AUTOS

Vehicle sales fall 2%

during first quarter

Automobile sales in the U.S. fell 2 percent in the first quarter, another sign the nation's economy is starting to slow.

Automakers sold just over 4 million vehicles from January through March, according to Ward's Automotive Intelligence, and industry analysts blame the decline on rising vehicle prices, competition from an abundant supply of late-model used vehicles and relatively high interest rates. Harsh winter weather and the partial government shutdown also had an impact.

Most analysts are predicting vehicle sales of around 16.9 million this year, still strong but down from last year's 17.27 million. Sales peaked in 2016 at 17.55 million.

GROCERIES

Walmart to allow orders

via Google Home assistant

Walmart will now allow its shoppers to order their groceries by voice through Google's smart home assistant, its latest attempt to challenge Amazon's growing dominance.

Starting this month, shoppers can add items directly to their Walmart grocery cart, according to a company blog post on Tuesday. Walmart Inc. says it can quickly identify the items customers are asking for, based on information from prior purchases with Walmart. For example, if a customer tells Google Assistant to add milk to the cart, it can make sure to add the specific milk the customer buys regularly.

The new features come almost two years after the retailer announced a partnership with Google.

Amazon.com's Echo will capture 63.3 percent of smart speaker users in 2019, while Google Home will account for 31 percent, according to eMarketer.

ECONOMY

Orders for durable goods

decrease 1.6% in February

Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell 1.6 percent in February, the biggest drop in four months, reflecting a plunge in the volatile commercial aircraft category. Demand in a key sector used to track business investment decisions also declined in February.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the February decline came after a small 0.1 percent rise January and was the weakest showing since a 4.3 percent fall in October. Orders in a category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans edged down 0.1 percent in February after a 0.9 percent advance in January.

AIRLINES

Effort underway to start

a new, low-fare carrier

The former chief financial officer of United Continental Holdings is betting that the U.S. airline industry needs another budget airline.

Andrew Levy, 49, who also helped establish Allegiant, is raising money for a low-cost niche carrier designed to serve secondary airports with a reliable experience that differs from current players in the market.

"We think the opportunity exists for a real high-quality, highly reliable, extremely low fare, basic transportation service," Levy said Tuesday. The airline has not yet been named.