J.C. Penney shares dive 17% percent on S&P index

J.C. Penney was the biggest loser Thursday.

Shares of J.C. Penney Co. plunged nearly 17 percent on Thursday, the largest decline on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index on that day. The drop came a day after the department-store chain reported its fourth consecutive larger-than-expected quarterly loss on another steep sales decline.

Penney shares, which are now trading at around $18, now have lost about 60 percent of their value since January of last year after CEO Ron Johnson revealed his plan to ditch hundreds of sales in favor of everyday low prices. After the announcement, investors had sent Penney shares up 24 percent to $43 as a vote of confidence.

Damages in transvaginal mesh case: $7.76 million

A New Jersey jury on Thursday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay punitive damages of $7.76 million to a former nurse who blames its transvaginal mesh implant for years of “living hell” despite unsuccessful repair surgeries. The implant is intended to fix pelvic organ prolapse conditions.

The award adds to the $3.35 million in compensatory damages awarded by the state Superior Court jury on Monday, making a total of $11.1 million in damages.

It’s the first verdict in about 4,000 lawsuits filed against the giant health-products maker based in New Brunswick, N.J.

Johnson & Johnson said the decision isn’t supported by the evidence and the company will “vigorously pursue an appeal.”Ethicon sold its Prolift brand of implants from 2005 until 2012, when it pulled them from the market amid mounting lawsuits.

Chrysler to hire 1,250, upgrade Indiana plants

Chrysler will hire 1,250 new workers and spend $374 million to upgrade transmission plants in central Indiana, the only place in North America where the automaker makes transmissions.

The investment calls for $212 million to improve two plants in Kokomo and $162 million for equipment and the purchase of a plant in nearby Tipton, Ind.

The investments will help Chrysler build more nine-speed transmissions for the new Jeep Cherokee that goes on sale later this year, a redesigned Chrysler 200 to be launched next year, and the Dodge Dart.

More Americans behind on paying student loans

More Americans are falling behind on student loans, threatening their ability to obtain mortgages and other credit in the future.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says more than 31 percent of people with student loans at the end of last year were 90 or more days delinquent. That compares with less than 25 percent at the end of 2008.

Meanwhile, delinquency rates for other categories of loans are improving. The percentage of borrowers behind on mortgages, home equity and auto loans fell from the July-September quarter of last year to the October-December quarter.

Facebook buying online ad toolset from Microsoft

Facebook is buying a set of online advertising tools called Atlas from Microsoft in its latest attempt to build a more effective marketing system around its Internet social network.

In making the deal announced Thursday, Facebook is betting the acquired technology will bear more fruit under new ownership than it did during the past five and a half years under Microsoft’s control.

Atlas is part of an online advertising service called aQuantive that Microsoft Corp. bought for $6.3 billion in 2007. AQuantive didn’t bring in as much online ad revenue as Microsoft envisioned, prompting the software maker to absorb a $6.2 billion charge last year that resulted in its first quarterly loss in its 26-year history as a public company.

–From news service reports