CEOs to increase spending, hiring
WASHINGTON » U.S. chief executives have grown more optimistic about economic growth this year, and more of them plan to boost spending and hiring within the next six months.
The Business Roundtable says its CEO outlook index rose to 92.1 in the first quarter of this year, the highest level in two years. The index measures chief executives’ expectations for sales, investment spending and hiring.
The biggest improvement occurred in investment spending. Nearly half the CEOs surveyed said they plan to invest more in the next six months, up from 39 percent last quarter. Such spending is typically followed by more hiring as companies expand.
Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, attributed the better outlook to more stability and certainty surrounding tax and spending policies in Washington.
Walmart sues Visa over card fees
NEW YORK » Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is suing Visa Inc. over fees that it charges the world’s largest retailer when customers use a credit or debit card.
Walmart said Visa conspired with banks to illegally fix and inflate fees that retailers pay on card transactions and that the fees cost U.S. retailers and shoppers more than $350 billion between 2004 and November 2012.
Walmart’s complaint was filed last week with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.
San Francisco-based Visa declined to comment on the suit.
Retailers have long complained about the billions of dollars in "swipe" or "interchange" fees that they have had to pay, which average to about 2 percent of the price of a purchase.
Taco Bell ads feature McDonalds
NEW YORK » Taco Bell is name-dropping an unlikely clown to promote its new breakfast menu: Ronald McDonald.
The fast-food chain began airing ads Thursday that feature everyday men who happen to have the same name as the McDonald’s mascot known for his bright red hair and yellow jumpsuit. The ads, by Oscar-winning director Errol Morris, are intended to promote Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu.
The chain, owned by Yum Brands Inc. of Louisville, Ky., is looking to boost sales by opening most of its roughly 6,000 U.S. stores a few hours earlier at 7 a.m.
But Taco Bell has a long way to go to catch up with McDonald’s, the No. 1 player in breakfast with 31 percent of the category, according to market researcher Technomic. Egg McMuffins and other items have been consistent sellers for McDonald’s, with breakfast accounting for about 20 percent of the company’s U.S. sales.
By comparison, a Yum executive has said breakfast accounted for just 4 percent of sales when it was being tested at Taco Bell stores in select markets. That was before national marketing began, however, and Taco Bell President Brian Niccol said in a phone interview that the goal was to get the figure to a level "much greater than that."
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