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Briefs

Wholesaler sales slide 1.9 percent

U.S. wholesale businesses in January suffered their steepest sales drop in nearly five years, yet they continued to increase their stockpiles. This suggests that companies expect the economy to rebound after experiencing an abrupt winter slowdown.

Wholesalers boosted stockpiles 0.6 percent in January from December, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Rising stockpiles boost economic growth because they reflect increased production at factories, a sign that wholesalers anticipate a stronger economy.

But sales tumbled 1.9 percent in January. That’s the largest decline since March 2009, when the economy was in recession.

US employers post more open positions

U.S. employers advertised slightly more jobs in January than in December, a sign that hiring is likely to remain steady in coming months.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that employers posted 3.9 million job openings, up 1.5 percent from December.

That is still below November’s nearly six-year high of 4.1 million, the first month that openings topped 4 million since March 2008.

There are about 2.6 unemployed Americans, on average, for each open job, the report shows. That’s close to the 2-1 ratio that is typical of healthier economies. The ratio of unemployed people to available jobs reached a record 6.7 in July 2009, just after the recession ended.

Audi passes BMW for luxury crown

Audi delivered more cars than BMW through the first two months of 2014 to nab the global lead in luxury sales.

Audi sold 242,400 vehicles through February, 383 more than BMW, according to data from the German automakers. At the same time last year, Audi trailed BMW, which has been No. 1 in the segment for nine straight years, by 429 autos.

The Volkswagen brand’s gains signal a tightening race for the title of the world’s biggest maker of premium vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz, the global No. 3, has grown at a faster pace in recent months than its two larger rivals. All three vow to hold the luxury sales crown at the end of the decade.

Feds push for more 401(k) fee disclosures

The Labor Department wants financial services companies that administer 401(k) retirement plans to do a better job explaining just what fees and expenses are attached to those plans.

The rule would update one from 2012. Officials say many disclosure forms offered since then have become too lengthy, complex and confusing.

The department says employers who offer such plans need a better “road map” of embedded charges and fees.

China taps owners for 5 new private banks

Ten companies have been picked to invest in China’s first five privately owned banks, the industry’s chief regulator said Tuesday.

The banks, part of sweeping reform plans announced last year, will be expected to operate independently and according to market principles, according to the China Banking Regulatory Commission. No timetable or details of their intended size were given.

Regulators announced last year Beijing would allow the creation of privately financed banks as part of efforts to make the economy more productive by giving market forces a bigger role.

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