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JPMorgan weighs sale of card biz

JPMorgan Chase says it is considering a sale of its prepaid card business.

The company said Thursday it is no longer accepting new prepaid card business but will continue to support existing cardholders. The prepaid card business includes services for corporate and government programs, including health savings accounts.

Chase bank customers are not affected by the decision.

JPMorgan said last month that about 465,000 users of its UCard prepaid cash card may have had their personal information hacked. The bank’s UCard is used for programs such as food stamps, unemployment benefits and tax refunds. Corporations use UCard to pay workers who don’t have checking accounts.

JPMorgan Chase stock fell 33 cents to $58.54.

Retailers of all stripes slash profit forecasts

Several major retailers slashed their fiscal fourth-quarter profit forecasts this week in the latest sign that Americans didn’t spend briskly during the holiday shopping season.

American Eagle Outfitters and Bed Bath & Beyond are among seven retail chains that have cut their expectations for their fiscal fourth quarter, which includes the critical holiday shopping season when stores can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales.

The holiday season was challenging for stores as many Americans still were contending with the effects of a shaky economic recovery. Weather was also an issue, as snowstorms across the country kept some shoppers home. And the season was six days shorter, which meant less time for people to shop.

Retailers discounted early and often to get shoppers into stores. In fact, it was common to see sales of 50 percent off a store’s entire stock of clothes during the final days of the season.

It appears the discounts got people to spend – sales for November and December rose a better-than-expected 2.7 percent to $265.9 billion, according to data tracker ShopperTrak. But the deep price cuts ate away at retailers’ profits.

Fordís better idea: Raise dividend 25%

Citing its improved balance sheet, Ford Motor Co. boosted its quarterly dividend for common shares and the stock held by its founding family by 25 percent, exceeding an estimate by Bloomberg analysts.

The quarterly distribution will rise to 12.5 cents, up from 10 cents and topping the 12-cent estimate by Bloomberg analysts. The dividend is payable March 3 to shareholders of record at the close on Jan. 31, Ford said in a statement.

After a five-year drought when the company suspended its payout, Ford resumed paying a distribution in 2012 at 5 cents and doubled it to 10 cents a year ago. The increased dividend will pay $35.4 million annually to members of the company’s founding family for their 70.9 million Class B shares that give them 40 percent voting power.

Jobless claims dip slightly to 330,000

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, signaling fewer layoffs and steady job growth. The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average dropped 9,750 to 349,000.

A Labor spokesman said there was no indication that snow and freezing weather around much of the country caused the drop.