Ford, GM Offer Big Incentives After Flat Sales

Morning Money Memo:

This may be a great time to start looking for a new car or truck, and you can thank winter for the price cuts. Three months of surprisingly harsh weather in much of the country are being blamed for disappointing sales. Many dealer lots are full.

Unsold inventory is a concern for auto firms after expectations of strong sales this year. Deep discounts are being offered on full-sized Chevrolet and Ford pickup trucks.

Incentives worth up to $8,000 for the top-selling Ford F-150 truck have been reported. "Chevrolet will run a national promotion in March offering supplier pricing on all Silverado pickup models," Automotive News said. It will be "the second straight month of beefed-up incentives from General Motors".

Across the winter-weary Midwest and the East Coast, travel agents are being inundated with a simple request: Get me out of here.

After such a long, cold season, Americans are desperate to escape to warm-weather destinations in California, Arizona and Florida. And tourism agencies have stepped up their promotions with ad campaigns for winter vacations. says hotel bookings in warm-weather states made by customers from Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and the Washington, D.C., region rose 7 percent in January, compared with last year.

Weather is a reason consumers will pay more this spring for beef and pork products.

Meatpackers paid record prices after cattle futures traded in Chicago rose to new highs. Hog futures are at their most expensive in more than two years. The rising costs followed a long drought in ranching states that led to tight supplies. The Wall Street Journal says live-cattle futures have jumped 10 percent so far this year.

The bulls came storming back to the stock market. After a January decline, February has seen solid gains. As they enter the last day of trading for the month, traders are looking at a record high for the S&P 500 big stocks index, after a 9 point gain Thursday.

The Dow rose 74 but is still nearly 2 percent below its peak. Investors were encouraged by testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. She hinted that the Fed would continue with its stimulus if economic growth slowed down.

The sandwich chain Quiznos is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Published reports say the company has about $570 million in debt and has been facing a decline in sales.

The large Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo, acknowledging that a significant amount of the virtual currency had gone missing.

A top Japanese official says the apparent collapse was entirely predictable, but that the demise of Mt. Gox happened sooner than he expected. "No one recognizes them as a real currency," Finance Minister Taro Aso said.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesnow 212-456-5100

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