautious predictions for 2010.

Regional bank BB&T Corp. said its fourth-quarter earnings fell 37 percent as higher costs and a sharp increase in its provision for credit losses offset a jump in revenue.

McDonald’s dollar menu keeps gaining fans in the recession, and its profit rose last fall, but the world’s largest burger chain said Friday that its annual revenue slipped for the first time in at least a quarter century.

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Harley-Davidson Inc. reported a fourth-quarter loss, its first quarterly deficit in 16 years, as restructuring costs and the sluggish economy wore on the motorcycle maker. [Read the full article]

Beer sales usually hold up better than other products during tough times. But even the brewing industry went flat as consumers were hit hard by a two-year string of job losses and a global economic slump.

While the world’s biggest beer makers suffered declines in beer shipments and sales last year, there was one niche of brewers that bucked the trend.

Craft brewers remained somewhat resistent to the severe downturn, despite a higher price at the liquor store, says Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. The group defines a craft brewer as one that makes less than 2 million barrels a year.

U.S. craft brewers produced about 9 million barrels in 2009, up 5% from the year before. Sales are expected to be just shy of $7 billion, up nearly 9% from 2008, Gatza estimates.

“People stopped going to restaurants and entertained more at home,” he said. [Read the full article]

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