Maine call center moving to new space, adding jobs

A customer service and marketing company in Lewiston plans to expand and add as many as 150 jobs.

Argo Marketing Group Inc. said Thursday that it will spend $2.4 million to convert the former McCrory’s department store on Lisbon Street into a state-of-the-art call center and its corporate headquarters.

Argo’s founder and CEO, Jason Levesque, said 80 jobs will move from space the company now leases down the street, and the company plans to hire another 150 full-time employees by April 2014.

He said Argo employees will work on the second floor, with a cafe and retail storefronts taking up the ground floor.

Intel promotes an insider to CEO in turbulent times

Intel is following its traditions and promoting an insider to the job of CEO. The world’s largest chipmaker is tasking Chief Operating Officer Brian Krzanich with steering it through an industry shake-up that is seeing tablets and smartphones overshadow Intel’s base in personal computers.

Intel announced Thursday that Krzanich will replace Paul Otellini on May 16. Six months ago, Otellini, 62, announced his surprise decision to resign and will end a nearly 40-year career with Intel, including eight years as CEO.

Transition to new models cuts into GM’s net income

General Motors said Thursday that its net income fell 14 percent to $865 million, partly because it slowed shipments of the old pickup models so factories could prepare to make the new ones. GM also spent more on incentives to try to clear old pickups off dealer lots.

The Silverado and Sierra remain huge sellers, even though the Dodge Ram and Ford F-Series have been retooled more recently. One of every 12 vehicles that GM sold worldwide last year was a full-size pickup, and the Silverado is the second best-selling vehicle in the U.S. behind the F-Series. The big profits from GM’s trucks — estimated at up to $10,000 per vehicle — can be plowed into other products around the globe.

European bank reduces refinancing interest rate

The European Central Bank delivered a widely expected cut in its benchmark interest rate Thursday, with its president saying monetary policy has been “extraordinarily accommodative” and the bank stands ready to act further if needed.

Following its meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, the ECB’s governing council said it decided to lower its main refinancing rate by 25 basis points to 0.50 percent, meeting market expectations.

The ECB also said it will “continue conducting the main refinancing operations as fixed-rate-tender procedures with full allotment for as long as necessary,” and at least until July 2014.

Fixed rates for mortgages fall again to record lows

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 15-year fixed mortgage slipped to 2.56 percent last week, the lowest on records dating to 1991. It was 2.61 percent the previous week.

The rate on the 30-year fixed loan declined to 3.35 percent from 3.40 percent. That’s near the average rate of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on records dating back to 1971.

Earnings for Kraft Foods beat analyst expectations

NEW YORK – Kraft Foods Group Inc. reported first-quarter results that beat Wall Street expectations as it increased sales and cut costs.

The company earned $456 million, or 76 cents per share. That’s down from $483 million, or 82 cents per share, a year ago when it paid less in interest and other expenses.

The company, based in Northfield, Ill., makes Miracle Whip, Oscar Mayer, Jell-O and other staples found in American pantries.

– From new services reports