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Business Highlights

Associated Press Updated: October 22, 2014 at 6:00 pm

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Government ups air bag warning to 7.8M vehicles

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government is now urging owners of nearly 8 million cars and trucks to have the air bags repaired because of potential danger to drivers and passengers. But the effort is being complicated by confusing information and a malfunctioning website.

The government's auto safety agency says that inflator mechanisms in the air bags can rupture, causing metal fragments to fly out when the bags are deployed. The inflators are made by Japanese parts supplier Takata Corp.

Safety advocates say at least four people have died from the problem, which they claim could affect more than 20 million cars nationwide. On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration added 3.1 million vehicles to an initial warning covering 4.7 million cars and SUVs.

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'Silicon Beach' brings tech boom to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — So long Silicon Valley. These days entrepreneurs and engineers are flocking to a place better known for surfing waves than the Web. Amid the palm trees and purple sunsets of the Southern California coastline, techies have built "Silicon Beach."

In the past few years Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and YouTube have opened offices on the west side of Los Angeles from Santa Monica south to Venice and Playa del Rey. They are joined by hundreds of startups including Hulu, Demand Media and Snapchat, which nixed a $3 billion takeover offer from Facebook. Major Hollywood players like The Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. have launched startup accelerators to help local tech entrepreneurs. The city of Los Angeles even hired its first chief technology officer, former Qualcomm executive Peter Marx, earlier this year.

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FedEx, UPS make plans for a better holiday season

DALLAS (AP) — Facing an even bigger mountain of packages this holiday season, FedEx and UPS are hiring more workers to avoid the delays that frustrated shoppers and gift-recipients a year ago.

Last December, the delivery giants were caught off-guard by bad weather and a surge in last-minute online shopping. An estimated 2 million packages were late at Christmas.

On Wednesday, FedEx Corp. said it expects deliveries between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to rise 8.8 percent over last year, to 290 million shipments. Volume is expected to surge on each of the first three Mondays in December, with FedEx predicting a peak of 22.6 million shipments on Monday, Dec. 15.

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Spot will cost you: Pet rents become apartment fad

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Man's best friend is taking a bite out of renters' wallets.

Pet security deposits register in the hundreds of dollars and are getting steeper. Now, a monthly rental payment ranging from $10 to $50 is quickly becoming the norm, adding to the cost. Apartment managers nationwide say they require some safety net against pet damage, while others won't allow animals at all.

The rents and deposits pay for dog-poop picker-uppers, cleaning services and more, but some managers say they charge because they can. Many residents decry the move, arguing they are being bilked to keep their cats and canines.

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Social Security benefits get another tiny increase

WASHINGTON (AP) — Come January, nearly 60 million Social Security recipients will get benefit increases averaging $20 a month, the third straight year of historically small pay hikes.

The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, will also boost government benefits for millions of disabled veterans, federal retirees and people drawing disability payments for the poor.

Year after year of tiny increases are weighing on many older Americans.

The government announced the benefit increase Wednesday when it released the latest measure of consumer prices. By law, the increase is based on inflation, which has been below historical averages so far this year.

For example, gasoline prices have dropped over the past year while the cost of clothing is up by less than 1 percent, according to the September inflation report.

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US consumer prices rose 0.1 percent in September

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer prices edged up slightly in September, with the overall increase held back by a third straight monthly decline in gasoline prices. The tiny gain was the latest evidence that inflation remains benign.

Consumer prices rose 0.1 percent after having falling 0.2 percent in August, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy, also climbed 0.1 percent after no gain in August.

Over the past 12 months, both overall and core prices are up 1.7 percent. The increases are well below the 2 percent target for inflation set by the Federal Reserve. The modest inflationary pressures have allowed the central bank to keep interest rates at record lows to boost the economy.

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Rules on bank risk in mortgage bonds being adopted

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators are proceeding with new rules that ease guidelines for banks selling mortgage securities and could mean fewer borrowers will need to make hefty down payments.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to adopt the rules, which six federal agencies have been working on since 2011. The SEC'S two Republican commissioners, Daniel Gallagher and Michael Piwowar, opposed adoption. The Federal Reserve governors approved the rules on a 5-0 vote later in the day. Three other agencies adopted the rules Tuesday.

With the financial crisis and subprime mortgage bust receding further into history, the regulators are looking to inject more life into the still-recovering housing market.

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Expert says Detroit bankruptcy plan feasible

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit's plan to get out of bankruptcy is feasible, a court-appointed expert testified Wednesday as the last witness in a historic trial to determine whether the largest city in U.S. history to file for Chapter 9 can get back on its feet.

Martha Kopacz, a Boston-based expert who has participated in hundreds of restructurings, expressed confidence that Mayor Mike Duggan and other officials can execute a long-term plan hatched by Detroit's emergency manager.

Detroit is shedding billions in debt, taking on new debt and cutting pensions by 4.5 percent, among many steps, in a city that has lost 27 percent of population since 2000. At the same time, the strategy calls for spending more than $1 billion to improve services over the next decade.

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Johnson & Johnson plans Ebola vaccine testing

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Johnson & Johnson will begin safety testing in early January on a vaccine combination that could protect people from a strain of the deadly Ebola virus.

The health care products maker said Wednesday that the vaccine being developed by its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies protects against an Ebola strain that is "highly similar" to the virus that has triggered the current outbreak in West Africa. Johnson & Johnson also plans to test whether its vaccine protects against the version causing the outbreak, which has killed more than 4,500 people.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey, company has committed up to $200 million to speed up and expand production of the vaccine program.

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By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 153.49 points, or 0.9 percent, to 16,461.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 dropped 14.17 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,927.11. The Nasdaq composite fell 36.63 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,382.85.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.29 to close at $80.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.51 to close at $84.71 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 5.7 cents to close at $2.156 a gallon. Heating oil fell 4.0 cents to close at $2.473 a gallon. Natural gas fell 5.2 cents to close at $3.659 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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