Business Highlights

12/12/2014 3:15 PM
By Associated Press

___

Like low gas prices? So does the station owner

NEW YORK (AP) — So you think you are finally getting one over on the gas stations as you pay well under $3 a gallon for the first time in four years? Guess again.

Gas stations love low prices too — and not just because customers are nicer when they are paying less. It's because it means profits for the nation's 127,000 filling stations are rising.

Before they sell gas to you, station owners buy gas on the wholesale market. When the wholesale price of gasoline falls quickly the difference between the cost of wholesale gasoline (including taxes) and the price at the pump gets wider, boosting profits for stations. The steeper the drop, the better.

___

Greek Crisis 2.0? Not quite yet

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek stocks and bonds have been hammered this week, a reminder of the bad old days of Europe's debt crisis when the very future of the euro currency was called into question.

Analysts say a repeat is unlikely though there's an outside chance that political turmoil will disrupt Greece's bailout lifeline and keep Greek markets, at the very least, on edge for weeks.

So far Greece's turmoil hasn't spread to other countries in the 18-country currency union, the way it did back in the crisis' most acute phase between 2010 and 2012.

A key sign: Prices for government bonds of other heavily indebted eurozone countries — such as Spain and Italy — are not suffering in sync with Greek bonds, as they did before.

___

Christmas tree shopping: Cost vs. convenience

WATERVILLE VALLEY, N.H. (AP) — Some U.S. consumers are going over the Internet or through the woods to find fresh Christmas trees this year, taking advantage of shopping options at opposite ends of the cost spectrum.

In one camp are thrifty folks paying as little as $5 for trees they harvest themselves from national forests. In the other are consumers willing to spend significantly more on trees they order online and have shipped to their doors.

The National Christmas Tree Association says U.S. consumers purchased 33 million farm-grown Christmas trees last year. About a third shopped at big box stores, such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot; just over a quarter bought directly from farms, and just under a quarter purchased trees at retail lots. Internet sales accounted for less than 3 percent of total sales, though the association has heard anecdotal evidence that such purchases are increasing.

___

Japan runs short of butter as dairy farms dwindle

TOKYO (AP) — When Japanese pose for pictures, instead of saying "Cheese!" some say "Butter!" These days, butter is more likely cause for frowning, since it is rationing that comes to mind.

As the Christmas Eve cake rush approaches, grocery stores are limiting customers to a maximum of two packages of butter each. Last week the government announced its latest plan for "emergency imports" to ease shortages of the spread.

The butter shortfall stems from several factors including stressed out dairy cows, aging farmers, rising costs and trade and price restrictions.

___

Cheaper gas, food lower US producer prices

WASHINGTON (AP) — Falling gas and food costs pushed down overall U.S. wholesale prices last month, evidence that cheaper oil worldwide is limiting inflation.

The Labor Department said Friday that the producer price index fell 0.2 percent in November, after rising by the same amount in October. In the past 12 months, producer prices have risen just 1.4 percent, the smallest yearly increase since February.

The index measures the cost of goods and services before they reach the consumer. American consumers are already seeing lower prices at the gas pump, which has left them with more money to spend on other items.

Wholesale gas prices plunged 6.3 percent, the steepest drop in more than two years. Food prices decreased 0.2 percent, led by sharp declines in pork, fresh fruit and dairy product costs.

___

Fed member plans to leave when term ends in 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — Narayana Kocherlakota, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said Friday he will step down when his current term ends in early 2016, marking the departure of one of the Fed's leading proponents of easier credit conditions to battle unemployment.

Kocherlakota said that he has informed the regional bank's board of directors that he had decided he would not seek another term once his current term ends on Feb. 29, 2016.

Currently a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, Kocherlakota cast the lone dissenting vote at the Fed's last meeting in October. He argued against ending the Fed's bond buying program and urged the central bank to make a commitment to achieving its inflation target before starting to raise interest rates.

___

Wealth gap widens between whites and minorities

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The economic recovery has not been equal among the races, according to a Pew Research Center study released Friday.

The study found that the wealth gap between white households and minorities has widened in recent years.

The wealth of white households was 13 times greater than that of black households in 2013, versus eight times the wealth in 2010. And the wealth of white households was more than 10 times that of Hispanic households, up from nine times the wealth in 2010.

Pew researchers — analyzing data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances— found that the gap between whites and blacks has reached its highest point since 1989. The wealth ratio for whites-to-Hispanics is at a level not seen since 2001.

___

Korean Air chairman, daughter sorry for nut rage

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The Korean Air Lines Co. executive who delayed a flight in an incident dubbed "nut rage" bowed deep in apology Friday before facing questioning by transport officials. Her father, the airline's chairman, also apologized and said he regrets he didn't raise her better.

The apologies came in response to simmering public anger about the incident and the airline's handling of it.

Cho Hyun-ah, who was head of cabin service at Korean Air, was angered when a flight attendant in first class offered her macadamia nuts in a bag, not on a plate. She ordered a senior crew member off the plane, forcing it to return to the gate at John F. Kennedy airport in New York City.

___

Obama urges Senate to pass $1.1 T spending bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday urged the Senate to ratify a $1.1 trillion spending bill that has roiled his Democratic Party, judging it an imperfect measure that stems from "the divided government that the American people voted for."

One day after House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi publicly chastised him for supporting the bill, the president said there were provisions "I really do not like." At the same time, he said there were other portions that "fund health insurance, early childhood education, the fight against climate change and expand manufacturing hubs to grow jobs."

He offered his assessment as Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid also announced support for the legislation, further underscoring the split inside the party. The Democrats will lose control of the Senate in January because of heavy losses in midterm elections last month and will go deeper into a House minority than at any time since 1928.

___

Chrysler expands air bag recall

DETROIT (AP) — Chrysler is bowing to demands from U.S. safety regulators and will add about 179,000 vehicles to a recall for air bags that could explode with too much force.

The latest expansion covers the Ram pickup from the 2003 to 2005 model years, as well as the 2004 and 2005 Dodge Durango, 2005 Chrysler 300 and 2005 Dodge Magnum. It brings Chrysler into compliance with demands from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for passenger air bags.

It's part of a growing problem worldwide with air bag inflators made by Japanese auto parts supplier Takata Corp.

At first Chrysler agreed to replace passenger air bag inflators in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But under pressure from NHTSA, the company late Thursday added more states with high humidity.

___

By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 315.51 points, or 1.8 percent, to 17,280.83. The Standard & Poor's fell 33 points, or 1.6 percent, to 2,002.33. The Nasdaq composite dropped 54.57 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,653.60.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.14 to close at $57.81 a barrel in New York, its lowest level since May of 2009. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.83 to close at $61.85 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 2.7 cents to close at $1.597 a gallon. Heating oil fell 4.5 cents to close at $2.016 a gallon. Natural gas rose 16.1 cents to close at $3.795 per 1,000 cubic feet.


Should states be allowed to pass GMO labeling laws?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

User Submitted Photos

View photos      Submit your photos

12/19/2014 | Last Updated: 6:30 PM