Market Minute: China Sours on KFC; Penney's Saga Takes a Dramatic Turn


China loses its appetite for KFC, and the J.C. Penney soap opera takes a new turn. Those and more are what's in business news Tuesday.

The major stock averages were little changed Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 6 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 (^GPSC) edged 2 points lower, while the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) gained nearly 10.

KFC china weak sales

KFC and its parent company, Yum Brands (YUM), continue to struggle in China. A key measure of Yum's sales tumbled 13 percent last month, far worse than expected. China is critical for Yum, accounting for more than half of the chain's revenue. The company has been under pressure ever since reports of potential safety problems among its suppliers surfaced late last year.

Controversial activist investor Bill Ackman has resigned as a director at J.C. Penney (JCP). Ackman, who is also the company's largest shareholder, caused a stir last week when he called for the ouster of the retailer's CEO. The company's board today reaffirmed its support for CEO Mike Ullman.

SciClone Pharmaceuticals (SCLN) has received another subpoena as part of the Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation into foreign corruption involving the company's dealings in China. The probes are weighing on SciClone. Last week, it lowered earnings estimate for the year.

Avanir Pharmaceuticals (AVNR) is set to take off. The company now has exclusive rights to market Merck's (MRK) diabetes drug Januvia to long-term care facilities.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and former chief Mark Hurd are off the hook. A federal judge has dismissed a securities fraud lawsuit that had accused them of violating ethical conduct standards.

BP (BP) is suing to overturn a U.S. government ruling that bars the company from bidding on new federal contracts to supply fuel. According to the Houston Chronicle, BP is seeking an injunction to lift the Environmental Protection Agency order that came in the wake of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

And real-estate giant Blackstone Group (BX) has reportedly agreed to buy 80 apartment complexes. Bloomberg reports Blackstone will pay $2.7 billion to acquire the properties from a unit of General Electric (GE).

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.