Current Events in October 2016

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    How to stop yourself from catching a cold

    Tips that can help keep your immune system in tip-top, cold-fighting shape

    Getting sick isn’t cheap. In fact, a recent study by GoBankingRates found that coming down with a few colds per year can end up costing adults around $1,000.

    This number may seem steeper than you'd think, but Dr. Rob Silverman explained that the lost wages, various co-pays, and the cost of prescription and over-the-counter treatments can easily amount to $1,000 in a year.

    While there’s no cure for the common cold, there are ways to protect your body — and by extension, your budget — from being affected by a minor virus.

    In addition to using practical tips, such as refraining from touching contaminated surfaces or shaking hands with a cold-ridden person, there are a few lesser-known ways to keep from catching a cold.

    Sleep well and think positive

    Giving your body and mind ample time to recharge at night can help keep you healthy and cold-free. That’s because a good night’s sleep can boost your body’s immune defense against viruses, experts say. And the more you sleep, the better equipped your body may be to ward off colds.

    In 2009, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that men and women who slept eight hours or more per night were less likely to catch colds. People who slept less than seven hours per night were three times more likely to be affected by the virus to which they were exposed.

    Would you describe yourself as being happy, lively, and calm? If so, you may also be in a better position to fight off viruses. In 2006, the same group of researchers found that cold and flu viruses were more likely to strike people who were anxious, hostile, or depressed compared to people who had a generally positive outlook.

    Take a hot bath or shower

    Been around a person who’s been coughing and sneezing all day? Try soaking in hot water when you get home. According to Clare McHugh, editor-in-chief at Health.com, doing so may knock out a potential cold before it begins.

    "Super HOT baths and showers immediately,” she told Health.com. “My doctor once told me that cold viruses hate heat, and that if you keep your body and especially your chest very warm you will discourage the virus from multiplying."

    Indeed, water can be a powerful defense against viruses. In addition to hot showers, drinking plenty of fluids and making sure to wash your hands throughout the day can help keep cold bugs at bay.

    Banish the booze

    In the interest of staying well, it might be wise to skip the nightcap. The dehydrating effect of alcohol can actually make cold symptoms worse, according to WebMD.

    Not only does alcohol hinder your body’s ability to fight off colds, it may have a negative interaction with any medications you may be taking. Additionally, alcohol can prevent you from getting quality sleep.

    Drinking alcohol before bed can leave you running to the bathroom multiple times per night, which can keep you from slipping into the restorative REM sleep your body needs to stave off viruses.

    Getting plenty of rest is just one of the good health habits that can help prevent germs from turning into a sick day. Being physically active, managing stress, and eating nutritious foods can also boost the power of your immune system.

    Getting sick isn’t cheap. In fact, a recent study by GoBankingRates found that coming down with a few colds per year can end up costing adults around $1,00...

    Conference Board forecasts continued moderate economic growth

    First-time jobless claims shot higher last week

    The latest economic forecast from The Conference Board suggests continued moderate growth into 2017.

    The Board's Leading Economic Index (LEI) inched up 0.2% in September following a decline of the same magnitude the month before.

    The increase “suggests that the economy should continue expanding at a moderate pace through early 2017.” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at The Conference Board.

    Housing permits, unemployment insurance claims, and the interest rate spread were the main components lifting the index in September.

    Overall, Ozyildirim pointed out, “the strengths among the leading indicators are outweighing modest weaknesses in stock prices and the average workweek.”

    How it works

    The LEI is a composite average of several individual leading indicators. It's constructed to summarize and reveal common turning point patterns in economic data in a clearer and more convincing manner than any individual component -- primarily because it smooths out some of the volatility of individual components.

    The ten components of the LEI include:

    1. Average weekly hours for manufacturing
    2. Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance
    3. Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods, and materials
    4. Institute for Supply Management Index of New Orders
    5. Manufacturers' new orders and nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders
    6. Building permits for new private housing units
    7. Stock prices of 500 common stocks
    8. Leading Credit Index
    9. Interest rate spread and 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds
    10. Average consumer expectations for business conditions

    Jobless claims

    From the Department of Labor (DOL), word that initial jobless claims surged by 13,000 in the week ending October 15 to a seasonally adjusted 260,000.

    Even with that increase, the claims level has been below 300,000 for the 85th consecutive week, the longest streak since 1970.

    The four-week moving average, which lacks the weekly headcount's volatility and is considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market, came in at 251,750 -- up 2,250 from the previous week.

    The full report is available on the DOL website.

    The latest economic forecast from The Conference Board suggests continued moderate growth into 2017.The Board's Lead...

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      Summer Classics recalls swivel rocking lounge chairs

      The seat bucket of the lounge chairs can break away from the base

      Summer Classics of Pelham, Ala., is recalling about 800 swivel rocking lounge chairs.

      The seat bucket of the lounge chairs can break away from the base while a user is in the chair, posing a fall hazard.

      The firm has received six reports of the lounge chairs breaking. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Summer Classics swivel rocking lounge chairs in the Aire, Belize, Bentley, Charleston, and Skye styles in multiple colors and finishes. The chairs are made for outdoor use and are designed to swivel 360 degrees and rock back and forth.

      All the chair styles, except the Bentley style, come with detachable cushions. An “SC” brass logo is affixed to the back of the chairs.

      The following chairs are being recalled:

      Style

      Color/Finish

      Dimensions

      Aire

      Ancient Earth/Black Walnut

      27”W 27”D 36.25”H

      Belize

      Oyster

      27.25”W 29.5”D 36”H

      Bentley

      Oyster

      29.5”W 31.83”D 35.5”H

      Bentley

      Black Walnut

      29.5”W 31.83”D 35.5”H

      Charleston

      Mahogany

      31”W 36.5”D 37.75”H

      Charleston

      Oyster

      31”W 36.5”D 37.75”H

      Skye

      Black Walnut

      27.25”W 32.5”D 36.75”H

      Skye

      Oyster

      27.25”W 32.5”D 36.75”H

      The chairs, manufactured in China, were sold at Summer Classics stores and other stores nationwide from September 2015, through October 2016, for between $1,100 and $2,400.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled lounge chairs and contact Summer Classics for a full refund. The firm is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Summer Classics toll-free at 888-868-4267 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, or online at www.summerclassics.com for more information.

      Summer Classics of Pelham, Ala., is recalling about 800 swivel rocking lounge chairs.The seat bucket of the lounge chairs can break away from the base...

      Tyson Foods recalls frozen popcorn chicken products

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials

      Tyson Foods of New Holland, Pa., is recalling approximately 1,148 pounds of frozen popcorn chicken products.

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically hard plastic.

      There have been no confirmed reports of injury or illness due to consumption of these products

      The following frozen, ready-to-eat, whole grain popcorn chicken items, produced on August 10, 2016, are being recalled:

      • 35 cases of 32.79-lb. “TYSON FULLY COOKED, WHOLE GRAIN GOLDEN CRISPY POPCORN CHICKEN, CHICKEN PATTIE FRITTERS” with a case code of “70368/928” on the upper right hand side of the label, and a lot code of “2236NHL33,” which can be found next to the case code.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-1325” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to a wholesale distributor in Illinois and further distributed to schools and food services in Missouri and Illinois.

      What to do

      Customers have purchased these products should not consume them, but throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Christina Self at (866) 886-8456. 

      Tyson Foods of New Holland, Pa., is recalling approximately 1,148 pounds of frozen popcorn chicken products.The products may be contaminated with extra...

      Poor hedge fund performance causing pension concerns

      Issue bubbles into the open in New York

      So far, 2016 has been a tough year for hedge funds, which are huge investment funds that receive money from wealthy individuals and institutions seeking to maximize returns.

      Only lately, those returns haven't been all that impressive, causing money to start flowing out of these funds. By mid-year, some large investors were publicly airing their disgust at hedge funds' “fat fees” and paltry returns.

      While many consumers may believe this is simply a Wall Street issue and doesn't affect them, they could be dead wrong. If they are drawing a pension that is invested in an under-performing, high-fee hedge fund, they could soon be feeling the effects.

      New York agency squabble

      In New York, the issue has bubbled up into public debate with the release of a report by the state Department of Financial Services, which takes the state comptroller's office to task for the way it invests state worker pension funds.

      “Pension fund managers across the country have cut or eliminated exposure to these overpriced and under-performing investments, while the Office of the New York State Comptroller has stood still and spent pension system funds chasing performance that continues to fall far short,” said Maria Vullo, Superintendent of Financial Services. “Just last week, the Comptroller admitted that hedge funds are not delivering the returns to even come close to justifying the sky-high fees that these fund managers have been charging the pension system for years.”

      Vullo expressed frustration, charging hedge fund managers continue to rake in huge fees, regardless of their performance, which she called a “rip-off” at the expense of pensioners.

      Actively traded

      Hedge funds justify their fee structure because they employ experienced traders who actively manage the funds, seeking to get the highest return possible. But Vullo says the state report shows that many of these funds have consistently under-performed so-called “passive” investments, including index funds that have no or low fees.

      “Given the $3.8 billion hole the Comptroller’s hedge fund gamble already has dug for the State pension system, taking away the checkbook may be the only way to safeguard the pensions of state employees, and the pocketbooks of taxpayers on the hook for System deficits,” Vullo said.

      The New York Comptroller's Office, meanwhile, blasted the report from its fellow state agency, calling it “uninformed and unprofessional.” In a statement, the Comptroller's Office said it had been aggressively working to reduce hedge fund investments and limit fees.

      So far, 2016 has been a tough year for hedge funds, which are huge investment funds that receive money from wealthy individuals and institutions seeking to...

      Google putting together a 'skinny' streaming video bundle

      'Unplugged' will offer network shows that make it easier to dump cable

      In the race to own the streaming video space, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other services have sort of left Google's YouTube in the dust. Hoping to change that, Google is starting a new cost-conscious TV package, a "skinny" bundle of TV networks.

      Dubbed "Unplugged," the service is apparently meant to appeal to cable cutters who don't want to lose access to major networks and shows. Reports say it will be priced around $25 to $50 a month, which is several times what Netflix and Amazon cost. They don't offer live network shows yet but are rapidly becoming the prime producers of original content.

      Google isn't saying anything about Unplugged, but the Wall Street Journal today reported that CBS is one of the first content providers to sign up, with Disney and 21st Century Fox said to be close behind.

      Unplugged will use YouTube's infrastructure but will be a separate service and won't be covered by the existing YouTube Red subscription. 

      This might bring back memories of Aereo, an audacious start-up that back in 2013 started trying to sell a streaming video service that consisted of local TV channels, also designed as a cable replacement. But because it didn't bother to license the content it was distributing, it was eventually forced to shut down after a series of court challenges.

      In the race to own the streaming video space, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other services have sort of left Google's YouTube in the dust. Hoping to change th...

      Sales of existing homes rebound in September

      First-time buyers were a major factor

      After declining a month earlier, sales of previously-owned homes bounced back in September, thanks to the entry into the market of large numbers of first-time buyers.

      According to figures released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), total existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- rose 3.2% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million.

      The advance pushed sales to their highest pace since June and 0.6% above a year ago.

      Newbies in the market

      A big reason for the September increase was the entry into the market of first-time buyers, who accounted for 34% of purchasers -- a level not seen in over four years

      "The home search over the past several months for a lot of prospective buyers, and especially for first-time buyers, took longer than usual because of the competition for the minimal amount of homes for sale," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

      "Most families and move-up buyers look to close before the new school year starts. Their diminishing presence from the market towards the end of summer created more opportunities for aspiring first-time homeowners to buy last month."

      Prices and supplies

      The median prices for all types of existing homes shot up 5.6% in September to $234,200 -- the 55th consecutive month of year-over-year gains. The median is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less.

      Total housing inventory at the end of last month was up 1.5% to 2.04 million existing homes available for sale. Still that inventory level is down 6.8% from a year ago and has now fallen year-over-year for 16 straight months.

      Unsold inventory is at a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.6 months in August.

      Distressed sales -- foreclosures and short sales -- dropped to a new low of 4% in September, with 3% foreclosures and 1% short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 15% below market value, while short sales were discounted 11%.

      Sales by region

      • Existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 5.7% in September to an annual rate of 740,000 -- the same as a year ago. The median price was $261,600, a year-over-year gain of 2.1%.
      • In the Midwest, sales grew by 3.9% to an annual rate of 1.32 million in September, and are now 2.3% above a year ago. The median price was $184,500, up 5.9% percent from September 2015.
      • Sales in the South in September inched up 0.9% to an annual rate of 2.16 million, but are still 0.9% below the same month last year. The median price in the South was $204,000 -- a gain of 6.6% from last year.
      • The West enjoyed a sales gain of 5.0% to an annual rate of 1.25 million, which is 1.6% above a year ago. The median price surged 8.1% to $345,400.

      After declining a month earlier, sales of previously-owned homes bounced back in September, thanks to the entry into the market of large numbers of first-t...

      Foreclosures drop sharply in August

      Rates are the lowest in several years

      The nation's foreclosure inventory plunged 29.6% and completed foreclosures were down an even sharper 42.4% from a year earlier, according to the CoreLogic National Foreclosure Report.

      In another way of looking at it, the number of completed foreclosures nationwide posted a year-over-year decline of 27,000 -- to 37,000 in August 2016 -- representing a drop of 69% from the peak of 118,221 in September 2010.

      Foreclosure inventory

      The foreclosure inventory represents the number of homes at some stage of the foreclosure process and completed foreclosures reflect the total number of homes lost to foreclosure.

      Since the financial meltdown began in September 2008, there have been approximately 6.4 million completed foreclosures nationally. Since homeownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been approximately 8.5 million homes lost to foreclosure.

      As of last August, the national foreclosure inventory included approximately 351,000, or 0.9%, of all homes with a mortgage. A year earlier, it was 499,000 homes, or 1.3%.

      The August 2016 foreclosure inventory rate is the lowest it’s been since July 2007.

      “With the foreclosure inventory now under 1% nationally, the need to boost single-family housing stocks through new construction will become more acute in the coming months and years,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic.

      Mortgage delinquencies

      In addition, CoreLogic reports the number of mortgages in serious delinquency was down 20.6% from August 2015, with 1.1 million mortgages, or 2.8%, being the lowest level since September 2007.

      The decline was broad-based with decreases in serious delinquency in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

      Report highlights

      • On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures increased by 7.7% to 37,000 in August from the 34,000 reported for the previous month. As a basis of comparison, before the decline in the housing market in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month nationwide between 2000 and 2006.
      • On a month-over-month basis, the August foreclosure inventory was down 3.2% from July.
      • The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures in the 12 months ending in August were Florida (55,000), Texas (27,000), Ohio (23,000), California (22,000), and Georgia (21,000).These five states account for about 35% of completed foreclosures nationally.
      • Four states and the District of Columbia had the lowest number of completed foreclosures in the 12 months ending in August 2016: the District of Columbia (212), North Dakota (341), West Virginia (469), Alaska (624), and Montana (717).
      • Four states and the District of Columbia had the highest foreclosure inventory rate in August 2016: New Jersey (3.2%), New York (2.9%), Maine (1.8%), Hawaii (1.8%), and the District of Columbia (1.8%).
      • The five states with the lowest foreclosure inventory rate in August 2016 were Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona, Utah, and Michigan -- all at 0.3%.

      The nation's foreclosure inventory plunged 29.6% and completed foreclosures were down an even sharper 42.4% from a year earlier, according to the CoreLogic...

      Husqvarna recalls lawn mowers

      The engine and blades may continue to operate when they should shut down

      Husqvarna Consumer Outdoor Products of Charlotte, N.C., is recalling about 235,000 lawn mowers sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The operator presence control bar can malfunction and cause the engine and blades to continue to operate when they should shut off, posing a laceration hazard to the operator.

      The firm has received 53 reports of the engine not shutting off after the operator presence control bar was released. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Husqvarna, Poulan Pro, Jonsered, Craftsman, Yardworks, Murray, and Brute brand walk-behind gas powered lawn mowers with Briggs & Stratton 7.25 HP engines.

      The mowers were sold in red, orange, blue and yellow/black colors and have either four similar-sized wheels or two larger rear wheels and two smaller front wheels, a long handle with an operator presence control bar that is pushed down towards the mower handle to start the engine, a mowing deck, and may have come with or without a collecting bag in the rear.

      The brand names are printed on the mowers, and a Briggs & Stratton logo is printed on the engine shield. The mower model and serial number can be found on the rear of the mowing deck, next to the rear wheel.

      The following model and serial numbers are included in the recall:

      The mowers, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Lowe’s, Sears and other hardware stores, home centers and equipment dealers nationwide from November 2015, through August 2016, for between $250 and $450.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled lawn mowers and contact Husqvarna or go to http://husqvarna.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1255/ to determine if their unit needs a free repair.

      Consumers may contact Husqvarna toll-free at 877-257-6921 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at recalls@husqvarna.com or online at http://husqvarna.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1255/ for more information.

      Brand

      Model Name

      Serial Number Range

      Brute

      961480058

      110115M00001 - 082516M50000

      Craftsman

      10176

      10178

      Husqvarna Consumer Outdoor Products of Charlotte, N.C., is recalling about 235,000 lawn mowers sold in the U.S. and Canada....

      Nissan recalls Versas with airbag performance issue

      A seam in the fabric section of the side curtain airbags may tear during deployment

      Nissan North America is recalling 1,754 model year 2017 Versas manufactured August 1, 2016, to August 16, 2016.

      A seam in the fabric section of the side curtain airbags may tear during deployment, potentially affecting the performance of the airbag. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 226, "Ejection Mitigation", and number 214, "Side Impact Protection."

      If the side curtain airbags do not deploy as intended there would be an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the left and right side curtain airbags, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261.

      Nissan North America is recalling 1,754 model year 2017 Versas manufactured August 1, 2016, to August 16, 2016.A seam in the fabric section of the side...

      Hyundai recalls Sonatas and Sonata Hybrids with sun roofs

      The sunroof panel may detach during driving

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 62,811 model year 2015-2016 Sonata Hybrids manufactured December 8, 2014, to August 18, 2015, and Sonatas manufactured May 28, 2014, to March 18, 2016, equipped with the panoramic sunroof option.

      Due to a bonding issue with the sunroof wind deflector, the sunroof panel may detach while the vehicle is being driven, become a road hazard and increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will repair the wind deflector anchor plate, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 2, 2016.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-800-633-5151. Hyundai's number for this recall is 152.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 62,811 model year 2015-2016 Sonata Hybrids manufactured December 8, 2014, to August 18, 2015, and Sonatas manufactured M...