Optimism drops among small-business owners

Small-business owners were less optimistic about the economy last month amid signs of another slowdown in the recovery.

The Small Business Optimism Index from the National Federation of Independent Business dropped to 89.5 in March, down 1.3 points from the previous month, the group said Tuesday.

The measure, based on a random survey of 759 business owners, had risen for three straight months. The average monthly reading has been 90.7 since the end of the Great Recession in mid-2009.

Businesses reported adding jobs in March, the fourth straight month of gains. Companies said they added an average of 0.19 workers, the highest level in a year.

But with the large automatic budget cuts that are looming in Washington adding to an uncertain economic climate, business owners surveyed by the group said they were pessimistic about spending more to hire or expand their inventories.

Expectations for increased sales in the next three months dropped in March, leading to a pullback in plans to add workers, inventory or equipment, the report said.

Boeing to invest $1 billion in South Carolina complex

The Boeing Co. announced Tuesday that it is expanding in South Carolina, investing another $1 billion and creating 2,000 new jobs over eight years.

“Boeing is now a part of the fabric of South Carolina. So this is family and when family does well, we all get excited,” Gov. Nikki Haley said at an aerospace conference along with Boeing and state officials.

The state is providing $120 million in incentives for upfront expansion costs such as utilities and site preparation at Boeing’s North Charleston manufacturing complex that now employs about 6,000.

The first of the company’s 787 Dreamliners built in South Carolina rolled off the assembly line about a year ago. The plant assembles one of the planes a month and within six weeks will be assembling two a month, said Jack Jones, the vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina.

Ford Focus outshines Corolla as top-selling car

An American automaker has the top-selling car in the world: the Ford Focus.

Research firm R.L. Polk & Co. said Ford Motor Co. sold 1,020,410 Focus models worldwide last year. About a quarter of the sales were in the U.S.

The Focus beat out the second-best seller – Toyota’s Corolla with sales of 872,774 – by a wide margin.

Including the F-series truck and Fiesta compact car, Ford had three of the 10 top-selling vehicles internationally, the firm reported.

Thanks almost exclusively to sales in the U.S. and Canada, Ford’s F-series truck was the third-best seller internationally and the only truck on the list.

The Zhiguang van from Chinese automaker Wuling was the fourth-most-popular auto globally, with sales of 768,870.

Banks to start repaying foreclosure-error victims

Banks this week will start making payments to millions of borrowers who were foreclosed on at the height of an era where wrongful actions were taken, federal regulators announced Tuesday.

Payments to 4.2 million borrowers whose homes were in any stage of foreclosure in 2009 or 2010 will begin Friday, the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said Tuesday.
The payments, which will range from $300 to $125,000, will be sent in several waves and should be completed by mid-July.

The $125,000 payments will go to 1,082 service members who were foreclosed upon, in addition to 53 civilians who were foreclosed on when they weren’t in default. But most borrowers will get between $300 and $800.