Ford’s quarterly profit rises 15%, topping expectations

Ford Motor Co.’s first-quarter profit rose 15 percent to $1.6 billion, thanks to record earnings in North America and strong sales in China. The automaker lost money again in Europe, although it sees some hints of improvement there.

Ford earned 40 cents per share, up from 35 cents in the same quarter a year ago. Without one-time charges, including restructuring costs in Europe, Ford would have earned 41 cents. That beat Wall Street’s forecast of 37 cents, according to analysts polled by FactSet.

“It’s a very good start to the year for us,” Ford’s chief financial officer, Bob Shanks, said Wednesday.

Ford earned $2.4 billion in North America, the highest quarterly total since the company began reporting results regionally in 2000.

The Fusion midsize sedan and Escape SUV — newly redesigned for the 2013 model year — were powerhouses in the quarter.

Sprint sees big slowdown in new-customer sign-ups

The flow of new customers to Sprint stopped in the latest quarter, the company reported Wednesday as it weighed the offers of two corporate suitors.

Sprint Nextel Corp., the country’s third-largest cellphone carrier, said it added a net of just 12,000 customers to its Sprint brand in the quarter, and it would have lost 252,000 if it weren’t for Nextel customers moving over now that their network is being shut down.

The number of new Sprint customers was the lowest for any quarter since 2009, and suggests CEO Dan Hesse’s carefully engineered turnaround of the company is on shaky ground.

Sprint executives acknowledged they are losing some customers because the company is behind the other three nationwide carriers when it comes to data download speeds. It’s building a high-speed “LTE” network, but in the meantime, most customers are stuck on a slow “3G” network.

AT&T Inc., the second-largest phone company, posted weak subscriber numbers Tuesday. Verizon Wireless, the industry titan, saw strong trends, as did underdog T-Mobile USA, possibly because it just started selling the iPhone.

CEO of Best Buy received $19.6 million pay package

The CEO of Best Buy, turnaround expert Hubert Joly, earned compensation worth $19.6 million in his five months on the job in 2012.

The company had three CEOs over the course of the year, and Chairman Harim Tyabji called it a “tumultuous” period in a Tuesday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Joly stepped into the role in September.

The CEO turnover came as Best Buy worked to improve its results. The Minneapolis company faces tough competition from online retailers and discounters. It has cut jobs, invested in training employees and started matching online prices.

Joly, 53, received a base salary of about $490,000 and a $3.5 million bonus for the year ended Feb. 2, 2013. The bulk of his pay came from stock and option awards valued at $15.6 million on the date they were granted.

Durable goods orders fall as businesses get cautious

Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods fell in March by the most in seven months. The drop reflected a steep decline in commercial aircraft demand and little growth in orders that signal future business investment.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders for durable goods declined 5.7 percent in March. That followed a 4.3 percent gain in February, which was revised lower.

Weaker economies overseas and the impact of across-the-board government spending cuts have made businesses more cautious. That has reduced demand for manufactured goods. Spending on defense equipment also fell sharply last month.

A measure of business investment plans, which include industrial machinery and computers, ticked up 0.2 percent last month.