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Business Highlights

By The Associated Press

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Ford shares down as 4Q profit eclipsed by Europe

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) â¿¿ Ford is posting record profits in North America, but it's not enough to quell unease about the company's prospects elsewhere.

Ford's shares dropped nearly 5 percent Tuesday after the company said it expects to lose more money in Europe this year and break even in Asia and South America. The final straw for investors: Ford said sales will increase next year but profits should remain about the same, dashing hopes that margins will continue to grow.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker posted record pretax profit of $8.3 billion in North America in 2012, the result of a six-year turnaround orchestrated by CEO Alan Mulally. It's reaching back into that playbook to fix its operations in Europe, where it lost $1.75 billion. The European restructuring plan announced in October was one reason Ford's stock has been trading at levels not seen since 2011.

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US consumers less optimistic after tax increase

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ An increase in Social Security taxes is leaving Americans with less take-home pay â¿¿ and a more negative outlook for the U.S. economy.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence dropped 8.1 points in January from December to 58.6. That's the lowest reading in 14 months and the third straight decline.

Congress and the White House reached a deal in January to keep income taxes from rising on most Americans. But the agreement did not extend a temporary cut in Social Security taxes.

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Fed likely to stick to low-rate message this week

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ When the Federal Reserve meets this week, it's likely to affirm the message that it intends to help lift the economy, and consumers and businesses will be able to borrow cheaply well into the future â¿¿ even after unemployment has dropped sharply.

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