China Will Be Its #1 Market

Morning Business Memo…

The sun rises in the east - for Apple. CEO Tim Cook says his firm expects China to be its number one market in the future, overtaking the U.S.

The remarks were made to a Chinese news agency during a visit to Beijing. "China is currently our second largest market. I believe it will become our first. I believe strongly that it will," the Xinhua News Agency quoted Cook as saying in an interview.

Apple only has 11 stores in mainland China and Hong Kong. "We are continuing to invest in retail stores here and will open many more over the next several years," he said. Xinhua said Cook did not respond to rumors Apple might be developing a lower-cost iPhone for developing markets such as China.

China is already the world's number one new car market. A Chinese industry group says passenger car sales last year rose more than 7 percent to 15.5 million vehicles.

U.S. job gains in the auto industry as American demand for new vehicles continues to grow. Ford says it plans to hire 2,200 engineers, computer programmers, and other white-collar workers this year. That's in addition to the 8,100 salaried and hourly jobs Ford added last year as it increased production and introduced new cars. U.S. car and truck sales rose 13 percent to 14.5 million in 2012, the highest level in five years. Nissan announced it will hire 400 people by the end of next year to make the Murano crossover in Mississippi.

American Express is cutting jobs, mostly in its travel business. The change comes as more Amex customers switched to online portals for booking travel plans and other needs. The company plans to cut about 5,400 jobs, 8.5 percent of its workforce.

A stunning sales drop for video game discs and consoles. Research firm NPD says sales of games and hardware plunged 22 percent in December compared to the year before. Some gamers switched away from the Xbox, Wii and other systems to new digital devices and spent more time playing online. The industry also released fewer new games last year. Total sales fell last month from $4.1 billion the year earlier to $3.21 billion. "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" from Activision Blizzard Inc. was December's top game.

The index that's used as a base mark for many stock mutual funds is at a five year high. The Standard and Poor's 500 rose 11 points and is now back to where it was just as the economy began to enter the recession at the end of 2007. The Dow gained 81 points yesterday.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio

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