Business Highlights

Posted October 13


Gov't says colder weather will boost winter heating bills

Expect to pay more to heat your home this winter than you spent last year, according to government analysts who sifted through forecasts for a colder winter and slightly higher energy prices.

The Energy Department said Thursday that household bills from October through March are likely to be higher for all four main heating fuels — natural gas, electricity, heating oil, and propane.

Above-normal temperatures reduced nationwide demand for heating fuels last year to the lowest level in at least 25 years. This winter is largely expected to be more typical.


The new family car: Honda revamps small SUV

America's new family car is getting a major face-lift.

The Honda CR-V is a compact SUV that for the past three months has been the top-selling vehicle in America excluding pickup trucks.

The new Honda, unveiled Thursday, is scheduled to hit showrooms this winter. The timing is perfect, as consumers in the U.S. and worldwide show a preference for smaller SUVs that are almost as fuel-efficient as cars yet have more room to haul cargo and people. The compact SUV passed the midsize car last year to become the top-selling segment of the U.S. market, and it's showing no sign of turning back.


Love or hate it: Marmite becomes symbol of Brexit impact

Love it or hate it, Marmite has become the most visible sign yet of Britain's decision to leave the European Union after consumer goods giant Unilever sought to raise wholesale prices for its products by a reported 10 percent to make up for a plunge in the pound.

Tesco, the U.K.'s biggest supermarket chain, rejected the increase and this week removed many Unilever products from its website. #Marmitegate was soon trending on social media.

Though the sides solved the dispute Thursday, experts say it's inevitable that food prices will rise. The issue has for the first time driven home the reality that daily life will be affected by "Brexit."


Stocks shaken by China report, but recover from early plunge

Bank stocks were shaken Thursday after a steep drop in China's exports made investors worry again about the health of the world's second-largest economy. U.S. stocks gradually recovered most of their losses as safer investments like utilities traded higher.

Indexes took big losses early on after major Asian markets skidded overnight. Industries that depend heavily on China and global economic growth, like technology and energy companies, also fell. As the day wore on, though, investors bought utilities, real estate investment trusts, and other stocks that tend to pay big dividends.


Applications for US unemployment aid remain at 43-year low

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits stayed at a 43-year low last week in the latest sign that layoffs are scarce.

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 246,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 3,500 to 249,250. Both figures were at their lowest levels since November 1973.

The number of people receiving aid fell 16,000 to just over 2 million. That is the fewest since June 2000.


Average US 30-year mortgage rate rises to 3.47 percent

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week as the prospect of a year-end interest-rate increase by the Federal Reserve grew more likely.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.47 percent from 3.42 percent last week. Rates still remain near historic lows. The benchmark 30-year rate is down from 3.82 percent a year ago and close to its all-time low of 3.31 percent in November 2012.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, ticked up to 2.76 percent from 2.72 percent.


Delta posts a profit despite lower airfare, rising expenses

Lower airfares and rising salaries are putting a squeeze on Delta Air Lines. But the price of jet fuel remains cheap and the carrier was able to report a third-quarter profit of $1.26 billion, down 4 percent from the same period last year.

Summer is typically the strongest period for U.S. airlines and Delta's earnings could signal and end of an extraordinary run of record profits for the industry.

Delta — the first major U.S. airline to report earnings — paid $1.50 for each gallon of jet fuel in the quarter, down from $1.89 during the same period last year.


Office Depot to close for Thanksgiving

Office Depot Inc. says it will close its stores for Thanksgiving, after three years of being open on the holiday.

The office supplies chain said Thursday it reached the decision after weighing both business and personal factors, joining a growing list of retailers who are reversing the trend of being open on the holiday.

Office Depot said shoppers can still find deals and buy items online on Thanksgiving, but the stores won't reopen this year until Black Friday at 6 a.m.


Amazon adding 120,000 workers to meet holiday demand

Amazon plans to add 120,000 seasonal workers to meet an expected spike in demand as more and more people shop online for the holiday season.

The positions will be created at fulfillment centers, sorting centers and customer service sites in 27 states. The move marks a 20 percent boost from its 100,000 seasonal hires a year ago.

The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion. Online shopping is expected to rise 7 to 10 percent over last year to as much as $117 billion.


Verizon closing call centers 5 states

Verizon plans to close call centers in five states, including its home state of New York, where the impending loss of hundreds of jobs prompted the governor's office to label the company's move as "corporate abuse."

The company said Thursday a consolidation of its call centers will impact about 3,200 workers near Rochester and New York City; Bangor, Maine; Lincoln, Nebraska; Wallingford and Meriden, Connecticut, and Rancho Cordova, California.

Verizon has 162,000 U.S. employees.


The Dow Jones industrial average slid 45.26 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,098.94. The Standard & Poor's 500 index declined 6.63 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,132.55. The Nasdaq composite shed 25.69 points, or 0.5 percent, 5,213.33.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 26 cents to $50.44 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 22 cents to $52.03 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, the price of natural gas jumped 13 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $3.34 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline added 2 cents to $1.48 a gallon. Heating oil picked up 1 cent to $1.58 a gallon.


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