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Briefs

GM invests $1.5 billion in factories

General Motors says it will invest $1.5 billion in its North American factories this year.

North American President Mark Reuss announced the figure in a speech Wednesday night but gave no details. The company says specific plants and job numbers will come later.

Reuss says the investment is in addition to the $10.2 billion GM already has spent on its factories since July of 2009.

GM employs more than 3,600 at its Allen County truck assembly plant, where it recently invested $275 million in equipment and construction to build the next-generation Silverado and Sierra. Production is slated to start this year.

Fedís bond buying to continue in í13

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said Thursday he expects the central bank to continue buying bonds beyond midyear to achieve sustained improvement in the labor market.

“It is probably going to be a struggle to see by midyear” enough progress in jobs creation to stop, he said.

While the U.S. economy will probably expand by about 2 percent this year, resolution of U.S. fiscal challenges may spur deferred business spending and fuel better-than-forecast growth, Lockhart said.

Jobless aid claims drop to 5-year low

The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted to a five-year low last week, a hopeful sign the job market may be improving. But much of the decline reflects seasonal volatility in the data.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the lowest level since January 2008, just after the recession began. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 359,250.

The data can be uneven in January. Job cuts typically spike in the second week of the month as retailers, restaurants and other companies lay off temporary workers hired for the holidays.

Fifth Thirdís profit up as charge-offs drop

Regional banker Fifth Third Bancorp reported Thursday that its fourth-quarter net income jumped 28 percent, helped by improving credit conditions.

The Cincinnati-based company earned $390 million, or 43 cents a share, for the period ended Dec. 31. That compares with $305 million, or 33 cents a share, a year ago.

Net charge-offs of bad loans dropped to $147 million from $239 million, the lowest level since 2007’s third quarter.

For the full year, Fifth Third reported net income of $1.6 billion, up from $1.3 billion in 2011. After preferred dividends, net income available to common shareholders was $1.5 billion, or $1.66 a share, up from $1.1. billion, or $1.18 a share in 2011.

PNC reports profit hike on market expansion

The PNC Financial Services Group Inc. said Thursday that its net income climbed 47 percent in the fourth quarter on an increase in loans and deposits and business expansion into more markets in the Southeast.

The company said net income attributable to common shareholders increased to $664 million, or $1.24 a share, in the three months ended Dec. 31 from $451 million, or 85 cents a share.

For the year, the company’s net income fell 6 percent, to $2.83 billion, or $5.30 a share, from $3 billion, or $5.64 a share.

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