Apple Tries to Soothe Investors With Cash

Morning Business Memo:

Would Steve Jobs have even considered doing this? In a bid to please unhappy investors, Apple (AAPL) plans to shower them with cash. The company wants to return $100 billion to investors in the next two years, buy back $60 billion in shares and raise its dividend by 15 percent. The moves come after Apple's quarterly report revealed its first profit decline in a decade.

But sales rose. Apple sold about 10 million more iPhones and iPads in the latest quarter than it did a year ago. Worries about a drop in demand and rising competition from Google, Samsung, Amazon and Microsoft have sent Apple shares down more than 40 percent since September. Apple CEO Tim Cook calls the drop in share prices "frustrating" and says the company's "incredibly strong" results last year are "making comparisons very difficult."

At the same time, Cook suggests Apple won't release any new products until the fall, contrary to expectations that there would be a new iPhone and iPads out this summer.

Credit card spending is on the rise after years of caution. Many consumers are using their credit cards as much now as they did during the holiday shopping season in December. "This is quite unusual because, generally, right after the holidays people cut back on spending," credit card blogger-author Beverly Harzog says. "Usually, people get into a little bit of debt in the holidays."

In past years, consumers cut back on credit card spending in January, February and March, but this year's rise in payroll taxes could be making this harder. Banks have eased some restrictions on whom they lend to. High-interest rate credit cards are being offered to some consumers who didn't qualify before. "It lets them into the game a little bit, although they are going to be stuck with a very high interest rate," Harzog says.

Federal regulators are set to crackdown on payday loans. These quickie short-term loans often come with high interest rates and expensive fees. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to release a report today. Regulators are concerned that payday loans trap consumers with debt that can spiral out of control. New rules expected within days would require banks to make sure consumers can re-pay these loans.

Air travel was smoother Tuesday, but the government is warning passengers that the situation can change by the hour as it runs the nation's air-traffic control system with a smaller staff. Thousands of air-traffic controllers are being forced to take furloughs because of mandatory budget cuts.

Airlines are complaining about the high cost of expected delays and flight cancellations caused by the government-ordered furloughs. US Airways CEO Doug Parker says "this can't continue." Airlines and members of Congress are urging the Federal Aviation Administration to find other ways to make the cuts.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesabc

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