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Automakers were Takata's accomplices, suit charges

Major carmakers knew Takata airbags were dangerous but used them anyway, the complaint alleges

The ink had not yet dried on a judge's order fining airbag-maker Takata $1 billion for wire fraud when a class-action lawsuit was filed in Florida charging...

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A privacy fight is brewing at the FCC

New Chairman Ajit Pai is rolling back an internet privacy rule adopted last year

In its first few weeks in office, the Trump administration has taken aim at a number of its predecessor's policies.A case in point is the Federal Commu...

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Women lose more sleep than men with children in the house, study finds

Researchers caution that inadequate sleep could lead to negative health consequences

Having a child translates into a lot of sleepless nights, but a new study shows that moms may be more sleep deprived than dads in the grand scheme of thing...

PhotoHaving a child translates into a lot of sleepless nights, but a new study shows that moms may be more sleep deprived than dads in the grand scheme of things.

Researchers have found that women are much less likely to get a good night’s sleep when there are children in the house than men. This, they say, may explain why some women feel so exhausted when compared to their significant other.

“I think these findings may bolster those women who say they feel exhausted. Our study found not only are they not sleeping long enough, they also report feeling tired throughout the day,” said study author Dr. Kelly Sullivan of Georgia Southern University.

Sleep deprived women

For the purposes of the study, researchers surveyed over 5,800 people and asked how long they slept and how tired they felt in the last month. Participants analyzed factors such as age, race, education, marital status, number of children in the household, income, body mass index, exercise, employment, and snoring to gauge any connection to sleep deprivation.

Of the approximately 2,900 female respondents who were 45 years old or younger, the researchers found that having children in the house was the only factor that definitively affected how much sleep was gotten. They found that for each child in the house, the odds of insufficient sleep rose by nearly 50%.

Additionally, the researchers found that 62% women in this group who didn’t have children were able to sleep for at least seven hours per night. That number dropped to 48% for women who had children.

Negative health consequences

The researchers believe that their study explains why some women so often report that they feel worn out or tired. They point out that younger women with children report feeling tired an average of 14 days out of the month, compared to 11 days for women without children living in the house.

Interestingly, the number of children living in the home had no correlation for how long men slept at night. While this difference between the genders isn’t completely understood, Sullivan says the important thing to focus on is the health impact that sleep deprivation can have on all people.

“Getting enough sleep is a key component of overall health and can impact heart, mind and weight. It’s important to learn what is keeping people from getting the rest they need so we can help them work toward better health,” she said.

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San Francisco bans retail sale of dogs and cats

The new legislation aims to combat puppy and kitten mills while encouraging consumers to adopt

Commercially bred dogs and cats often exist in poor conditions, and many unadopted shelter animals are put to death each year. But a new ordinance may help...

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Man dies when garden stool collapses

The stool collapsed inward and sharp ceramic shards punctured the man's femoral artery

Using a garden stool in the shower sounds like a fairly innocent innovation, but it ended in death for Larry Stick, 61, of Adamstown, Pa. Now his widow is...

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When is the best time to book a hotel?

It depends on when and where you're going

Consumers who want to travel to a particular destination for a visit usually have a finite amount of money they can, or will, spend on the trip. But depend...

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Animal rights groups lose a round in egg label case

Appeals court says federal agencies have the authority to handle the issue on a case-by-case basis

Are those eggs you're scrambling really from "free-range" chickens? What is a free-range chicken anyway? A federal appeals court has said it's not a questi...

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Years after financial crisis, many Boomers still struggling

Financial plight puts a different spin on retirement plans

The financial crisis, which deepened an existing recession, was a major blow to the U.S. economy.Since then, the nation has been on a slow path toward...

PhotoThe financial crisis, which deepened an existing recession, was a major blow to the U.S. economy.

Since then, the nation has been on a slow path toward recovery. Today, many consumers are feeling a lot better than they did a few years ago. Baby Boomers, however, are among the least likely to feel that way.

A study commissioned by the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement found only 2% of middle income Boomers think the economy has fully recovered. Sixty-five percent don't think they have benefited at all from the recovery.

And while nearly all the Boomers in the survey said they expect to retire one day, the study found a near universal adjustment to just what form retirement will take.

Savings and earnings have fallen

Here are a couple of reasons why: among the group saying it has not benefited from the recovery, more than half say their money in savings is less than before the crisis. Four out of ten say they are earning less money than they did a decade ago.

Back then, 45% of middle income Boomers said they expected to have no debt in retirement, living in a home with no mortgage. Today, only 34% have that expectation.

Boomers contemplating retirement are also planning to be more dependent on Social Security income. Ten years ago, 40% of Boomers said they expected their retirement savings would be their primary income source. Today, it's 34%.

It's no surprise, then, that many Boomers appear to be reconsidering plans to stop working. The study shows nearly half of Boomers -- 48% -- plan to expect to hold down a full or part-time job after they reach retirement age. Before the financial crisis, it was just 35%.

"Ten years ago, Baby Boomers had a clear vision of what a personally satisfying retirement looked like," said Scott Goldberg, president of Bankers Life. "But today, many are realizing they will not be as financially independent in retirement as they once expected."

What to do

If you are in your 50s or 60s, you don't have the luxury of a lot of time to build wealth for your golden years. But there are steps you can take now to become better prepared. They involve cutting expenses and increasing savings.

First, AARP suggests defining what you want retirement to be. And be specific. If you want to travel, for example, think about what kind of travel. And it should go without saying, you need to be practical.

Next, add up your assets, both financial and personal. If you have developed a skill over the years related to a favorite hobby, maybe that can be a source of income after you quit your day job.

Decide when you want to start collecting Social Security. The monthly payments will be a lot larger if you can put it off until age 70.

Analyze your budget, looking for ways to trim spending. Just a little each month can add up to growing savings.

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Consumer confidence rebounds from January slump

The view of current conditions improved along with expectations

Consumers seem to be feeling a lot better about the economy than they did a month ago.The Conference Board reports its Consumer Confidence Index rose 3...

PhotoConsumers seem to be feeling a lot better about the economy than they did a month ago.

The Conference Board reports its Consumer Confidence Index rose 3.2 points in February to 114.8 after dipping a point and a half the month before.

The improvement came as the Present Situation Index rose from 130.0 to 133.4 and the Expectations Index jumped from 99.3 last month to 102.4.

“Consumer confidence increased in February and remains at a 15-year high,” according to Conference Board Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco. “Consumers rated current business and labor market conditions more favorably this month than in January. Expectations improved regarding the short-term outlook for business, and to a lesser degree jobs and income prospects. Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue expanding in the months ahead.”

Survey results

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was relatively steady, with those saying business conditions are “good” slipping from 29.0% to 28.7%, and those who think conditions are “bad” dropping to 13.2% from 15.9%.

The way consumers see the labor market was mixed as well. Those who say jobs are “plentiful” declined from 27.1% to 26.2%, while those who believe jobs are “hard to get” also decreased -- from 21.1% to 20.3%.

There was more optimism about the short-term outlook. The percentage of consumers who foresee business conditions improving over the next six months rose from 22.9% to 24.0%. At the same time, though, those expecting business conditions to worsen also rose -- from 10.8% to 11.1%.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was a little more upbeat. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead rose to 20.4% from 19.7%, while those who think there'll be fewer jobs dropped from 14.4% to 13.6%.

The percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to increase inched up from 18.1% to 18.3%; the proportion expecting a decline dropped to 8.2% from 9.4%.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was February 16.

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Fourth quarter economic growth continues its tepid pace

2016's GDP was down sharply from the preceding year

The Commerce Department's second look at fourth-quarter economic growth wasn't any more encouraging than its first estimate.Thus, real gross domestic p...

PhotoThe Commerce Department's second look at fourth-quarter economic growth wasn't any more encouraging than its first estimate.

Thus, real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 1.9% in the last three months of 2016, the same pace as was reported in the first look. GDP had shot up at an annual rate of 3.5% in last year's third quarter.

For all of 2016, real GDP increased 1.6% from the 2015 annual level, compared with an increase of 2.6% in 2015.

Not much change

With the second estimate, the general picture of economic growth in the fourth quarter remains the same. The increase in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) was larger and increases in state and local government spending and in nonresidential fixed investment were smaller than previously estimated.

The price index for gross domestic purchases rose 1.9% in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 1.5% in the third quarter.

The PCE price index increased 1.9%, compared with an increase of 1.5%. Excluding food and energy prices, the PCE price index was up 1.2%, compared with a 1.7% rise in the previous quarter.

The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

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Little Tikes recalls toddler swings

The plastic seat can crack or break, posing a fall hazard

Little Tikes of Hudson, Ohio, is recalling about 540,000 Little Tikes 2-in-1 Snug ‘n Secure Pink toddler swings.The plastic seat can crack or break, po...

PhotoLittle Tikes of Hudson, Ohio, is recalling about 540,000 Little Tikes 2-in-1 Snug ‘n Secure Pink toddler swings.

The plastic seat can crack or break, posing a fall hazard.

The firm has received about 140 reports of the swing breaking, including 39 injuries to children including abrasions, bruises, cuts and bumps to the head. Two of the reported injuries included children with a broken arm.

This recall involves Little Tikes 2-in-1 Snug’n Secure pink toddler swings. The swing has a pink T-shaped restraint in front with a Little Tikes logo, and is suspended by four yellow ropes.

The model number 615573 is molded on the back of the swing seat and there is a manufacturing date code stamp on the back of the seat. The molded INNER arrow of the date code stamp points to “10”, “11”, “12” or “13”, it is included in the recall.

In addition, swings with a date code stamp of “9” on the INNER arrow combined with “43” or higher number stamped on the OUTER are included in this recall. No other date codes or other colored swings are affected.

The swings, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Walmart, Toys “R” Us and other stores nationwide and online at www.littletikes.com and other websites from November 2009, through May 2014, for about $25.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled swings and contact Little Tikes for a refund in the form of a credit towards the purchase of another Little Tikes product.

Consumers may contact Little Tikes toll-free at 855-284-1903 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.littletikes.com and click on Product Recalls under the At Your Service menu for more information.

 

 

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Lakeview Cheese and Bashas’ Family of Stores recall cheese products

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Lakeview Cheese and Bashas’ Family of Stores are recalling various types of Colby cheese that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnes...

PhotoLakeview Cheese and Bashas’ Family of Stores are recalling various types of Colby cheese that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The following nine Colby cheese products, including fixed-weight and bulk- cut, random-weight items, are being recalled:

Food City Colby Longhorn Cheese

12 oz.

Food City Colby Jack Cheese

12 oz.

Food City Colby Monterey Cheese

12 oz.

Random Weight Longhorn Colby Cheese

Random Weight Cut Co-Jack Cheese

Random Weight Cut Monterey Jack Cheese

Random Weight Cut Pepper Jack Cheese

Random Weight Colby Quarter Longhorn

Random Weight Colby Horn

The recalled products, manufactured by Guggisberg Cheese and by Deutsch Kase Haus, were distributed by Lakeview Cheese to Bashas’ Family of Stores, and sold in Bashas’ and Food City supermarkets’ Arizona meat departments under the grocery brands’ private label.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products between September 1, 2016, and February 21, 2017, may return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may call Bashas’ Family of Stores’ customer service department at 480-883-6131.

 

 

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BMW recalls model year 2014-2017 i3 REx hybrid electric vehicles

A fuel vapor leak is possible

BMW of North America is recalling 19,130 model year 2014-2017 i3 REx hybrid electric vehicles.The fuel tank vent line may rub against the ribbed wire p...

PhotoBMW of North America is recalling 19,130 model year 2014-2017 i3 REx hybrid electric vehicles.

The fuel tank vent line may rub against the ribbed wire protection sleeve of the battery positive (B+) cable, creating a hole in the vent line and causing a fuel vapor leak.

A fuel vapor leak in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.

What to do

BMW will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the fuel vent line, replacing it as necessary, and install a clip to prevent it from chafing, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 3, 2017.

Owners may contact BMW customer service at 1-800-525-7417.

 

 

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Takata expected to set up $125 million fund for airbag victims

The fund is part of a $1 billion settlement being presented in a Detroit federal court on Monday

Takata has reportedly agreed to set up a fund to compensate victims of its faulty airbags, which have been blamed for 11 deaths and hundreds of injuries in...

PhotoTakata has reportedly agreed to set up a fund to compensate victims of its faulty airbags, which have been blamed for 11 deaths and hundreds of injuries in the United States. The $125 million fund is part of a plea deal expected to be aired in a federal courtroom in Detroit on Monday.

More than 70 million of the defective airbags have been recalled because their inflator can explode and send deadly shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

The recall process has been seen as painstakingly slow by consumers, although regulators and automakers say they have been working as quickly as possible to remove and replace the defective units.

Last December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an order that set deadlines for when automakers must have replacement parts available for customers. 

“NHTSA is doing everything possible to make sure that there are no more preventable injuries or deaths because of these dangerous airbag inflators,” said then-NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “All vehicle owners should regularly check their vehicles for recalls at SaferCar.gov and go get them fixed at no cost as soon as replacement parts are available.”

It's not that easy, of course. Consumers and dealers alike have been frustrated by a lack of parts. Some automakers have asked dealers to make loaners available but most have not, leaving consumers with little choice but to drive around with a lethal explosive device just inches from their face. 

The fund is said to be similar to the one General Motors set up in 2014 to deal with the deaths and injuries that resulted from faulty ignition switches on some of its smaller sedans. Press reports in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere say the fund will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, who also ran the GM fund and handled compensation for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

$1 billion total

The fund is part of what's expected to be $1 billion that Takata will pay as part of an agreement to plead guilty to criminal wire fraud for allegedly providing false safety reports to automakers. Much of the remaining amount will be used to reimburse automakers for the expenses they have incurred in conducting the recalls. 

Takata had earlier turned aside a plea by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that it establish a fund to compensate victims, saving them the expense and trauma of pursuing legal action against the company. He said Takata only agreed to the action "because they had a gun to their head."

Blumenthal noted that General Motors had set up its fund just months after recalling millions of cars with defective ignition switches, and he called the $125 million "paltry" compared with the automakers' fund.

Settling the court case is thought to be the last hurdle in Takata's attempt to find a buy for the troubled company, which would otherwise likely face bankruptcy.

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Are you overlooking a big tax break?

You might qualify for the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit

The federal income deadline is closing in fast, but you still have time to make a contribution to your tax-deferred retirement account and have it count on...

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Big bug leaks lots of data but maybe nobody saw it

Industrial-strength ISP was leaking data for nearly six months before anyone noticed

You may never have heard of Cloudflare, but chances are it has heard of you. It's an internet service provider that handles about 10 percent of the world's...

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Self-driving cars may get a boost from the Trump Administration

Transportation Secretary Chao sees potential safety benefits but warns of possible job losses

The Obama Administration had taken a cautious stance towards self-driving cars. Now it looks as though the Trump Administration may be more inclined to rel...

PhotoThe Obama Administration had taken a cautious stance towards self-driving cars. Now it looks as though the Trump Administration may be more inclined to release the brakes.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told the National Governors Association Sunday that self-driving cars hold great promise to reduce traffic deaths, although she noted that, with 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S., they may also put a dent in the job market.

Chao said she is reviewing the self-driving car guidelines issued by the Obama Administration in September. Automakers have claimed the guidelines could needlessly slow development of autonomous cars by allowing states to implement their own regulations and requiring car companies to share proprietary data.

Chao said she is evaluating the guidance and will "ensure that it strikes the right balance." 

Noting that traffic fatalities were up 7 percent in 2015 and increased another 8 percent in the first nine months of 2016, Chao said there is "a lot of stake in getting this technology right."

Chao noted that surveys have found the motoring public is not wild about the idea of self-driving cars and she urged automakers and Silicon Valley tech firms to "help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technology."

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The mental health benefits of bird watching

Researchers say living in a neighborhood with more birds and trees may lower your stress level

There are quite a few science-backed health benefits to getting a daily dose of nature. Taking a walk in the woods (a Japanese custom called “forest bathin...

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Another dip in pending home sales

The Pending Home Sales Index is at its lowest point in a year

A lull in contract activity in the Midwest and West dragged pending home sales down to their lowest level in a year in January.The National Association...

PhotoA lull in contract activity in the Midwest and West dragged pending home sales down to their lowest level in a year in January.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports its Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) dipped 2.8% last month to 106.4. Although its most recent reading was lower, the PHSI is 0.4% above its level at the same time a year earlier.

Home shoppers in January faced numerous obstacles as they sought to buy a home.

"The significant shortage of listings last month along with deteriorating affordability as the result of higher home prices and mortgage rates kept many would-be buyers at bay," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Buyer traffic is easily outpacing seller traffic in several metro areas and is why homes are selling at a much faster rate than a year ago. Most notably in the West, it's not uncommon to see a home come off the market within a month."

Buying interest on the rise

Interest in buying a home is the highest it has been since the Great Recession, according to Yun, with households feeling more confident about their financial situation. Job growth is strong in most of the country and the stock market has seen record gains in recent months.

Yun points out that while these factors bode favorably for increased sales in coming months, buyers are dealing with challenging supply shortages that continue to run up prices in many areas.

"January's accelerated price appreciation is concerning because it's over double the pace of income growth and mortgage rates are up considerably from six months ago," said Yun. "Especially in the most expensive markets, prospective buyers will feel this squeeze to their budget and will likely have to come up with additional savings or compromise on home size or location."

Regional action

  • The PHSI in the Northeast rose 2.3% to 98.7 in January, and is now 3.6% above a year ago.
  • Pending home sales in the South inched up 0.4% to an index of 122.5 and are now 2.0% above last January.
  • In the Midwest the index was down 5.0% to 99.5, and is now 3.8% lower than January 2016.
  • The index in the West plunged 9.8% in January to 94.6, and is now 0.4% lower than a year ago.
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Mercedes-Benz recalls various model year 2017 vehicles with airbag issue

Certain front airbags may not deploy in a crash

Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,051 model year 2017 CLA250, CLA250 4Matic, E400 Coupe, E400 4Matic Coupe, E550 Coupe, E400 Cabriolet, E550 Cabriol...

PhotoMercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 1,051 model year 2017 CLA250, CLA250 4Matic, E400 Coupe, E400 4Matic Coupe, E550 Coupe, E400 Cabriolet, E550 Cabriolet, E300, E300 4Matic, E400 Wagon, GLA250, and GLA250 4Matic vehicles.

The pelvis airbag or the front passenger air bag inflator initiator may fail to ignite in the event of a crash.

If the pelvis airbag or the front passenger airbag does not deploy as intended in the event of a crash, the occupants have an increased risk of injury.

What to do

MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the affected air bag modules, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in early March 2017.

Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

 

 

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Model year 2014-2017 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s recalled

The front driveshaft bolts may loosen allowing the front driveshaft to disconnect

Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 69,298 model year 2014-2017 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD).The front driveshaf...

PhotoChrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 69,298 model year 2014-2017 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD).

The front driveshaft bolts may loosen and allow the front driveshaft to disconnect, potentially causing a loss of motive power, which can increase the risk of a crash.

What to do

Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace all eight front driveshaft bolts, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin March 31, 2017.

Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is T03.

 

 

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Cooper recalls Discoverer M+S Sport tires

The tires do not meet the traction requirements for snow tires

Cooper Tire & Rubber is recalling 7,067 Discoverer M+S Sport tires, sizes 235/75R15, 255/65R16, 215/70R16, 225/70R16, 235/70R16, 245/70R16, 265/70R16, 255/...

PhotoCooper Tire & Rubber is recalling 7,067 Discoverer M+S Sport tires, sizes 235/75R15, 255/65R16, 215/70R16, 225/70R16, 235/70R16, 245/70R16, 265/70R16, 255/60R17, 225/65R17, 235/65R17, 265/65R17, 255/55R18, 235/60R18 and 255/50R19.

The tires may be marked with the Alpine Symbol, but do not meet the traction requirements for snow tires. As such, they fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 139, "New Pneumatic Radial Tires for Light Vehicles."

The tires may not provide the expected traction or performance in snow conditions, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

Cooper will notify owners, and dealers will replace all the affected tires with tires from a different brand line, free of charge. The recall began on February 20, 2017.

Owners may contact Cooper customer service at 1-800-854-6288. Cooper's number for this recall is 166.

 

 

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Ready Pac Foods recalls chicken salad

The product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes

Ready Pac Foods establishments located in Swedesboro, N.J., Jackson, Ga., and Irwindale, Calif., are recalling approximately 59,225 pounds of one variety o...

PhotoReady Pac Foods establishments located in Swedesboro, N.J., Jackson, Ga., and Irwindale, Calif., are recalling approximately 59,225 pounds of one variety of chicken salad.

The product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions.

The following item, produced between January 17, 2017, and February 17, 2017, is being recalled:

  • 7.5-oz. single serve salad bowl packages of “Ready Pac Foods Puro Picante Blazin Hot” with Use By Dates of 01/31/17 through 03/04/2017.

The recalled product, bearing establishment number P-27497, P-32081, or P-18502B inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail locations nationwide.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume it, but throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.

Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Mary Toscano at 1-800-800-7822. 

 

 

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Postcard from Virginia, part II

Two presidential homes rooted in American history

Travel back in time and explore our country’s history by visiting the James River Plantations along scenic Route 5 in Charles City County, Virginia. It is...

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Is time running out for hhgregg?

The electronics and appliances retailer has been bleeding money for years

Electronics retailer hhgregg has long been short of capital letters and is becoming increasingly short of the kind of capital you can take to the bank, hav...

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Google launches new wireless gigabit service

A Denver apartment complex is the first to get Webpass service

It's the last mile that's the most difficult. That's true whether you're running a marathon or trying to figure out how to build a profitable broadband net...

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AT&T launches free smartphone promotion

But there are a number of strings attached

Smartphones aren't cheap and cellphone companies no longer subsidize them as a way to keep you in a two-year contract.So, AT&T; hopes to draw some inte...

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Why waking up early could help you lose weight

Researchers say early risers make healthier food choices than their night owl counterparts

Eating healthily and losing weight can be difficult tasks for anyone, but a new study shows that when you choose to go to bed and wake up can make a big di...

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Judge refuses to release jailed Volkswagen executive

Oliver Schmidt awaits trial on 11 felony counts, other VW execs remain in Germany

Volkswagen has paid billions of dollars in fines, penalties, and buyback costs related to its "dirty diesel" scandal. But that's not much help to Oliver Sc...

PhotoVolkswagen has paid billions of dollars in fines, penalties, and buyback costs related to its "dirty diesel" scandal. But that's not much help to Oliver Schmidt, a VW engineer who at one time headed the automaker's emissions compliance department.

Schmidt, 48, has been in jail in Detroit awaiting trial on 11 felony counts, and a federal judge Thursday refused to release him on bond, saying he presented an extreme flight risk. Schmidt was arrested at Miami International Airport Jan. 7 as he attempted to fly home to Germany after a family vacation. He faces up to 169 years in prison if convicted. 

Other VW executives have been warned to stay in Germany, where they are safe from arrest and extradition, at least for now, since Germany rarely extradites its citizens to foreign countries.

Schmidt was allegedly the author of a damning memo written in April 2014 when researchers at West Virginia University discovered that VW diesels exceeded federal standards and used a software program to reduce emissions when a car was being tested, Automotive News reported.

 “It should first be decided whether we are honest. If we are not honest, everything stays as it is,” Schmidt allegedly wrote to a colleague.

Schmidt is only the second VW employee to feel the brunt of the scandal. James Liang, a Volkswagen engineer based in California, entered a guilty plea last September to conspiring to defraud regulators. He has been cooperating with investigators and is scheduled to be sentenced in May.

Volkswagen has agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines to various U.S. agencies as well as conducting a recall and buyback program that is expected to push the total cost in the U.S. and Canada beyond $23 billion.

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Rising mortgage rates growing issue for home buyers

Consumers fear it will make homes less affordable

It's not the fact that home prices have continued to rise over the last few years, or that inventory levels are dropping to near-historic lows.The fact...

PhotoIt's not the fact that home prices have continued to rise over the last few years, or that inventory levels are dropping to near-historic lows.

The fact that mortgage interest rates have ticked up a half point or more over the last couple of months is a growing source of concern for potential buyers, according to a new report from Zillow Group.

Mortgage rates started going up in the wake of the U.S. presidential election as dollar strength boosted the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond, a key mortgage rate indicator. The Federal Reserve has hiked the Federal Funds rate once since then but has strongly suggested more increases are coming this year.

It may not be that surprising, then, that 53% of prospective buyers told Zillow survey-takers that rising mortgage rates is a chief concern.

Mortgage applications drop

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports the number of consumers taking out mortgages last week dropped 2% from the week before as rates continue to go up. But interest rates are still very low compared to the recent past.

The MBA report shows the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose slightly last week to 4.36%. It's nearly a point higher than the record low but is still well below the 6% level that prevailed during the housing bubble.

Worries about inventory levels -- the number of homes available for sale -- is still the biggest headache for home buyers. The selection seems to get smaller each month. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports January inventory levels nationwide were down more than 7% from January 2016.

Inventory affecting prices

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says the lack of inventory is putting upward pressure on prices, which combined with rising rates, is making homes less affordable for more would-be buyers.

In fact, the Zillow survey of homebuyers found 65% were feeling angst over the lack of choices. The choices are especially limited in red-hot housing markets and in the entry-level price range in general.

"For years, falling interest rates have been a boon to the U.S. housing market, keeping monthly mortgage payments low for first-time and move-up buyers alike, even as home values rose," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages for Zillow Group. "As rates rise this year, first-time buyers and those looking to buy in expensive markets where affordability is already an issue will feel the pinch of higher rates on their budget."

But that may not slow home sales, at least not in the foreseeable future. The Zillow survey shows homebuyers are still in the hunt, looking for a less expensive home if rates continue to rise.

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New car sales will likely dip in February

Carmakers suffering the biggest sales declines may offer the best incentives

February new car sales are often a mixed bag. It's the shortest month of the year, so there are fewer days to sell cars.But it has Presidents' Day week...

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New home sales rebound in January

Home prices were mostly lower

2017 is off to a good start in terms of sales of new single-family houses.The Commerce Department reports sales rose 3.7% last month to seasonally adju...

Photo2017 is off to a good start in terms of sales of new single-family houses.

The Commerce Department reports sales rose 3.7% last month to seasonally adjusted annual rate of 555,000, following a sales rate of 535,000 in December, which was revised downward from an initially reported 536,000.

The January rate is also 5.5% ahead of the year-ago pace of 526,000.

Sales advanced in all regions except for the West, where they declined 4.4%.

Prices and inventory

The median sales price for houses sold last month was $312,900, up $21,800 from January 2016, but down $3,300 from December. The median is the point at which half the houses sold for more and half sold for less.

The average sales price was $360,900, a year-over-year loss of $4,700 and down $18,000 from November.

The number of new houses for sale at the end of January totaled 265,000, which translates into a supply of 5.7 months at the current sales rate.

The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

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Moose Toys recalls toy frogs

The battery’s chemicals can leak, posing chemical and injury hazards

Moose Toys Proprietary of Australia is recalling about 444,000 Little Live Pets Lil Frog and Lil Frog Lily Pad toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.When th...

PhotoMoose Toys Proprietary of Australia is recalling about 444,000 Little Live Pets Lil Frog and Lil Frog Lily Pad toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.

When the button batteries are removed from the toy frogs, the battery’s cap can become a projectile and the battery’s chemicals can leak, posing chemical and injury hazards.

The firm has received 17 reports of the battery’s cap becoming a projectile or battery chemicals leaking, including two injuries that resulted in emergency room and doctor’s office visits for eye irritation from the battery chemicals.

This recall involves the Little Live Pets Lil Frog plastic toys. They operate with four button batteries and jump.

Little Live Pets Lil Frog has SKU: 28217 and Lil Frog Lily Pad has SKU: 28218 printed on the frog’s lower belly near its left thigh with a manufacture date code under it. The date code range is WS112016 to WS123216.

The toy frogs were sold in pink, blue and green colors.

The toys, manufactured in China, were sold at AAFES, Target, Toys “R” Us and Walmart stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com from August 2016, through February 2017, for about $15 for the Lil Frog and $25 for the Lil Frog Lily Pad.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the toy frogs, refrain from opening the battery compartment and contact Moose Toys for a free replacement Little Live Pet product.

Consumers may contact Moose Toys toll-free at 844-575-0340 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.moosetoys.com and click on “Product Safety” for more information.

 

 

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Fratelli Beretta USA recalls mortadella product

The product contains pistachio nuts, an allergen not declared on the label

Fratelli Beretta USA of Mount Olive, N.J., is recalling approximately 468 pounds of mortadella product.The product contains pistachio nuts, an allergen...

PhotoFratelli Beretta USA of Mount Olive, N.J., is recalling approximately 468 pounds of mortadella product.

The product contains pistachio nuts, an allergen not declared on the label.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of the products.

The the following item, were produced on November 30, 2016, bearing establishment number “EST. 7543B” inside the USDA mark of inspection, is being recalled:

  • 3-oz. plastic packages containing slices of “Deli Thin Dietz & Watson Mortadella” with Lot# LO23633800 and Best By Date April 2, 2017.

The product was shipped to a distributor in Pennsylvania and further distributed to retail and distribution centers in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled should not consume it, but throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.

Consumers and with questions about the recall may contact Simone Bocchini at (201) 438-0723.

 

 

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Calphalon recalls cutlery knives

The blade on Contemporary Cutlery knives can break during use

Calphalon Corp., of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 2 million Contemporary Cutlery knives sold in the U.S. and Canada.The blade on knives can break du...

PhotoCalphalon Corp., of Atlanta, Ga., is recalling about 2 million Contemporary Cutlery knives sold in the U.S. and Canada.

The blade on knives can break during use, posing a laceration hazard.

The company has received 27 reports of finger or hand lacerations including four injuries requiring stitches. In addition, the firm has received about 3,150 reports of broken knives.

This recall involves Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery carving, chef, paring, santoku and utility knives sold individually and in sets made between August 2008, and March 2016.

The following models are included in the recall:

 

Product

Item

Item Number

Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

4.5" Parer

KNR10045C

Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

7" Santoku

KNR0007C

Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

Contemporary Paring Knife Set

1821332

Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

5" Santoku

KNR0005C

Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

8" Chef Knife

KNR4008C

Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

Fruit/Vegetable Set - 3.5" parer & 6" utility

KNSR002C

Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery

Carving Set - 6" fork & 8" slicer

KNSR0102C

Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery 21-piece set

3½" parer, 5" boning knife, 5" santoku, 5½" tomato/bagel knife, 6" fork, 6" utility, 7" santoku, 8" bread, 8" chef’s knife, 8" slicer, 10" steel, kitchen shears, 8 steak knives, and knife block

1808009

Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery 17-piece set

4½" parer, 6" utility, 7" santoku, 8" bread, 8" chef’s knife, 8" slicer, 10" steel, kitchen shears, 8 steak knives, and knife block

1808008

Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 14-piece set

4.5" Parer, 6" Utility, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

1922890

Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 15-piece set

4.5" Parer, 6" Utility, 7" Santoku, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

1922971

Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 18-piece set

4.5" Parer, 5" Boning, 5.5" Tomato, 6" Utility, 7" Santoku, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8" Slicer, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

1932810

Calphalon Contemporary SharpIN Cutlery 20-piece set

4.5" Parer, 5" Boning, 5" Santoku, 5.5" Tomato, 6" Fork, 6" Utility, 7" Santoku, 8" Bread, 8" Chef's Knife, 8" Slicer, 8 Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, Sharpening Knife Block

1922976

The knives, manufactured in China, were sold at J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and other stores nationwide and online at www.Amazon.com from September 2008, through December 2016, for $25 for a single knife to $300 for a knife block set.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled cutlery and contact Calphalon for a replacement cutlery product.

Consumers may contact Calphalon at 800-809-7267 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.calphalon.com and click on “Customer Support” at the bottom of the page then “Recalls” for more information.

 

 

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Why your back pain may be killing you

Researchers find those with back pain are more likely to die from all causes

Aches and pains are a common ailment for many consumers, but a new study suggests that some types of pain may actually be putting us in an early grave....

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What are your odds of surviving your surgery?

A new site lets you check out your surgeon before going under the knife

It's one thing to check out the reviews on the latest iPhone. After all, you might want to compare it to another model.There might be a little more at...

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Fourth quarter home prices rise despite interest rate hikes

Initial jobless claims ticked higher last week

Home prices moved higher in the final three months of 2016.The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports its House...

Photo
Photo (c) 3ddock - Fotolia

Home prices moved higher in the final three months of 2016.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports its House Price Index (HPI), which is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, rose 1.5% from the third quarter and shot up 6.2% from the same three-month period a year earlier.

“Although interest rates rose sharply during the fourth quarter, our data show no signs of a home price slowdown,” said FHFA Deputy Chief Economist Andrew Leventis. “Although it will certainly take more time for the full effects of the elevated interest rates to be felt, there is no evidence of a normalization in the unusually low inventories of homes available for sale, which has been the primary force behind the extraordinary price gains.”

Report highlights

  • Home prices rose in 46 states and the District of Columbia between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the fourth quarter of 2016. The top five states in annual appreciation were: 1) Oregon -- 11.0%; 2) Colorado -- 10.6%; 3) Florida -- 10.4%; 4) Washington -- 10.2%; and 5) Nevada -- 8.9%.
  • Among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., annual price increases were greatest in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL, (+13.2%). Prices were weakest in Wilmington, DE-MD-NJ (MSAD), (-1.8%).
  • Of the nine census divisions, the Mountain division experienced the strongest increase in the fourth quarter, posting a 2.1% quarterly increase and were up 8.0% on a year-over-year basis. House price appreciation was weakest in the Middle Atlantic division, where prices rose 0.9% from the last quarter.

PhotoJobless claims

A slight increase was registered last week in filings of first-time state unemployment benefits.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims were up 6,000 in the week ending February 18 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000 to 238,000.

The four-week moving average, which is less volatile and considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market, came in at 241,000 -- down 4,000 from the previous week.

The current level is the lowest since July 21, 1973 when it was 239,500.

The complete report may be found on the DOL website.

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A January surge in sales of existing homes

Last month's sales pace was the fastest in nearly a decade

Sales of previously-owned homes rose in January to their fastest clip in nearly a decade.The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports sales of ex...

PhotoSales of previously-owned homes rose in January to their fastest clip in nearly a decade.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports sales of existing homes -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- shot up 3.3% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.69 million.

That pace is 3.8% above a year ago and is the strongest since February 2007.

A good start for 2017

"Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Market challenges remain, but the housing market is off to a prosperous start as homebuyers staved off inventory levels that are far from adequate and deteriorating affordability conditions."

The median price for all types of existing homes was $228,900 in January -- up 7.1% from the year before. That increase was the sharpest since January 2016 and marks the 59th consecutive month of year-over-year gains. The median is the point at which half the homes cost more and half less.

Total housing inventory at the end of the month was up 2.4% to 1.69 million existing homes available for sale. Still, that's 7.1% lower than a year ago and has fallen year-over-year for 20 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 3.6-month supply at the current sales pace.

Yun expects competition will heat up even more heading into the spring for house hunters looking for homes in the lower- and mid-market price range.

"NAR and realtor.com's new ongoing research -- the Realtors Affordability Distribution Curve and Score -- revealed that the combination of higher rates and prices led to households in over half of all states last month being able to afford less of all active inventory on the market based on their income," he said.

Regional tally

  • The January surge was led by the West, where existing-home sales surged 6.6% to an annual rate of 1.29 million, and are now 8.4% higher than they were a year ago. The median price was $332,300 -- up 6.8% from January 2016.
  • Sales in the Northeast jumped 5.3% to an annual rate of 800,000, for a year-over-year advance of 6.7%. The median price was $253,800, up 2.5% from the previous January.
  • In the South, sales were up 3.6% to an annual rate of 2.31 million, and are now 3.1% above January 2016. The median price in the South was up 9.2% from a year earlier to $201,400.
  • The only decline came in the Midwest, where sales dipped 1.5% to an annual rate of 1.29 million, and are 0.8% below a year ago. The median price, however, rose 6.5% from the year before to $174,900.
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2016 travelers' woes are lowest in decades

Flight cancellation, mishandled baggage, and bumping rates improved over 2015

The air traveling public had less to gripe about in 2016.The Transportation Department's (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report shows carriers canceled just...

PhotoThe air traveling public had less to gripe about in 2016.

The Transportation Department's (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report shows carriers canceled just 1.17% of their scheduled domestic flights last year -- compared with 1.5% in 2015 and the lowest in the 22 years with comparable numbers.

The previous low was 1.24% in 2002. Airlines canceled 1.6% of their scheduled domestic flights this past December, versus 1.7% a year earlier, but up from the 0.3% rate the month before.

In addition, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.70 per 1,000 passengers last year, compared with 2015’s rate of 3.13. That's the lowest annual rate since DOT started collecting mishandled baggage report data in September 1987. The previous low was 3.09 in 2012.

On a month-over-month basis, there was a mishandled baggage rate of 3.58 reports per 1,000 passengers in December, down from December 2015’s rate of 3.97, but up from November 2016’s rate of 2.02.

The 2016 bumping rate of 0.62 per 10,000 passengers was an improvement over the 0.73 rate posted in 2015 and the lowest annual rate based on historical data dating back to 1995. The previous low was 0.72 in 2002.

The report also includes on-time performance, tarmac delay, chronically delayed flight, and the causes of flight delay data.

In addition, there's a tally of aviation service complaints including flight problems, baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, disability, and discrimination.

The complete report is available on the DOT website.

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Michelin recalls X Works XZY tires

The tires lack the required DOT symbol and load range letter designation

Michelin North America is recalling 247 Michelin X Works XZY tires, size 315/80R22.5 156/150K, manufactured from January 1, 2011, to July 31, 2015.The...

PhotoMichelin North America is recalling 247 Michelin X Works XZY tires, size 315/80R22.5 156/150K, manufactured from January 1, 2011, to July 31, 2015.

The tires lack the required DOT symbol and load range letter designation, and, as such, fail to conform to the requirements of U.S Code 30112 and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 119, "New Pneumatic Tires for Motor Vehicles with a GVWR of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) and Motorcycles."

Tires that do not comply with FMVSS requirements may increase the risk of a crash.

What to do

Michelin will notify owners and will either correct the tires by permanently applying the required markings or replace the tires with a similar product, free of charge. The recall began on February 13, 2017.

Owners may contact Michelin at 1-888-847-8475.

 

 

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Google plans expansion of its Waze ride-sharing service

The service differs in many ways from more conventional services like Uber and Lyft

Back in August, we reported that Google was staking its claim in the ride-sharing business. Using its Waze navigation app, the company began testing a “Goi...

PhotoBack in August, we reported that Google was staking its claim in the ride-sharing business. Using its Waze navigation app, the company began testing a “Going my way?” concept that allowed drivers to connect with travelers that were going in the same direction.

Initially, tests were confined to Israel and the San Francisco Bay area, but the Wall Street Journal reports that positive results have prompted Google to expand the program. Waze chief Noam Bardin announced that the company will be testing the service in several U.S. cities and in Latin America over the next several months.

Ride-sharing differences

The expansion is likely to put Google on a collision course with other popular ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber. However, Waze’s service differs in several key ways.

For one, users must order their Waze rides hours in advance and there is no guarantee that a driver will accept. This is because the service asks drivers who use the navigation app to pick up travelers who are going in the same direction. Uber and Lyft, on the other hand, operate more of an on-demand service that users depend on to take them wherever they want to go on short notice.

As such, drivers will more than likely not be using Waze as their main source of income, as many Uber and Lyft drivers do now. Riders only pay drivers 54 cents per mile – the reimbursement rate for business travel according to the IRS – and Waze currently doesn’t take a cut of those earnings. However, that could change if the service finds success.

The main drawing point for riders will be the difference in price. A trip from downtown Oakland to downtown San Francisco cost a scant $4.50 for users of the Waze service, while Uber and Lyft’s cheapest rides cost $10.57 and $12.40, respectively. However, much of the service’s success will depend on driver cooperation.

“Can we get the average person on his way to work to pick someone up and drop them off once in a while? That’s the biggest challenge,” said Bardin.

Self-driving integration?

Google bought Waze for $1 billion back in 2013, but it has had its eyes on the self-driving market for some time. In the same year, it invested $258 million in Uber and placed one of its executives on the company’s board.

Over time, the companies parted ways due to competition, but the emergence of the Waze Carpool service may kick things into overdrive. As of right now, Google does enjoy some advantage because it doesn’t have to overcome some of the regulatory obstacles that other ride-sharing services have had to deal with. Bardin also notes the possibility of integrating self-driving technologies into the service in the future.

“If we were a startup, we couldn’t afford to take these sorts of long term bets. With Google, we can. . . And maybe at the end of the day, instead of a neighbor picking you up, a robot picks you up,” he quipped.

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Facebook reportedly considering link-up with Major League Baseball

Published reports say the social media company may carry games this season

Remember when television was TV and the internet was the web? The lines between the two continue to blur as mobile devices have increasingly been used for...

PhotoRemember when television was TV and the internet was the web? The lines between the two continue to blur as mobile devices have increasingly been used for entertainment media.

Now there's a report that could hold out a further blending, as Bloomberg News reports Major League Baseball (MLB) is in talks with Facebook about streaming one game a week on the social media platform this season.

Bloomberg quotes a person close to the discussions, who has apparently talked with a number of other news media outlets, which are also reporting the story. It suggests one or both sides is floating a trial balloon before the talks go further.

Twitter and the NFL

Last April, Twitter and the National Football League (NFL) announced a deal in which Twitter would live stream Thursday Night Football games during the 2016 season. Those games are normally carried on cable by NFL Network, as well as aired on TV stations in the two teams' home markets.

Twitter paid a reported $10 million for the package. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the games didn't add the Twitter users the company had hoped for.

Having recently discovered video content, social media platforms are hungry for more of it. Sports content producers, meanwhile, are hungry for eyeballs. Increasingly, they aren't getting them on cable.

ESPN woes

ESPN's slow decline in subscribers has been a near-constant source of pain for parent company Disney, as younger viewers increasingly depend on their smartphones for nearly all their entertainment and information.

Neither Facebook nor MLB have commented on the Bloomberg report. Such a deal would presumably have to win the approval of a majority of owners.

While baseball's popularity in the U.S. has lagged in recent decades, last year's World Series between the Cubs and Indians seemed to capture the public imagination and renew interest. While Facebook might be interested at the right low price, baseball owners might be drawn by Facebook's international reach -- it has many more users outside the U.S. than within its borders.

Could Facebook have its eye on additional sports programming? CEO Mark Zuckerburg has been showing more interest in sports figures lately. This week he was in Tuscaloosa, meeting with Alabama head football coach Nick Saban to discuss leadership.

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Credit card defaults continue to rise

January survey shows consumers are having a harder time paying their bills

One measure of how consumers are doing financially is how they are handling their debt.On the heels of a report showing a rising credit card default ra...

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Researchers getting closer to Zika virus vaccine

Three vaccines said to hold promise but no one is predicting speedy approval

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow earlier this month, spring is not that far away, and with it, mosquitoes and the returning threat of the Zika viru...

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2017 Subaru Impreza runs the IIHS table

The redesigned vehicle did well in all safety categories

Thanks to top ratings for crash protection, a superior-rated front crash prevention system and good-rated headlights, the redesigned Subaru Impreza walked...

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Mortgage applications post decline

Contract interest rates headed higher

Mortgage applications registered their second straight decline in the week ending February 17, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, falling 2% fr...

PhotoMortgage applications registered their second straight decline in the week ending February 17, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, falling 2% from a week earlier.

The Refinance Index was down 1% from a week earlier, with the refinance share of mortgage activity was down 0.7% to 46.2% of total applications -- the lowest level since November 2008.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity fell to 7.3% of total applications, the FHA share was 11.6%, the VA share rose to 12.1% from 11.8% the previous week, and the USDA was 0.9%.

Contract interest rates

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) rose four basis points -- to 4.36% from 4.32% -- with points increasing to 0.35 from 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) went from 4.28% to 4.29%, with points increasing to 0.28 from 0.27 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA inched up two basis points to 4.14%, with points increasing to 0.33 from 0.31 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs rose to 3.56% from 3.55%, with points decreasing to 0.36 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs dipped three basis points to 3.31%, with points increasing to 0.31 from 0.19 (including the origination fee) for80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.

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Yamaha Corporation of America recalls piano benches

The paint on the piano bench’s interior compartment contains an excessive level of lead

Yamaha Corporation of America of Buena Park, Calif, is recalling about 900 benches sold with Yamaha grand pianos.The paint on the bench’s interior comp...

PhotoYamaha Corporation of America of Buena Park, Calif, is recalling about 900 benches sold with Yamaha grand pianos.

The paint on the bench’s interior compartment contains an excessive level of lead in violation of the federal lead paint standard.

No incidents or injuries have been reported.

This recall involves piano bench model number 3 I PM / PAW sold with one model of Yamaha grand piano GB1K PM / PAW.

The recalled benches are brown wood with a brown padded leather seat and a compartment under the seat. It has a manufacturing date code between 08 07 and 16 08 (“YY MM” for year and month). The model number, manufacturing date code and “Yamaha Corporation” are printed on a white label on the interior compartment.

Consumers can also find a list of piano serial numbers sold with a bench that is being recalled is at http://4wrd.it/benchrecall.

The benches, manufactured in Indonesia, were sold with the grand pianos at piano stores nationwide from January 2009, through November 2016, for about $15,000.

What to do

Consumers should immediately remove the recalled piano benches from areas with children and contact Yamaha Corporation of America for instructions on returning it for a free replacement.

Consumers may contact Yamaha Corporation of America toll-free at 844-703-5446 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at Benchrecall@yamaha.com, online at www.usa.yamaha.com and click on “Support” or http://4wrd.it/benchrecall for more information.

 

 

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Biery Cheese Company recalls Longhorn Colby cheeses

The products may be contaminated Listeria monocytogenes

Biery Cheese Company is recalling specialty Longhorn Colby cheese that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses have been reported...

PhotoBiery Cheese Company is recalling specialty Longhorn Colby cheese that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The following products, packaged at Biery Cheese Company in Louisville, Ohio, and distributed to distribution centers between November 11, 2016, and January 4, 2017, in Georgia, Indiana and Pennsylvania are being recalled:
 

Brand

Description

Product Size

UPC Code

Sell By Date

Delallo

Premium Sliced Colby Cheese

8 oz

0 72368 12452 0

May/6/2017

Delallo

Premium Sliced Hot Pepper Cheese

8 oz

0 72368 12462 9

May/6/2017

Dietz & Watson

Pasteurized Process New York State Cheddar Cheese with Jalapeno and Cayenne

8 oz

0 31506 79412 4

May/6/2017

Dietz & Watson

Pepper Jack Cheese

8 oz.

0 31506 79450 6

May/6/2017

Private Selections

Hardwood Smoked Gouda Slice

8 oz.

0 11110 60861 1

05/06/17

 

What to do

Customers who have purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact Biery Cheese at 1-800-243-3731 Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm (EST).

 

 

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MDS Foods expands cheese recall

The products may be contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes

MDS Foods is expanding its earlier recall of cheese products.Deutsch Kase Haus of Middlebury, Ind., supplied MDS Foods with cheeses that have been foun...

PhotoMDS Foods is expanding its earlier recall of cheese products.

Deutsch Kase Haus of Middlebury, Ind., supplied MDS Foods with cheeses that have been found to be contaminated with the pathogenic organism Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The following items are being recalled due to supplier contamination:

Item NoDescriptionBrandSizeUOMUPC CodeProduct Code Date From
10209Jalapeno Jack Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
10241Jalapeno RW FullmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
10244Jalapeno RW HalfmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
10245Jalapeno EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865310245802/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
17209Jalapeno ColbyJack Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
17245Jalapeno CoJack EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865317245102/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18209Colby Jack Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18241Colby Jack RW FullmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18244Colby Jack RW HalfmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18245ColbyJack EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865318245002/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
28209Cheddar Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
28245Cheddar EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865328245702/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55209Colby Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55241Colby RW FullmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55244Colby RW HalfmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55245Colby EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865355245102/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55523Colby LonghornAmish Classics15LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
65209Grand ButterkaseAmish Classics6LB82865365209002/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
65241Grand Butterkase RW FullmoonAmish Classics12LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
65245Grand Butterkase EW FullmoonAmish Classics8OZ82865365245802/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
69209Farmers Cheese Mini HornAmish Classics6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55553Colby Mini Horn .75 oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865355553702/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18830ColbyJk St Pk 1oz Hlf Mn SliceDeli Readi1LB63466062875702/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18831ColbyJk St Pk 1oz Mn Hrn SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062860302/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55830Colby St Pk 1oz Hlf Mn SliceDeli Readi1LB63466062872602/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55831Colby St Pk 1oz Mini Hrn SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062859702/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18740Colby Jack Mini HornDietz & Watson6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55740Colby Mini HornDietz & Watson6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18755Colby Jack Mini HornMeijer6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18758Colby Jack EW Halfmoon ChunkMeijer8OZ71373334058802/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55755Colby Mini HornMeijer6LBN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55758Colby EW Halfmoon ChunkMeijer8OZ71373334047202/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18703Colby Jack EW HalfmoonOld Tyme8OZ09477610221102/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55703Colby EW HalfmoonOld Tyme8OZ09477610227302/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
10840Pepper Jack EW HalfmoonTroyer8OZ04964693610602/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
10841Pepper Jack EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693606902/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18840Marble EW HalfmoonTroyer8OZ04964693611302/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18841Marble EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693605202/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18842Marble RW HalfmoonTroyer8OZN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
28841Cheddar EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693607602/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55840Colby EW HalfmoonTroyer8OZ04964693609002/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55841Colby EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693604502/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
55842Colby RW HalfmoonTroyer8OZN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
69840Farmers EW HalfmoonTroyer8OZ04964693613702/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
69841Farmers EW Full MoonTroyer8OZ04964693608302/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
69842Farmers RW HalfmoonTroyer8OZN/A02/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017
18790ColbyJack St Pk .75oz SliceWinder Farms1LB82865318790502/28/2017 thru
8/14/2017

The following items, packaged on the same production lines as those listed above, are being recalled:

Item #DescriptionBrandSizeUOMUPCAffected Date(s)
10311Jalapeno Jack PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A04/18/2017
26244Hot Pepper RW SquareAmish Classics12LB85865326244206/10/2017
28311Cheddar Mild Color PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A03/28/2017
28311Cheddar Mild Color PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A04/25/2017
28311Cheddar Mild Color PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A05/29/2017
28311Cheddar Mild Color PrintAmish Classics10LBN/A07/03/2017
61243Muenster RW End ChunksAmish Classics12LBN/A273-16
61243Muenster RW End ChunksAmish Classics12LBN/A319-16
61243Muenster RW End ChunksAmish Classics12LBN/A341-16
61244Muenster RW SquareAmish Classics8OZN/A03/28/2017
61244Muenster RW SquareAmish Classics8OZN/A05/13/2017
61244Muenster RW SquareAmish Classics8OZN/A06/04/2017
03554Monterey Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865303554103/28/2017
03554Monterey Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865303554105/03/2017
10553Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LBN/A003-17
10554Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310554103/17/2017
10554Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310554105/03/2017
10555Jalapeno Jck St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310555803/28/2017
10555Jalapeno Jck St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310555803/30/2017
10555Jalapeno Jck St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865310555805/18/2017
11553Mozzarella St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB828653115533322-16
11553Mozzarella St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB828653115533333-16
26555Hot Pepper St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865326555903/17/2017
26555Hot Pepper St Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865326555904/22/2017
28532Cheddar Mild Clr StickDeli Made EZ4.5LBN/A04/18/2017
28545Ched Mld C St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ2LB82865328545804/22/2017
28553Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LBN/A018-17
28555Ched Mld C Stk Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865328555703/10/2017
28555Ched Mld C Stk Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865328555704/22/2017
58554Provolone St Pck .75oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865358554103/28/2017
58555Provolone Stk Pk .5oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865358555803/28/2017
61552Muenster St Pk .75 oz SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB828653615521328-16
71554Havarti .75oz St Pk SliceDeli Made EZ1.5LB82865371554205/03/2017
10831Jalapeno St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062878802/28/2017
10831Jalapeno St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062878804/22/2017
10831Jalapeno St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062878805/18/2017
26831Hot Pepper St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062868902/28/2017
26831Hot Pepper St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062868904/22/2017
26831Hot Pepper St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062868905/16/2017
28831Cheddar St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062877102/28/2017
28831Cheddar St Pk 1oz SliceDeli Readi2LB63466062877105/04/2017
28745Cheddar Mild Color LoafDuck Deli5LBN/A273-16
28747Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceDuck Deli1.5LB828653287476004-17
28747Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceDuck Deli1.5LB828653287476358-16
58747Provolone Stk Pck .75oz SliceDuck Deli1.5LB828653587477004-17
58774Provolone St Pk .667ozLa Rosa2.25LB828653587743004-17
28769Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceMadison Valley1.5LB828653287698320-16
61758Muenster EW SquareMeijer8OZ88692627573503/28/2017
61758Muenster EW SquareMeijer8OZ88692627573505/13/2017
61758Muenster EW SquareMeijer8OZ88692627573506/10/2017
10703Jalapeno Jack EW HalfmoonOld Tyme8OZ09477610230305/29/2017
26703Hot Pepper Cheese EW SquareOld Tyme8OZ09477610228006/10/2017
61703Muenster EW SquareOld Tyme8OZ09477610224206/04/2017
10812Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceSutters Quality Foods1.5LB82865310812202/28/2017
10812Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceSutters Quality Foods1.5LB82865310812205/16/2017
10815Jalapeno Jack LoafSutters Quality Foods5LBN/A05/09/2017
28812Cheddar St Pk .75oz SliceSutters Quality Foods1.5LB82865328812605/18/2017
28815Cheddar Mild Color LoafSutters Quality Foods5LBN/A04/18/2017
58814Provolone SalameSutters Quality Foods6LBN/A05/06/2017
10790Jalapeno Jck St Pk .75oz SliceWinder Farms1LB82865310790305/03/2017

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact MDS Foods customer service at (330) 879-9780 Monday through Friday, 8:00AM to 5:00PM (EST).

 

 

More

Gas prices poised for annual early spring climb

Prices at the pump are already much higher than they were last year

Consumers who have gotten accustomed to relatively low gasoline prices over the last two and a half years will have an adjustment to make this spring.G...

PhotoConsumers who have gotten accustomed to relatively low gasoline prices over the last two and a half years will have an adjustment to make this spring.

Gas prices are going to be a bit higher than they were last year.

Actually, they already are. The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of self-serve regular is $2.28 a gallon, with almost no movement in the last week. But compared to the price a year ago, it is 57 cents a gallon more.

The national average price of premium gasoline, required in a growing number of new vehicles, is $2.80 a gallon, about 59 cents a gallon more than last year. Diesel is selling, on average, at $2.51 a gallon, about 53 cents more than last year.

Rising oil prices

The reason for the higher prices, up until now, is the cost of crude oil. Oil prices are higher than they were last year, mainly because OPEC has been sending strong signals that it plans to cut production to reduce the huge glut of oil that has kept oil prices relatively soft since late 2014.

However, most of those proposed cuts have not actually occurred yet. The oil market's growing confidence that they will has prompted traders to bid up crude oil prices to just under $55 a barrel -- still a long way from its highs.

Over the next few weeks, motorists will likely begin to see prices at the pumps for all grades of fuel begin to move higher. That's because refineries typically reduce operations in late winter and early spring to perform maintenance and begin to switch to more expensive summer grades of gasoline.

Those prices normally rise until the Memorial Day weekend before slowly declining over the summer. If this year is like the last one, consumers could see gasoline prices go up another 25 cents or so before they peak.

Refinery issues could boost prices more

They could shoot even higher if a refinery or two has to cut back production even more. Over the weekend a fire broke out at a refinery in Torrance, Calif. According to the Los Angeles Times, the fire started with an explosion Saturday morning. In a Tweet, GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan says California motorists could see gas prices jump 10 to 25 cents a gallon as a result.

Currently, the statewide average price of regular gas in California is $2.90 a gallon. The price of premium is $3.14 a gallon.

California has some of the most expensive gasoline in the country. The cheapest gas this week is found in South Carolina, where the statewide average for regular is $2.03 a gallon and the average price of premium is $2.60.

More

Suburbs increasingly 'hotter' housing markets than urban areas

But proximity to an urban core helps define a suburban hotspot

A few years ago, Millennial homebuyers were eager to live in the city. They liked the idea that they could walk to movie theaters, restaurants, and shoppin...

PhotoA few years ago, Millennial homebuyers were eager to live in the city. They liked the idea that they could walk to movie theaters, restaurants, and shopping centers.

But as more of them have started families, the suburbs are looking a bit more attractive these days. Realtor.com reports a number of suburban communities have become real estate hot spots in their own right, fueling price rises outside the city core.

The housing marketplace singles out Northeast/Montebello, Colo., a Denver suburb; Wylie/St. Paul, Texas, a suburb of Dallas; and Dublin/Dougherty, Calif., a suburb of San Francisco, as the nation's most prominent suburban hotspots.

Meccas for young families

“Suburbs are traditionally viewed as Meccas for young families, willing to trade in shorter commute times and urban nightlife for better schools and larger homes,” said Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com's chief economist.

But Smoke says the relationship between the suburbs and urban areas is intertwined. As urban home prices have shot up in recent years, and inventory levels have tightened, the more affordable suburban home prices have started to look a lot more attractive.

"Our analysis indicates 50 percent of buyers planning to purchase a home this spring indicated they preferred a home in the suburbs,” Smoke said.

Proximity to the city

But the analysis also shows that what often makes a suburb appealing to homebuyers is its proximity to an urban area, and ease of getting back and forth. Smoke says the suburbs that made the list are located just outside urban centers, which are themselves hot housing markets.

The suburbs on the list have also enjoyed recent explosive growth. They've seen an average of 18.8% household growth over the last seven years. That edges out the growth in other suburban and urban neighborhoods.

In some Sunbelt metros, the growth of suburban households has far outpaced urban growth. The realtor.com analysis found suburban areas of Austin, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Jacksonville, and Houston grew by 18% to 27% between 2010 and 2017. That compares to just 7% to 16% for those metros' urban areas. Nationwide, population growth in suburbs exceeded urban population growth in 33 of 50 metros.

Realtor.com says the suburbs on its list are among the top 8% when it comes to the hottest real estate Zip Codes in the country. It says these homes received 1.6 times more views on realtor.com than the typical home in the study.

More

Builder confidence drops in February

It's the second decline in as many months

Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family fell for a second straight month in February, with the National Association of Home Builders...

PhotoBuilder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family fell for a second straight month in February, with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) declining two points to a level of 65.

“With much of the decline this month resulting from a decrease in buyer traffic, builders continue to struggle to minimize costs while dealing with supply side challenges such as a lack of developed lots and labor shortages,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Despite these constraints, the overall housing market fundamentals remain strong and we expect to see continued growth this year as some of these concerns are addressed.”

A broad-based decline

The NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." Builders are asked to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average," or "low to very low."

Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

All three HMI components fell in February. The component gauging current sales conditions slipped one point to 71, the index charting sales expectations in the next six months registered a three-point decline to 73, and the component measuring buyer traffic dropped five points to 46.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast was down two points, the South dipped one point, the Midwest rose a point, and the West held steady for the third month in a row.

“While builders remain optimistic, we are seeing the numbers settling back into a normal range,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald. “Regulatory burdens remain a major challenge to our industry, and NAHB looks forward to working with the new Congress and administration to help alleviate some of the pressures that are holding small businesses back and making homes less affordable.”

More

California realtors say sales were robust in January

The median price dipped on an uptick in sales of less expensive homes

As we reported in recent days, housing affordability in California's red hot real estate markets has improved over the last few months. Industry experts sa...

PhotoAs we reported in recent days, housing affordability in California's red hot real estate markets has improved over the last few months. Industry experts say prices have leveled off a bit while incomes have risen.

But that doesn't mean the market is slowing down. The California Association of Realtors (CAR) reports 2016 ended on a strong note and 2017 started the same way.

If 2017 sales follow January's path, CAR estimates more than 420,000 existing homes will be sold statewide by December 31. That's up 2.1% from December and 4.4% from January 2016.

"California's housing market continues to be defined by the higher-priced, coastal markets and the less expensive, inland areas that still offer access to major employment centers," said CAR President Geoff McIntosh.

To find more affordable housing, McIntosh says many buyers are looking outside the core Bay Area markets of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. That's led to an uptick in sales in Contra Costa, Napa, and Solano.

In Southern California, the same thing is happening, leading to stronger markets in recent months in Riverside and San Bernardino.

Median price below $500,000

The median sale price of an existing single-family home in California fell below the $500,000 mark for the first time in nearly a year, but that doesn't mean homeowners are cutting prices. It simply means that more less-expensive, entry-level homes are selling, which is a healthy sign for the market.

California's median sale price was down 3.8% from a revised $508,870 in December to $489,580 in January. Still, that was 4.8% higher than January 2016.

CAR Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young credits the recent rise in mortgage rates with spurring January sales. She says homebuyers were motivated to act before rates move even higher, which she predicts will eventually have a dampening effect on housing markets, since it will likely put homeownership out of reach for some consumers.

The inventory of available homes has been extremely tight in California markets for months, but showed some improvement in January. CAR reports there were 3.7 months on inventory last month, compared to 2.6 months in December.

More

Model year 2009-2013 Suzuki Grand Vitaras recalled

The gear shift rear shaft may break

Suzuki Motor of America is recalling 791 model year 2009-2013 Grand Vitaras equipped with a manual transmission.The gear shift rear shaft may break, pr...

PhotoSuzuki Motor of America is recalling 791 model year 2009-2013 Grand Vitaras equipped with a manual transmission.

The gear shift rear shaft may break, preventing the gears from being able to be changed, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

Suzuki will notify owners, and dealers will replace the gear shift rear shaft, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin March 1, 2017.

Owners may contact Suzuki customer service at 1-800-934-0934. Suzuki's number for this recall is VZ.

About this recall

This story is based on a recall notice issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the automobile manufacturer. Although the recall notice may specify certain models and production years, the actual recall may officially include only certain vehicles within those categories -- production runs during a certain time span, for example.

Has your car been recalled? To check whether there are outstanding recalls on your car, jot down your VIN number (which you can find in the lower left corner of your windshield), go to www.nhtsa.gov/recalls, and enter the VIN where indicated. 

Once notified of a recall, you should contact your local dealer, who will make the necessary repairs if parts are available. Frequently, parts are not immediately available and you may have to wait, sometimes for months in the case of a large recall. The dealer may voluntarily provide you with a loaner but is not required by law to do so. 

 

 

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Nissan recalls model 2002 Pathfinders and Infiniti QX4s

The Takata airbag inflators may rupture

Nissan North America (Nissan) is recalling 46 model year 2002 Pathfinders and Infiniti QX4s.The vehicles' Takata airbag inflators assembled as part of...

PhotoNissan North America (Nissan) is recalling 46 model year 2002 Pathfinders and Infiniti QX4s.

The vehicles' Takata airbag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front airbag modules used as original equipment or replacement equipment may rupture in the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the front airbags.

What to do

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger airbag assembly, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

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

This story is based on a recall notice issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the automobile manufacturer. Although the recall notice may specify certain models and production years, the actual recall may officially include only certain vehicles within those categories -- production runs during a certain time span, for example.

Has your car been recalled? To check whether there are outstanding recalls on your car, jot down your VIN number (which you can find in the lower left corner of your windshield), go to www.nhtsa.gov/recalls, and enter the VIN where indicated. 

Once notified of a recall, you should contact your local dealer, who will make the necessary repairs if parts are available. Frequently, parts are not immediately available and you may have to wait, sometimes for months in the case of a large recall. The dealer may voluntarily provide you with a loaner but is not required by law to do so. 

 

 

More

Choice Farms recalls mushrooms stuffed with cheese

The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Choice Farms is recalling a limited quantity of stuffed mushrooms that be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No illnesses have been reported to d...

PhotoChoice Farms is recalling a limited quantity of stuffed mushrooms that be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall pertains to a total of seven individual shrink-wrapped trays of one of three following stuffed mushroom types:

Product DescriptionBest if Enjoyed ByLot NumberUPC

Traditional Gourmet Portabella Mushrooms
(2 count tray, 8 oz.)

2/16/2017120410007-17524-72470

Pizza style Portabella Mushrooms
(2 count tray, 8 oz.)

2/16/2017120410007-17524-72471

Stuffed Mushrooms
(6 count tray, 7 oz.)

2/16/2017120410007-17524-72469

The recalled products were sold on Friday, February 10, 2017, at the following stores:

Store #Location
Kroger 445

5330 S. Cooper/ Green Oaks
Arlington, TX 76017

Kroger 461

5190 Hwy. 78
Sachse, TX 75048

Kroger 529

4241 Capitol Avenue
Dallas, TX 75204

Kroger 566

3205 University Drive
Nacadoches, TX 75965

Kroger 575

2935 Ridge Road
Rockwall, TX 75032

Kroger 695

5701 W. Pleasant Ridge
Arlington, TX 76016

Dillon 072

10515 W. Central Ave.
Wichita, KS 67212

What to do

Customers who suspect they have purchased the recalled products should dispose them and contact Choice Farms LLC for a refund.

Consumers with questions may contact Choice Farms at 800-605-0881.

More

New sell-by labels aim to reduce confusion, waste

Forty percent of food goes to waste in the U.S. each year, partly because of unclear labels

Every now and then, you'll see a story explaining that the dates stamped on food don't really mean much -- that most of them are voluntary and aren't reall...

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Cuban tourism not as robust as some had hoped

Travel restrictions remain in effect, perhaps dissuading many travelers

The Caribbean has been jam-packed with vacationing Americans this winter, with one glaring exception: Cuba. The long-isolated nation became open to U.S. to...

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Suit over Odwalla ingredients moves forward

Lawsuit claims that the Coca-Cola brand was not forthcoming in its labeling

Do Odwalla drinks and bars contain sugar? It depends on whether you consider "evaporated cane juice" to be sugar. Robin Reese does. In a 2013 lawsuit, she...

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Mortgage payments take bigger bite out of family budgets

Homebuyers squeezed between rising interest rates and home prices

There's a term for it – house poor. It means after paying for your house each month, you have little money left over.Real estate marketplace Zillow rep...

PhotoThere's a term for it – house poor. It means after paying for your house each month, you have little money left over.

Real estate marketplace Zillow reports that it seems to be becoming the norm. Interest rates are going up, along with home values. As a result, Zillow says the average mortgage payment takes a bigger bite of household income than at any time in the last six years.

A year ago, homebuyers spent an average of 14.7% of household income on the mortgage. Now, it's 15.8%.

The rise in home values has been the biggest driver, Zillow says. Average home prices nationwide are rising more than 5% a year, largely because of a prolonged drop in inventory. With fewer homes on the market, the ones that are for sale can command higher prices. They sell closer to asking prices because sellers, not buyers, have the upper hand.

$758 average payment

At the end of last year, the average monthly mortgage payment totaled $758, an increase of about $68 over the previous year. Zillow says most of the increase is because of rising home values. Another factor is property taxes. As the value of a house increases, so do the real estate taxes, which are tacked onto the monthly mortgage payment.

While the Federal Reserve is on a path of higher rates, the Federal Funds rate that it controls has little impact on mortgage rates. Instead, the stronger dollar has driven bond yields higher, and it is those rates – especially the rate on the 30-year Treasury note, that most influence mortgage rates.

Expensive homes get more expensive

“As mortgage rates rise, buyers will face higher financing costs and already expensive homes will come with even higher monthly mortgage payments," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

She says mortgage rates could rise further before the share of income needed to pay the median monthly mortgage reaches the historical average. That said, many expensive markets on both coasts have already exceeded it.

“On the rental side, rent appreciation has slowed lately, giving renters' incomes a chance to catch up as many are already committing a larger share of their income to a monthly rental payment," Gudell said.

Mortgage payments also vary from market to market, since houses in California generally cost a lot more than they do in Nebraska. The Zillow report shows mortgage payments for homeowners in Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco take the biggest budget bites of household income – more than 40%.

More

Consumers falling behind on car payments

Delinquencies rise, along with consumer debt

A report this week from the New York Federal Reserve Bank shows the delinquency rate on new car loans continued to rise in the fourth quarter of last year,...

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Profile of an investment fraud victim

AARP finds the victim tends to be older and overconfident about their financial abilities

Investment fraud is one of the oldest scams going. Someone who appears trustworthy holds out the prospect of generous returns on an investment.But it t...

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Saputo Inc. recalls Gouda cheese products

Officials say the goods may be contaminated with listeria

Saputo Inc. has initiated a recall of certain Gouda cheese products over concerns of a potential listeria contamination. Supplier Deutsch Kase Haus LLC not...

PhotoSaputo Inc. has initiated a recall of certain Gouda cheese products over concerns of a potential listeria contamination. Supplier Deutsch Kase Haus LLC notified the company of the danger after finding that its products may have been compromised

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can be potentialy fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. However, even healthy consumers can experience symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women who are infected stand the chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

The recall covers two products -- Great Midwest Applewood Smoked Gouda Cheese and Dutchmark Pasteurized Processed Smoked Gouda Cheese. Both were sold nationwide, primarily in retail stores and at deli counters.

Information on the brand, product, pack size, universal product code (UPC), and "Sell By" date can be found below. No illnesses have been associated with this recall thus far.

Photo

What to do

Consumers who have purchased either recalled product are urged to dispose of it or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. If you are concerned about any illness or injury as a result of consuming the product, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

For more information, consumers can contact the company at 1-877-578-1510, Monday through Frida, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. EST. 

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FTC urged to step up privacy protection for consumers

Americans are 'at great risk' of harm from identity theft, data breaches, and financial fraud

A coalition of consumer groups is urging the Federal Trade Commission to double down on its efforts to protect consumers who it says are at "great risk of...

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Traffic deaths surge in 2016

Deaths rose 14% since 2014, the biggest two-year increase in 53 years

The National Safety Council estimates nearly 40,000 people died in traffic accidents last year, 6% more than the previous year and 14% more than in 2014....

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Delta dishing up more meals on transcontinental flights

Changes will begin on March 1 and expand to other markets in late April

Back in December, Delta announced that it would be testing complimentary meals for coach passengers on its transcontinental flights. Travelers flying betwe...

PhotoBack in December, Delta announced that it would be testing complimentary meals for coach passengers on its transcontinental flights. Travelers flying between New York-JFK and Los Angeles International Airport/San Francisco International Airport were being targeted to see if the program was feasible.

Now it seems that the company will be expanding on that effort. An announcement released by Delta states that it will begin offering complimentary meals on the aforementioned flights on March 1 and will expand it to 10 other cross-country flights by April 24.

Markets in Seattle, California, New York, Boston, and Washington D.C. will benefit from the upgrade, with customers getting a free meal if they fly BOS-SFO, BOS-LAX, BOS-SEA, DCA-LAX, FK-PDX, JFK-SAN, JFK-SEA, SEA-FLL, SEA-MCO, and SEA-RDU.

“The enhancement is part of Delta’s ongoing multi-million dollar investment in the on-board customer experience that includes upgraded Main Cabin snacks, enhanced blankets, refreshed Flight Fuel food-for-purchase options and free in-flight entertainment,” the company stated.

Meal options

Travelers will be able to choose from a few different meal options for their complimentary meal. For breakfast, fliers can choose between a Honey Maple Breakfast Sandwich, the Luvo Breakfast Medley, or a fruit and cheese plate. For lunch, Delta offers a choice between a Mesquite-Smoked Turkey Combo, the Luvo Mediterranean Whole Grain Veggie Wrap, or a fruit and cheese plate. Those flying overnight will be also be offered a breakfast bar during the pre-arrival beverage service.

Additionally, Delta Comfort+ members will be offered a pre-arrival snack basket and complimentary beer, wine, and spirits if over 21. For members flying from JFK to LAX or SFO, a mid-service Greek frozen yogurt bar will also be provided.

Delta stated that it expanded its offering to more flights after receiving positive feedback from its customers on tests conducted last year.

“We are all about making our Main Cabin experience the best it can be for our customers and offering free, high quality meals is a big part of that experience. When we tested this concept, our customers loved it and appreciated it so we are implementing in our most strategic markets,” said Allison Ausband, Delta’s Senior Vice President of In-Flight Service.

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Loblaw Companies Limited recalls baby food pouches due to botulism concerns

Consumers who purchased the products from Canada should be extremely cautious

Loblaw Companies Limited has updated a recall of  it brand baby food pouches due to concerns that the packaging may permit the growth of Clostridium botuli...

PhotoLoblaw Companies Limited has updated a recall of  it brand baby food pouches due to concerns that the packaging may permit the growth of Clostridium botulinum.

Clostridium botulinum is a bacteria that is most commonly associated with causing botulism. Food infected with the bacteria may not look or smell spoiled, but it can have devastating health consequences. If consumed, symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, blurred or double vision, dry mouth, respiratory failure, and paralysis. In worst-case scenarios, consumption can even lead to death.

The initial recall was issued on February 3, 2017 but was updated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to include more products after a food safety investigation. The products were sold in several Canadian regions, including various locations in Ontario, Atlantic, Québec, and West. However, U.S. consumers who bought the products and brought them back to the states should also beware. 

For the full list of locations where the products were sold, and information on the brand names, common names, sizes, codes on products, and universal product codes (UPCs), consumers should visit this site here.

What to do

Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products are urged to throw them away immediately or return them to the place of purchase. If you believe you have become sick as a result of consuming a recalled product, you should call your doctor immediately.

For more information about the recall, consumers can contact Loblaw Companies Ltd at 1-888-495-5111 or online at customerservice@presidentschoice.ca. 

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Mercedes-Benz recalls some 2017 models to fix airbag issue

The occupant protection control may malfunction, not properly identifying passenger seat occupants

Mercedes-Benz is recalling several 2017 models because of a potential problem with the airbags. The company said the front passenger occupant detection con...

PhotoMercedes-Benz is recalling several 2017 models because of a potential problem with the airbags. The company said the front passenger occupant detection control unit may have been incorrectly installed. As a result, the front passenger seat occupant may be misclassified.

For example, an adult may be misclassified as a child seat, causing the front passenger air bag to be deactivated in the event of a crash, which could cause injury or death.

Affected models include certain 2017 E300, E300 4Matic, and E43 AMG vehicles.

MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the routing of the pressure hose of the seat occupancy detection control unit and replace the pressure hose and seat occupancy detection mat if necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in early March 2017. Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-800-367-6372.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

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Britax recalls Click & Go receivers on baby strollers due to potential fall hazard

A damaged receiver mount can cause the car seat to disengage and fall unexpectedly

Britax has initiated a recall of approximately 717,000 units of its Britax B-Agile and BOB Motion Strollers with Click & Go receivers.The company says...

PhotoBritax has initiated a recall of approximately 717,000 units of its Click & Go receivers found on Britax B-Agile and BOB Motion Strollers.

The company says a damaged receiver mount on the stroller can cause the car seat to disengage and fall unexpectedly when the products are in travel system mode, which poses a fall hazard to infants in the car seat. The recall pertains to strollers that are folding, single or double occupant models and have Click & Go receiver mounts that attach the car seat carrier to the stroller frame.

There are 121 affected model numbers of the B-Agile products and 21 affected model numbers of the BOB products included in the recall, which can be viewed here. The model numbers can be found on the inside of the stroller's metal frame near the right rear wheel for single strollers and in the front middle underside of the frame on double strollers.

The products were sold nationwide between May, 2011 and February, 2017 at retailers like Babies R Us, buy buy Baby, and Target, as well as online at Amazon.com, albeebaby.com, buybuybaby.com, diapers.com, ToysRUs.com, and other websites. The products cost between $250 and $470 for the strollers and the travel systems. 

Thus far, Britax has received 33 reports of car seats unexpectedly disconnecting from the strollers and falling to the ground, which has resulted in 26 injuries. The company is aware of 1,337 reports of strollers that have damaged Click & Go receiver mounts. 

What to do

Britax is urging consumers who own one of the affected products to stop using the strollers in cars; however, it says that the products can continue to be safely used as a stroller.

The company is asking that consumers not return the product to the retailer. Instead, consumers should dispose of the Click & Go receivers. The company has pledged to provide a remedy kit to fix the broken part for single stroller models. 

For more information, consumers can contact Britax online at us.britax.com/recall and stroller.recall@britax.com. Consumers can also reach the company by phone at 844-227-0300, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. 

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Veggie Noodle Co. recalls butternut spirals

The products may have been contaminated with listeria

Veggie Noodle Co. based out of Austin, Texas is voluntarily recalling certain Butternut Spiral products due concerns of a possible listeria contamination....

PhotoVeggie Noodle Co. based out of Austin, Texas is voluntarily recalling certain Butternut Spiral products due concerns of a possible listeria contamination.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism can be potentialy fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. However, even healthy consumers can experience symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women who are infected stand the chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

The recalled products were packaged in 10.7 oz clear plastic containers with the universal product code (UPC) of 852287006059 and an "Enjoy By" date of February 23, 2017; both pieces of information can be found on the side of the packaging. 

The products were shipped to several U.S. states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. There have been no reported illnesses related to the recall at this time.

What to do

Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products are urged by the company not to consume them and to either discard or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

For more information, consumers can contact Veggie Noodle Co. via email at info@veggienoodleco.com or by phone at 512-200-3337, extension 500, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. 

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Century Packing Corp. recalls nearly 1,000,000 pounds of chicken sausage products

The company says the items contained undeclared MSG

Century Packing Corp. has recalled 999,419 pounds of thermally processed, commercially sterile chicken sausage products due to a misbranding issue.The...

PhotoCentury Packing Corp. has recalled 999,419 pounds of thermally processed, commercially sterile chicken sausage products due to a misbranding issue.

The products contained monosodium glutamate (MSG), but the substance was not declared on the product labels, according to findings from U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). 

The recalled products were produced from January 1, 2015 through February 13, 2017 and were distributed for retail and institutional use in Florida and Puerto Rico. In total, there were six recalled products:

  • 2.78-oz. pouches of “Great Value Minis – Bites of Chicken Sausage and Bouillon” with Packaging Dates of “01/01/2015 – 02/13/2017”
  • 10-oz. pouches of “Great Value Minis – Bites of Chicken Sausage and Bouillon” with Packaging Dates of “01/01/2015 – 02/13/2017”
  • 2.78-oz. pouches of “Econo Mini – Bite Size Chicken Sausages” with Packaging Dates of “ 01/01/2015 – 02/13/2017”
  • 10-oz. pouches of “Econo Mini – Bite Size Chicken Sausages” with Packaging Dates of “01/01/2015 – 02/13/2017”
  • 5-oz. cans of “Sedano’s Chicken Vienna Sausage in Chicken Broth” with Packaging Dates of “08/2015” and “05/2016”
  • 117 units per pouch of “ Carmela Foods Chicken Sausage and Bouillon” with Packaging Dates of “02/2016 – 02/14/2017”

What to do

Each product can also be identified by a "P-7375" establishment number inside the USDA mark of inspection. There have been no illnesses reported in connection to these products thus far, but any consumer who has a health concern is urged to contact their healthcare provider.

Consumers seeking more information about the recall can contact the company's Quality Control Manager Yixa Hernandez at (787) 716-2555.

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Yahoo and Verizon reportedly move closer to a deal

The latter may ask for a $250 million discount and will share ongoing legal responsibility for recent data breaches

The Yahoo and Verizon acquisition deal has faced many bumps in the road since the deal was first struck last July. In September, details on Yahoo’s data br...

PhotoThe Yahoo and Verizon acquisition deal has faced many bumps in the road since the deal was first struck last July. In September, details on Yahoo’s data breach of 500 million accounts were made public and threatened the security of the arrangement.

Unfortunately, things only seemed to escalate from there. Rumors circulated that Verizon was seeking a $1 billion discount on the deal, and executives stated that they needed more information before things could move forward. Then, in December, a separate data breach of one billion user accounts was revealed, and many experts proclaimed that the acquisition was as good as dead.

However, Verizon hasn’t left the negotiating table, and now sources are saying that a new deal could be imminent. Bloomberg quotes sources close to the matter as saying that Verizon is close to renegotiating a deal that would reduce the original $4.8 billion price tag by about $250 million.

Additionally, sources say that Yahoo’s renamed entity Altaba would share ongoing legal responsibilities related to the data breaches. While a specific timetable for the announcement has not been set, and the deal could be renegotiated further, sources say the deal could be announced as soon as a few days or as late as a few weeks from now.

Cementing a deal

Yahoo has been under pressure to cement the deal for some time. CEO Marissa Mayer, who was brought in specifically to turn things around for the struggling company, has been at the helm as each data breach was publicized. However, earlier reports suggest that she will be stepping down as a director pending a successful acquisition deal.

Verizon has faced a different sort of pressure connected to the deal. Yahoo’s platform of one billion users would greatly help the company expand into the mobile media and advertising markets, but some shareholders may be leery about doing business with a company that has suffered so much scandal in such a short amount of time. However, ultimately, those same shareholders would have to approve a revised deal before it could go forward.

On news of the deal, Yahoo’s stock jumped 2% to $45.93 just before 11:00 a.m. Consequently, Verizon shares slipped 0.7% to $47.95. 

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Peanut aims to help women form meaningful friendships with like-minded mamas

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Report says nearly 56,000 bridges are 'structurally deficient'

Trade group says these spans are crossed 185 million times a day

When the U.S. Department of Transportation recently released its National Bridge Inventory report for 2016, one group was particularly interested.The A...

PhotoWhen the U.S. Department of Transportation recently released its National Bridge Inventory report for 2016, one group was particularly interested.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), a trade group representing highway contractors, got out its calculator and did some math.

It counted 55,710 bridges in the U.S. that were structurally compromised. After some calculations, it said it discovered cars, trucks, and school buses cross these bridges 185 million times a day.

Only 1,900 of the bridges on the list are on the Interstate Highway System. But ARTBA says state transportation departments have pointed out 13,000 interstate bridges that either need replacement, widening, or major work.

Slight improvement

The number of structurally deficient bridges actually declined 0.5% from 2015, but ARTBA says that really isn't good news. If that's all the improvement that can be gained in 12 months, the group says it would take more than 20 years to improve or replace all of the bridges on the list.

ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black says about 28% of the deficient bridges are more than 50 years old and have never had any major reconstruction work done.

“America’s highway network is woefully underperforming," Black said. "It is outdated, overused, underfunded, and in desperate need of modernization.”

Black says state and local transportation departments lack the resources to keep up with bridge repairs.

Infrastructure spending?

During the Presidential campaign, Donald Trump focused on the nation's "crumbling infrastructure" as one of his priorities. Wall Street expects major spending in that area in the months ahead, one reason for the stock market's current lofty elevation.

Being declared "structurally deficient" doesn't mean a bridge is about to fall down. Bridges are rated on a scale of one to nine for their soundness, and a rating of four or below puts it in the deficient category. While the bridges might not be immediately unsafe, ARTBA says they do need attention.

The report found Iowa has the most structurally deficient bridges, followed by Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. Nevada, Delaware, and Hawaii have the fewest.

Bridges rarely collapse, but when they do the results can be catastrophic. In 2007, a span of an I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 135.

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Guggisberg Cheese Inc. recalls colby products due to listeria concerns

Consumers are urged to discard or return the products

Guggisberg Cheese Inc. is initiating a recall of certain colby cheese products after receiving reports of a possible listeria contamination.Listeria mo...

PhotoGuggisberg Cheese Inc. is initiating a recall of certain colby cheese products after receiving reports of a possible listeria contamination.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can be potentialy fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. However, even healthy consumers can experience symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women who are infected stand the chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

The products were produced by Guggisberg Cheese Inc. and Deutsch Kase Haus, LLC between September 1, 2016 and January 27, 2017. They were packaged in clear plastic and sold at deli counters and in retail stores in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, and West Virginia. There have thus far been no reports of illness related to this recall.

The full list of recalled products, including information about the product, size, universal product code (UPC), and "Use By" dates can be seen below:

Photo

What to do

Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products are urged to either throw them away or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

For more information, consumers can contact customer service representative Ursula Bennett at 330-893-2500, Monday through Wednesday and Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST. 

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VW recalls some 2017 Passats for potential brake problem

The company says that brake fluid may leak from affected models

Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. is recalling certain 2017 Passat vehicles. Brake fluid may leak slowly from the some of the brake line connections, resul...

PhotoVolkswagen Group of America, Inc. is recalling certain 2017 Passat vehicles. Brake fluid may leak slowly from the some of the brake line connections, resulting in a low brake fluid level.

A low brake fluid level may lengthen the distance needed to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will replace the affected brake lines, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in March 2017. Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 47N3.

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

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Against the Grain Pet Food recalls products over pentobarbital concerns

The barbiturate can cause drowsiness, dizziness, or even induce a coma

Against the Grain Pet Food is initiating a recall for one lot of its "Against the Grain Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs" dog food. Company officials...

PhotoAgainst the Grain Pet Food is initiating a recall for one lot of its "Against the Grain Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs" dog food. Company officials say that the product may be contaminated with pentobarbital.

Pentobarbital is a barbiturate that can cause several side effects for dogs who consume it, including drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea nystagmus (wherein the eyes move back and forth in a jerky manner), inability to stand, and coma. 

The product was manufactured and distributed in 2015 and has an expiration date of December, 2019. The lot number on affected products is 2415E01ATB12 and the second half of the universal product code (UPC) is 80001. These figures can be found on the back of the product label. 

What to do

There have been no complaints reported to Against the Grain about the product at this time. However, consumers in possession of recalled cans are urged not to feed it to the food to pets. 

The company recommends returning the product to the place of purchase. Consumers who do so will receive a full case of Against the Grain food for any inconvenience.

For more information, consumers can contact the company at 1-800-288-6796, Monday through Friday, between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. CST.

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How to protect your home from burglars

There are lots of products and services, but some may be more effective than others

There are many consumer products and services designed to help homeowners protect their dwellings from burglaries.Depending on where you live, that may...

PhotoThere are many consumer products and services designed to help homeowners protect their dwellings from burglaries.

Depending on where you live, that may be a pressing concern. According to the FBI, burglaries accounted for nearly 24% of property crimes committed in 2010. The cost to victims that year was an estimated $4.6 billion.

Before deciding whether you need a deterrent and what type, it might be useful to hear from some actual burglars who have encountered these obstacles.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina Charlotte visited 422 convicted burglars who were serving time in prison, asking them what was most effective at keeping them out of a home.

Alarms are a deterrent

The study suggests alarms are an effective deterrent. Sixty percent of the burglars questioned said they would seek another target if they encountered a house with an alarm.

An equal number said they would be discouraged by the presence of video surveillance, and would be likely to choose another house to rob.

The overwhelming majority of the burglars who were interviewed were not pros. Most of them admitted they were breaking into homes in search of drugs or to steal stuff they could sell to support their drug habit.

In fact, unless you live in a mansion, that's likely to be who is trying to break into your house, not a cat burglar in search of diamonds.

Laminate windows

Writing on Quora, David Cole passed along a post he said he found on Reddit from someone purporting to be a retired cat burglar. His advice to consumers was to laminate first floor windows.

"A crook's biggest weapon is speed, and their biggest enemy is time," the purported burglar wrote. "If somebody were to try to break into your home and ended up hitting a window that was laminated, they would, in almost every case, run off."

He suggested laminated windows delivered a lot more security than alarms or dogs, but then again the guy was supposedly a pro. Amateurs in search of drug money may be less likely to be skilled at disabling security systems or befriending dogs.

Signs.com suggests just having a sign that says the house is protected by a security system, or that a dog is on the premises, is usually enough to make a would-be burglar move on to your neighbor's house.

Assuming a burglar cases a house before breaking in, he or she may be deterred if it appears the target imposes challenges. A well-lit porch and good visibility from the street may also be an effective deterrent.

Learn more about home security systems.

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Wholesale inflation jumps 0.6% in January

Rise was propelled mostly by gasoline costs

The government reports inflation at the wholesale level surged in January, rising 0.6%. That reflects an increase in costs before goods go on sale to consu...

PhotoThe government reports inflation at the wholesale level surged in January, rising 0.6%. That reflects an increase in costs before goods go on sale to consumers. At some point, however, consumers should expect to pay at least some of those costs.

Most of the January increase was for food, energy, and trade services. When those categories are stripped out, the Producer Price Index rose just 0.2%.

Prices for what are known as final demand goods moved up 1.0% in January, the largest rise since a 1.0% gain in May 2015. Final demand reflects the final stage of the process when a good or service is offered to retailers.

In January, most of the final demand increase can be traced to energy, which was 4.7% higher. Oil and gasoline prices moved up early in the year on the belief that production cuts by OPEC would reduce supply. So far, the evidence on that has been sketchy.

Gasoline was the big driver

When you drill down deeper into the energy category, you see that gasoline was the big driver there. The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the gasoline index surged 12.9% in January, even though prices have remained more stable at the retail level.

Costs associated with drug production, iron and steel scrap, home heating oil and natural gas, and pork also moved higher. Their rise was partially offset by a 7.2% decline in beef and veal prices.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the U.S. inflation rate has remained largely non-existent. The reduction in demand for goods and services actually created a deflationary effect.

The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates near 0% for years in an effort to produce a little inflation in the economy. While high inflation, such as what the U.S. experienced in the 1970s, can be very bad for consumers, economists say some inflation is needed to give businesses the ability to raise prices over time.

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BMW recalls models with possible CV joint problems

The rear CV joint may fatigue and break, which could cause the car to stop suddenly

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MDS Foods Inc. recalls multiple cheese products

A supplier informed the company that products may be contaminated with listeria

MDS Foods Inc. -- operating out of Massillon, Ohio -- has issued a recall of multiple products that may have been contaminated by listeria. The company was...

PhotoMDS Foods Inc. -- operating out of Massillon, Ohio -- has issued a recall of multiple products that may have been contaminated by listeria. The company was informed by one of its suppliers, Deutsch Kase Haus, that its minihorn cheeses may have been infected by the dangerous bacteria.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism can be potentialy fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. However, even healthy consumers can experience symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women who are infected stand the chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

The affected products were distributed nationwide by MDS Foods Inc. under multiple brand labels, including Amish Classics, Meijer, Deli Made EZ, Deli Readi, Lipari Old Tyme, Duck Deli, and Old Tyme. 

The full list of recalled food items due to found contamination from the cheese supplier can be seen below, including information on the brand, description, product size, piece UPC code, case UPC code, and date code:

MDS Foods 
Item #

Brand

Description

Product Size

Piece UPC Code

Case UPC Code

Date Code

55209

Amish
Classics

Colby Deli (Mini) Horn

6 lb

8 28653 552093

00 8 28653 55209 3

Sell by: May 17, 2017

55241

Amish
Classics

Colby RW Fullmoon

Approx. 8 oz

8 28653 55241 3

00 8 28653 55241 3

Best if used by:
07/10/17

7/4/2017

6/4/2017

5/19/2017

55245

Amish
Classics

Colby EW Fullmoon

8 oz

8 28653 55245 1

00 8 28653 55245 1

Best if used by:

7/10/2017

7/4/2017

6/3/2017

5/19/2017

55831

Deli
Readi

Colby Mini
Cheese Slices

2 lb pack

6 34660 62859 7

00 6 34660 62859 7

Best if used by:
05/02/2017

4/22/2017

55553

Deli
Made EZ

Colby Cheese
Slices

1.5 lb pack

8 28653 55554 4

00 8 28653 55553 7

335-16

18755

Meijer

Colby Jack Mini
Horn

6 lb

710917 18755

7 10917 18755

Sell by Date:
05/02/17

55755

Meijer

Colby Mini Horn

6 lb

710917 55755

7 10917 55755

Sell by Date:
05/02/17

Cheese products being recalled due to potential contamination are listed in the next table:

MDS Foods Item #

Brand

Description

Product
Size

Piece UPC Code

Case UPC Code

Date Code

55244

Amish 
Classics

Colby RW 
Halfmoon

Approx. 
8 oz

N/A

0 08 28653 55244 4

Best if used by: 
07/10/2017

55758

Meijer

Colby EW Halfmoon

8 oz

7 13733 34047 2

0 07 13733 34047 2

Best if used by:
07/10/2017

18244

Amish
Classics

Colby Jack RW Halfmoon

Approx.
8 oz

N/A

00828653182443

Best if used by:
07/10/2017

18758

Meijer

Colby Jack 
EW Halfmoon Chunk

8 oz

713733340588

00713733340588

Best if used by: 
07/10/2017

18241

Amish 
Classics

Colby Jack 
RW Fullmoon

Approx. 
8 oz

N/A

0 08 28653 18241 2

Best if used by: 
07/10/2017

18245

Amish 
Classics

Colby Jack 
EW Fullmoon

8 oz

828653182450

00828653182450

Best if used by: 
07/10/2017

28245

Amish 
Classics

Cheddar 
EW Fullmoon

8 oz

828653282457

00828653282457

Best if used by: 
07/10/2017
07/04/2017

73705

Lipari Old 
Tyme

Swiss 
Sandwich
Cut

Approx 
8.5 lbs

N/A

00828653737056

Best if used by: 
07/04/2017

10241

Amish
Classics

Jalapeno RW Fullmoon

Approx.
8 oz

N/A

0 08 28653 10241 0

Best if used by:
07/04/2017

10245

Amish 
Classics

Jalapeno 
EW Fullmoon

8 oz

828653102458

00828653102458

Best if used by: 
07/04/2017

18830

Deli Readi

Colby Jack 
St Pk 1oz Halfmoon Slice

1 lb

6 34660 62875 7

006 34660 62875 7

Best if used by: 
05/02/2017

10831

Deli Readi

Jalapeno St 
Pk 1oz Slice

2 lb pack

6 34660 62878 8

0 06 34660 62878 8

Best if used by: 
04/22/2017

26831

Deli Readi

Hot Pepper St Pk 1oz Slice

2 lb pack

6 34660 62868 9

0 06 34660 62868 9

Best if used by:
04/22/2017

26555

Deli 
Made EZ

Hot Pepper 
St Pk .5oz
Slice

1.5 lb 
pack

8 28653 26555 9

0 08 28653 26555 9

Best if used by: 
04/22/2017

28747

Duck Deli

Cheddar St 
Pk .75oz
Slice

1.5 lb 
pack

8 28653 28747 6

0 08 28653 28747 6

Production Date: 
358-16

28545

Deli
Made EZ

Cheddar St Pk .75oz Slice

2.0 lb pack

8 28653 28545 8

0 08 28653 28545 8

Best if used by:
04/22/2017

28555

Deli
Made EZ

Ched Mild Stk Pk .5oz Slice

1.5 lb pack

8 28653 28555 7

0 08 28653 28555 7

Best if used by:
04/22/2017

55830

Deli Readi

Colby St Pk
1oz 
Halfmoon
Slices

1.0 lb pack

6 34660 62872 6

0 06 34660 62872 6

Best if used by:
04/22/2017

55703

Old Tyme

Colby EW Halfmoon

8 oz

0 94776 10227 3

0 00 41563 26105 7

Best if used by:
06/03/2017

10555

Deli 
Made EZ

Jalapeno 
Jack St Pk 
.5oz Slice

1.5 lb 
pack

8 28653 10555 8

0 08 28653 10555 8

Best if used by: 
03/30/2017

What to do

Consumers who have purchased any of the listed cheese products from the listed sell-by dates are urged not to consume the product and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Products with unreadable codes should also be returned for the sake of safety.

For more information, consumers can contact MDS Foods Customer Service at (330) 879-9780, extension 105, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. EST. 

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Verizon introduces unlimited data plan

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Chevrolet Cruze Diesel hits 52 mpg mark

But will Americans go for diesels after the VW fiasco?

The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel has won top place in the fuel-sipping derby, qualifying for a 52 miles per gallon highway rating from the Environmental Pro...

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Gas prices aren't as low as they seem

GasBuddy analyst says nearly half of new cars now require more expensive premium

When ConsumerAffairs reports on the price of gasoline, we always focus on the price of regular gas as the baseline, since...

Photo
Photo (c) misunseo - Fotolia

When ConsumerAffairs reports on the price of gasoline, we always focus on the price of regular gas as the baseline, since the assumption is that's the fuel grade most consumers buy.

But increasingly, more consumers are filling up with more expensive premium gas, not because they want to but because the engine in their car requires it.

Patrick DeHaan, senior analyst at GasBuddy, has produced a chart that shows the rising percentage of new vehicles on the road that require premium. His chart shows it is now just under half of all new cars sold.

These cars are equipped with high-performance engines – turbo and super-charged. The reason these engines are going into so many new cars, says DeHaan, is the government's CAFE standard, which has raised the average miles per gallon a vehicle fleet must get.

“It's kind of an easy fix in that more octane can net you more power,” DeHaan told ConsumerAffairs. "Manufacturers have been pushed to do this.”

Photo
Premium fuel requirements closing the gap -- via GasBuddy

Positive effect

DeHaan believes rising CAFE standards have been a good government move because it forced carmakers to work harder at being fuel efficient. Consumers have benefited. Carmakers hadn't invested a whole lot in R&D over the last 50 years, he says.

“We're in these cars that have been modernized but what's under the hood hadn't changed a whole lot, DeHaan said. “We have cylinders and pistons and now, with CAFE standards, you're forcing manufacturers to the drawing board and they're doing more with less.”

These turbocharged engines are much smaller and use less fuel. But they produce the same, or more power than larger engines that consume more fuel. That, says DeHaan, is why we're seeing more of them. The consumer doesn't notice the difference, except at the gas pump.

Motorists driving a high performance car might not have to fill up as often, but when they do it is more expensive. Premium fuel costs more than regular.

Drastic differential

“You've seen a drastic differential between the cost of regular and premium fuel, especially in some areas of the country,” DeHaan said.

Not so much in California, where the difference is only about 25 cents a gallon. But the price gap is widening in the Midwest.

“In Chicago it's commonplace now to find premium a dollar a gallon more than regular,” DeHaan said. “You're already seeing some stations where premium is $3.99 a gallon. And if gas prices in Chicago go up 25 to 50 cents a gallon like they do every spring, that's going to put a lot of stations in downtown Chicago where premium is going to sell for over $4 a gallon, even approaching $5.”

According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey, the national average price for regular is around $2.28 a gallon. But the average price of premium is $2.79, 51 cents more. That's 28 cents a gallon more than the average price of diesel.

The bottom line, says DeHaan, is that consumers shopping for a new car have to pay attention to the engine under the hood. If it is a high-performance engine requiring premium, the cost of keeping it running could be a lot more than you think.

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PetSmart recalls Grreat Choice adult canned dog food

One lot of the product may contain metal pieces that could cause a choking hazard

PetSmart has issued a voluntary recall of one production lot of its Grreat Choice adult canned dog food after a manufacturer informed the company of consum...

PhotoPetSmart has issued a voluntary recall of one production lot of its Grreat Choice adult canned dog food after a manufacturer informed the company of consumer complaints about metal pieces that could cause a choking hazard to pets.

The product is sold nationwide at PetSmart retail stores and online at PetSmart.com, Pet360.com, and PetFoodDirect.com. 

The dog food was sold between October 10, 2016 and Feb. 7, 2017 and has a "Best By" date of 8/5/19, which can be found on the bottom of the can. More information, including the full product name, lot number, and universial product code (UPC) can be seen below:

Photo

What to do

Customers who have purchased the recalled food are advised to stop feeding it to their pets and bring any remaining cans to a PetSmart store for a full refund or exchange.

PetSmart has stated that no other "Grreat Choice" brands have been affected by the recall and no cases of illness or injury have been reported at this time.

For more information, consumers can contact PetSmart customer service at 1-888-839-9638 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. CST. 

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Taylor Farms recalls chicken and pork salad products

Affected products may be contaminated with listeria

Two Taylor Farms locations in Dallas, Texas and Tracy, California are recalling approximately 6,630 pounds of chicken and pork salad products due to possib...

PhotoTwo Taylor Farms locations in Dallas, Texas and Tracy, California are recalling approximately 6,630 pounds of chicken and pork salad products due to possible contamination by Listeria monocytogenes. 

This organism can be potentially fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. Even health consumers can be negatively affected by symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women face great risk as well, as the contamination can cause a miscarriage or stillbirth.

The affected products were all packaged from Feb. 6-9, 2017 and were shipped to distribution centers in Los Angeles and Tracy, Calif.; Portland, Ore; and Houston, Roanoke, and San Antonio, Texas. They include:

  • 10.5 oz. plastic trays of "Signature Cafe Southwest Chicken Premade Salad" with "USE BY" dates of 2/13/17, 2/14/17, and 2/15/17;
  • 10.5 oz. plastic trays of "Signature Cafe Southwest Style Salad with Chicken" with "USE BY" dates of 2/14/17, 2/15/17, and 2/16/17; and
  • 10.5 oz plastic trays of "H-E-B Shake Rattle & Bowl ROwdy Ranch Hand (contains pork)" with "USE BY" dates of 2/17/17, 2/18/17, and 2/19/17.

Each product was marked with the establisment number M/P-34013 or M/P-34733 inside the USDA mark of inspection.

What to do

The contamination was discovered on Feb. 10, 2017 by Sargento Foods Inc., which supplies Taylor Farms establisments with cheese products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) believes that consumers may still have the affected products in their refrigerators.

Consumers who are in possession of these products are urged by the agency not to consume them. Instead, the products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase. 

Consumers with questions about the M/P-34013 recall can contact National Accounts Manager Vince Ramos at (510) 378-3132. For more information about the M/P-34733 recall, contact Mark Clement at (214) 565-4848.

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Meijer recalls Meijer Brand Colby Cheese and Colby Jack deli cheeses

Affected products may be contaminated with listeria

Meijer has announced a recall of its Meijer Brand Colby Cheese and Colby Jack Cheese. The company reports that the products, which are sold exclusively thr...

PhotoMeijer has announced a recall of its Meijer Brand Colby Cheese and Colby Jack Cheese. The company reports that the products, which are sold exclusively through its deli counters, may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

This organism can be potentialy fatal to young children, the elderly, or consumers with frail or compromised immune systems. However, even healthy consumers can experience symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarhhea. Pregnant women who are infected stand the chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth.

The two cheese products were sold at Meijer stores between November 10, 2016 and February 9, 2017. No known illnesses have been reported thus far, but Meijer initiated the recall after its manufacturer identified evidence of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

What to do

The recalled products can be identified by the Universal Product Codes (UPCs) printed on the label found on plastic deli packaging. Recalled products have codes starting with 215927 or 215938, with the last six digits varying depending on the weight of the deli order. 

Consumers are urged to stop using any affected product and either dispose of it or return it to a customer service desk at any Meijer store for a full refund.

Consumers seeking additional information should contact Meijer at (800) 543-3704.

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Carl's Jr. parent company accused of wage suppression and unfair business practices

The lawsuit could mean trouble for CEO Andy Puzder, who awaits confirmation to become Labor Secretary

One former employee and one current employee of Carl’s Jr. have filed a lawsuit against the chain’s parent company Carl Karcher Enterprises LLC (CKE), char...

PhotoOne former employee and one current employee of Carl’s Jr. have filed a lawsuit against the chain’s parent company Carl Karcher Enterprises LLC (CKE), charging the company of wage suppression and unfair business practices, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The pair claims that CKE and its franchisees colluded with each other to bar employees in management positions from transferring between restaurants. This action, they say, effectively halts any attempt by workers who are seeking a raise from threatening to work at a different franchisee.

“If I can’t threaten my employer with going elsewhere – and taking my unique skills . . . to another Carl’s Jr. restaurant with me – then I am unable to demand as high of a salary. There’s no pro-competitive justification that we can identify that would support having a restraint like this. The only reason we can identify is to actively reduce labor costs to save them money,” said plaintiff attorney Nina DiSalvo.

Bad news for Puzder

While the lawsuit itself is problematic for CKE and Carl’s Jr., its ramifications could be even worse for CEO Andy Puzder. Puzder, who has long touted the virtues of free-market capitalism, has been nominated by President Trump to be Labor Secretary. 

Unfortunately for Puzder, this is not the first time that he has faced criticism for his business practices. Democrats have highlighted the CEO’s opposition to raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and past allegations claim that CKE’s restaurants violate labor laws.

Luis Bautista and Margarita Guerrero, the plaintiffs of the current suit, lend credence to these criticisms. They allege that they suffered reduced wages and had to work in “atrocious” conditions because of their franchisee’s no-hire policy. They say that CKE’s policies set up franchisees to compete with each other, but then restrict movement of workers between locations.

“CKE and Puzder cannot have it both ways. They cannot eschew their responsibilities under labor and employment laws by embracing a free-market model constituted by independent, competing franchisees, while at the same time restraining free competition to the detriment of thousands of workers employed by CKE and its franchisees,” the lawsuit states.

"Feeble and baseless"

Puzder’s legal defense has stated that the new lawsuit is nothing more than an intentionally ill-timed shot that is meant to stir up ill will before the CEO’s senate confirmation hearing.

“While we will not comment on the specifics of any pending litigation, the timing of the filing of this baseless lawsuit is obviously intended to be an attempt, albeit a feeble one, to derail the nomination of Andy Puzder,” said CKE executive vice president and general counsel Charles A. Siegel III.

Puzder’s confirmation hearing has been delayed on four separate occasions, but it is currently scheduled to take place on February 16.

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'Wine futures' turned out to have no future

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Why Americans might be feeling too confident about homeownership

Parents and Millennials may not find it easy to buy a home in 2017

Roughly 16 million American adults consider themselves “very likely” to buy a home this year, according to a new report by personal finance website Bankrat...

PhotoRoughly 16 million American adults consider themselves “very likely” to buy a home this year, according to a new report by personal finance website Bankrate.com. Another 20 million indicate they are “somewhat likely” to take the leap into homeownership in 2017.

But given the current state of the nation’s housing inventory, Americans may be feeling too optimistic about homeownership. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) puts the total amount of new home sales in 2016 at around 6 million. By the end of 2016, the NAR noted that the total housing inventory was at its lowest level since 1999.

Older Millennials and Gen X-ers are the generations most eager to purchase a new home in 2017. However, financial constraints and housing availability could prove to be obstacles to homeownership, particularly for Millennials.  

"Among millennials, there's a lot of pent-up demand for home buying," said Holden Lewis, a senior mortgage analyst at Bankrate. "They have been stymied by stagnant wages, student loans, and a lack of available starter homes. If enough affordable homes are put on the market, we might see a surge of first-time homebuyers in their early to mid-30s."

Financial issues could also make the road to homeownership more intimidating for parents with children under the age 18.

Mortgage impedes ability to save

Parents with kids are three times more likely than non-parents to say they are “very likely” to buy a new home this year -- but the expenses associated with owning a home could get in the way of achieving this goal.

High mortgage payments could hamper families’ financial well-being, putting parents at risk of becoming house poor. During a stage of life in which saving money is a top priority, having a comfortable mortgage payment is often vital.

"Having kids and raising a family is a primary reason why Americans take the leap into home ownership – many consider it a key component of the American Dream," Lewis said, adding that families need to be cognizant of all the expenses that come with a house.

Building equity

Half of parents who own homes are struggling to save for the future, according to the reportBut although financial obstacles may be present, parents don't appear to be lacking in their desire to own a home. Only 18% of parents indicate that they don’t want to own a home just yet, compared to 42% of non-parents.

For financially-strapped parents who may be wary of mortgage payments, one expert recommends thinking of a mortgage payment as a form of savings. 

"If you look at it from the aspect of you're building equity, that's obviously important," said Jim Sahnger, mortgage planner for Schaffer Mortgage in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Homeownership can also shelter you from rent hikes and may even convey tax benefits, he added.

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California housing affordability improves

Incomes are up, but housing prices aren't

Housing affordability has become a problem in recent years, especially in California. That state is home to some of the nation's most expensive housing mar...

PhotoHousing affordability has become a problem in recent years, especially in California. That state is home to some of the nation's most expensive housing markets.

So it comes as good news that the California Association of Realtors (CAR) has found that housing affordability in the state has actually improved.

The group credits increases in salaries and seasonal price dips for the improvements. It says the percentage of potential home buyers who could now afford to buy a median-priced existing single-family home in California during the fourth quarter was 31%, the same as the third quarter.

Rising incomes

Income is a key component of housing affordability. In California, a buyer needs an annual income of at least $100,800 to afford a home costing $511,360, which, believe it or not, is the median priced home in California these days.

The monthly payment, which includes taxes and insurance on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan, would be $2,520, assuming the buyer was able to make a 20% down payment and secure a mortgage with an interest rate of no more than 3.91%.

Home affordability improved slightly in the most recent quarter, as compared to the fourth quarter of 2015. Condominium and townhome affordability was also flat compared to the previous quarter.

Affordability rose in eight counties

Of course, affordability was better for some market in California than others. The CAR report shows eight counties -- Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Los Angeles, Ventura, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Madera -- saw affordability improve.

Ten counties -- San Francisco, Sonoma, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Cruz, Kern, Kings, Merced, and San Joaquin -- saw home purchases get further out of reach.

Eleven counties -- Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Fresno, Placer, Sacramento, Stanislaus, and Tulare -- saw affordability neither improve or worsen. 

Kings, Kern, San Bernardino, and Fresno counties were the most affordable counties in the fourth quarter of last year. San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz were the least affordable.

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Builder confidence grows in the market for 55+ single-family housing

However, the outlook for senior condo housing dimmed

Builders see no letup of demand in the 55+ single-family housing market.The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports its 55+ Housing Market...

PhotoBuilders see no letup of demand in the 55+ single-family housing market.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports its 55+ Housing Market Index (HMI) jumped eight points in the final three months of 2016 to 67. That's the highest reading since the inception of the index in 2008.

An index number above 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

“The significant increase in the index reading is attributed partly to a post-election boost,” said Dennis Cunningham, chairman of NAHB's 55+ Housing Industry Council, “as many builders and developers are encouraged by President Trump’s commitment to cut burdensome regulations that negatively impact small businesses.”

Cunningham says builders and developers in this market segment are also encouraged by the fact that for the next 15 years, 10,000 Baby Boomers will be turning 65 every day. “The consistent pressure of this age group wanting to downsize from a large home, shifting to other regions of the country or just simply looking for a newer home or community also play a key role in the index movement,” he added

Gauging opinion

There are separate 55+ HMIs for two segments of the 55+ housing market: single-family homes and multifamily condominiums.

Each 55+ HMI measures builder sentiment based on a survey that asks if current sales, prospective buyer traffic, and anticipated six-month sales for that market are good, fair, or poor (high, average, or low for traffic).

All three index components of the 55+ single-family HMI were higher. Present sales and expected sales for the next six months posted index-highs, increasing 11 points to 74 and 10 points to 75, respectively, while traffic of prospective buyers added two points to 49.

However, the 55+ multifamily condo HMI fell two points to 46. The index component for present sales fell one point to 50, expected sales for the next six months inched up a point to 52, and traffic of prospective buyers dropped three points to 35.

All four indices tracking production and demand of 55+ multifamily rentals increased in the fourth quarter. Present production rose six points, expected future production increased 11 points, and current demand for existing units and future demand posted index-highs -- jumping 12 points to 71 and 17 points to 76, respectively.

“The strong performance of the 55+ HMI at the end of 2016 is consistent with recent increases in broader measures of the housing market, including new home sales and the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “We expect continued growth in the 55+ market in 2017, although builders in many places will still face challenges in finding adequate supplies of inputs like labor and lots.”

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Recall of Ruth’s Salads Pimento Spreads expanded

The product may contain Listeria monocytogenes

Ruth’s Salads of Charlotte, N.C. is expanding its earlier recall of Ruth’s Salads Pimento Cheese Spreads packed in Chester, S.C.The products may be con...

PhotoRuth’s Salads of Charlotte, N.C. is expanding its earlier recall of Ruth’s Salads Pimento Cheese Spreads packed in Chester, S.C.

The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The following products, packed in plastic containers and labeled as “Packed by B&H; Foods, Inc., Chester, S.C.” are being recalled:

ProductUPCSize
Ruth’s Original Pimento Spread74952-000057 oz.
Ruth’s Original Pimento Spread74952-1202312 oz.
Ruth’s Original Pimento Spread74952-2402324 oz.
Ruth’s Old Fashion Pimento Spread74952-1500516 oz.
Ruth’s Jalapeno Pimento Spread74952-1201412 oz.
Ruth’s Lite Pimento Spread74952-1200012 oz.
Ruth’s Cream Cheese w/Pineapple-Pecans74952-1200812 oz.
 

Products labeled as packed in Charlotte, N.C. are not included in this recall.

The recalled products were distributed in grocery stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and parts of Virginia and Tennessee.

What to do

Customers who purchased the recalled products should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 800-532-0409 between 7am and 3pm Monday-Friday. Consumers may leave a message after hours and the call will be returned as soon as possible.

 

 

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Judge blocks Anthem-Cigna merger

The merger would have significantly lessened competition, the court held

A Federal judge has blocked Anthem’s $54 billion takeover of rival insurer Cigna Corp., saying it would substantially lessen competition. The ruling came i...

PhotoA Federal judge has blocked Anthem’s $54 billion takeover of rival insurer Cigna Corp., saying it would substantially lessen competition. The ruling came in response to a challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice, 11 states, and the District of Columbia.

“Today’s decision is a victory for American consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division late Wednesday.  “This merger would have stifled competition, harming consumers by increasing health insurance prices and slowing innovation aimed at lowering the costs of healthcare."

Snyder said the court "has protected consumers and the competition on which they rely."

The decision by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia concluded that Anthem’s acquisition of Cigna would violate federal antitrust laws. 

Consumer choice impact

In blocking the merger, the court ruled that the proposed merger is likely to substantially lessen competition and impact consumer choice in the sale of health insurance to “national accounts” – customers with more than 5,000 employees, usually spread over at least two states – within the fourteen states where Anthem operates. The court’s order will also preserve competition in 35 regional markets where both companies operate.

“Health insurance competition is an inherently local concern,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. “Colorado residents, businesses, health care providers, and third party payors all have a vested interest in ensuring that the quality, quantity, and price of health care services remains competitive. Today we have successfully maintained that vital competition.”

The decision follows a trial that ran from Nov. 21, 2016, to Jan. 3, 2017. In July 2016, the Justice Department along with 11 states and the District of Columbia sued to stop the merger.  

Joining the Justice Department and the District of Columbia were California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia.

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Retailers see better sales numbers for 2017

Jobless claims decline in early February

Sales in the retail sector, which excludes automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, are expected to approve in the year ahead.The National Retail Fe...

Photo

Sales in the retail sector, which excludes automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, are expected to approve in the year ahead.

The National Retail Federation predicts a sales gain of between 3.7% and 4.2% over 2016. Online and other non-store/online sales are expected to be up between 8% and 12%.

Consumers in the driver's seat

“The economy is on firm ground as we head into 2017 and is expected to build on the momentum we saw late last year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “With jobs and income growing and debt relatively low, the fundamentals are in place and the consumer is in the driver’s seat.

But, he notes, this year is unlike any other. While consumers have strength they haven’t had in the past, they will remain hesitant to spend until they have more certainty about policy changes on taxes, trade, and other issues being debated in Congress.

“Lawmakers should take note,” Shay warned, “and stand firm against any policies, rules or regulations that would increase the cost of everyday goods for American consumers.”

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz agrees that prospects for consumer spending are good, pointing out that more jobs and more income will result in more spending.

But he cautions that regardless of sentiment, “the pace of wage growth and job creation dictate spending. Our forecast represents a baseline for the year, but potential fiscal policy changes could impact consumers and the economy.”

Photo
Photo (c) designer491 - Fotolia

Jobless claims

From the Department of Labor (DOL), we have word that first-time applications for state jobless benefits were down by 12,000 in the week ending February 4 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000.

The four-week moving average came in at was 244,250 -- a drop of 3,750 from the previous week, and the lowest level since November 3, 1973, when it was 244,000.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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Hyundai recalls model year 2017 Elantras

The vehicle's brake booster may fail

Hyundai Motor Company is recalling 33,803 model year 2017 Elantras.The vehicle's brake booster may fail, resulting in a loss of power brake assist....

PhotoHyundai Motor Company is recalling 33,803 model year 2017 Elantras.

The vehicle's brake booster may fail, resulting in a loss of power brake assist.

A loss of power brake assist can lengthen the distance needed to stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

What to do

Hyundai has notified owners, and dealers will replace the brake system booster assembly, free of charge. The recall began on February 6, 2017.

Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-800-633-5151. Hyundai's number for this recall is 157.

 

 

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La-Z-Boy recalls power supplies sold with lift chairs

The power supply’s electrical components can be exposed

La-Z-Boy of Monroe, Mich., is recalling about 2,700 power supplies sold with lift chairs.The power supply cover can crack within the screw housing and...

PhotoLa-Z-Boy of Monroe, Mich., is recalling about 2,700 power supplies sold with lift chairs.

The power supply cover can crack within the screw housing and break, causing the cover to detach and expose the power supply’s electrical components, posing a shock hazard to users.

No incidents or injuries have been reported.

The recall involves the power supplies sold with Gold Series electric Lift Chairs, the Clayton Luxury-Lift (Model 1HL562) and Power Lift (Model 1ML562), and Luxury-Lift (Models 1LF505 and 1LF819). They were also part of conversion kits for older lift chairs with Models 1LL320, 1LL508, 1LL515, 1LM320, 1LM508 and 1LM515.

The power supply enables the chair’s seat to lift a consumer from a seated into a standing position. The power supply casing is a black, plastic rectangular box measuring approximately 6 inches by 3½ inches by 3½ inches.

Only power supplies with LOT #150113 are included in this recall. The model name, model number and lot number are printed on the back of the power supply.

The power supplies, manufactured in China, were sold with the chairs at La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries and independent furniture stores nationwide and online at la-z-boy.com from September 2015, through November 2016, for between $1,900 and $2,800.

The power supplies were also sold separately for about $170 and provided free under warranty as replacements for use with previously-purchased chairs.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the power supplies to power the lift chairs and contact La-Z-Boy for a free replacement power supply.

Consumers may contact La-Z-Boy toll-free at 855-592-9087 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.la-z-boy.com and click on the Recall button for more information. 

 

 

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Magazine subscription scammers fined $23 million

Consumers were promised a surprise. It turned out to be an expensive subscription

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Why drivers should stay off the road if they've recently suffered a concussion

A study shows driving performance can be negatively affected even after symptoms have disappeared

It’s common sense that you should be in a healthy state of mind before driving a car, but a new study shows that some injuries may negatively affect drivin...

PhotoIt’s common sense that you should be in a healthy state of mind before driving a car, but a new study shows that some injuries may negatively affect driving performance long after symptoms have disappeared.

Researchers from the University of Georgia have found that this is especially true of consumers who have suffered a concussion. In their study, they analyzed drivers who had recently recovered from a concussion and observed that the injury had an impact on their ability to drive safely.

"They had less vehicle control while they were doing the driving simulation, and they swerved more within the lane," Schmidt said. "This is a pretty large indicator of motor vehicle accident risk, and this is at a time point when they are considered recovered," said lead author Julianne Schmidt.

Worsened driving performance

The study included 14 college-aged participants who were within 48 hours of feeling that their concussion symptoms had gone away. Each person attested that they felt completely fine and recovered from their injuries, but their simulator results told a different story.

Participants were more likely to swerve within and out of their lane during the testing period, and overall vehicle control was poorer in the concussed group than it was in the study’s control group. This was especially apparent when navigating around curves. Schmidt says these indicators mark a clear difference between recently concussed individuals and the average driver.

"The driving simulation shows they are performing very differently on the road compared to people who are not concussed, even after such symptoms resolve," she said.

Keeping roads safe

Previously, researchers had focused concussion research on athletes and the effects of contact sports. The researchers point out that such athletes are often restricted from further participation in athletic contests, but current recommendations are lax when it comes to driving.

"In athletics, we don't restrict their driving before their symptoms resolve. Often, people will get a concussion and drive home from the event or practice that caused the concussion -- there are no restrictions there. Whereas, we would never let them go out on the field or court; we're very strict about that," said Schmidt.

The researchers believe their findings provide good evidence that concussions affect people longer than the symptoms otherwise indicate. Schmidt states that this may be reason enough to restrict driving privileges even after symptoms are clear so that concussed individuals, and those they share the road with, stay safe.

"We have very fine-tuned recommendations for when a concussed individual is ready to return to sport and the classroom, but we don't even mention driving in our recommendations. And only 50 percent of people intend to restrict their driving at any point following a concussion -- which means that by the time they are feeling better, they are almost certainly on the road."

The full study has been published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

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Domino's now has its own wedding registry

Couples can register for pizza-related gifts to enjoy before, during, and after the wedding

Domino’s is known for its outside-the-box marketing, including drone delivery in New Zealand and an ad campaign in which the company admitted that its pizz...

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Lifting heavy loads and working at night negatively affects fertility, study finds

Researchers say occupational conditions can affect the number of eggs women produce

Working late at night can be a daunting task, and there aren’t many out there who relish heavy lifting and manual labor. Now a new study shows that women w...

PhotoWorking late at night can be a daunting task, and there aren’t many out there who relish heavy lifting and manual labor. Now a new study shows that women who want to have children should avoid both.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have found that women who lift heavy loads or work non-daytime work schedules are at risk of decreased fertility.

“Our study suggests that women who are planning pregnancy should be cognizant of the potential negative impacts that non-day shift and heavy lifting could have on their reproductive health,” said lead author Lidia Minguez-Alarcón.

Work and fertility

To come to their conclusions, the researchers studied approximately 500 women who sought out infertility treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2004 and 2015. Due to similar natures, each subject was able to be analyzed by biomarkers related to fertility that are normally unmeasurable in women who can conceive naturally.

After collecting the data, Minguez-Alarcón and her colleagues evaluated the associations between the biomarkers and the physical demands and schedules of each woman’s job. They found that, on average, women who moved or lifted heavy loads at work had 8.8% fewer eggs and 14.1% fewer mature eggs compared to women who did not lift heavy objects, indicating that the activity negatively affected fertility.

Additionally, the researchers found that women had fewer eggs if they worked at night or had a rotating schedule.

Solving the problem

While the researchers aren’t sure what the exact cause is behind the relationship, they found that women who were obese or over the age of 37 were much more likely to have fewer eggs if they lifted heavy loads. However, they have speculated that working non-day shifts could negatively affect egg production because of disruptions to circadian rhythm.

While the study does corroborate some findings from past studies, it is the first to concretely tie egg production and quality to working conditions rather than ovarian age. The researchers hope that their findings will lead to future solutions to the problem.

“Future work. . . is needed to determine whether egg production and quality can be improved, and if so, how quickly, if these exposures are avoided,” said research associate Audrey Gaskins.

The full study has been published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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Housing costs weighing on Baby Boomers

A survey shows that consumers worry more about putting a roof over their head as they age

A number of recent surveys have found anxiety among Baby Boomers about retirement, primarily concerns about not having enough money.The NHP Foundation,...

PhotoA number of recent surveys have found anxiety among Baby Boomers about retirement, primarily concerns about not having enough money.

The NHP Foundation, a not-for-profit provider of affordable housing, has drilled a little deeper into those concerns. It says a poll of Americans aged 55 and older found the cost of putting a roof over their heads is a major issue.

The survey found 30% of Boomers worry at least once a month that they won't be able to afford their home. About 42% of retired people in the survey say they worry about it at least once a day.

While Millennials are known to have housing anxiety, caught between high rent and rising home prices, Boomers were thought to be more housing secure. But it turns out many Boomers who don't worry about their own housing costs do worry about those of their adult children.

Multi-generational anxiety

"The anxiety is now multi-generational," said NHPF CEO Richard Burns. "So we are working today to increase our stock of affordable housing to ensure that this and future generations are able to afford desirable places to live."

Previous NHP surveys have uncovered other concerns about housing affordability. One discovered that up to 75% of the U.S. population is worried at any given moment about losing their home. One that focused exclusively on Millennials found 76% of the younger generation had made compromises to secure affordable housing.

"These findings underscore the urgency to make housing affordability solutions a priority in America, especially for those most vulnerable," said Ali Solis, President and CEO of MakeRoom, a national renter's advocacy group.

As you might expect, there are geographical differences in the level of housing worries. There is less concern in the Midwest, where real estate prices are lower. There's more concern in the South, where incomes are lower, and in the Northeast, where real estate is more expensive.

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Mortgage applications rebound

Contract interest rates were mostly lower

After posting their first decline in four weeks last week, mortgage applications are headed higher.The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports appli...

PhotoAfter posting their first decline in four weeks last week, mortgage applications are headed higher.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports applications were up 2.3% for the week ending February 3, with the Refinance Index rising 2.0%. As a share of overall applications, refinancings fell to 47.9% -- the lowest level since June 2009.

The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 6.9% of total applications; the FHA share dipped to 11.9% from 12.1% the week before; the VA share rose to 12.7% from 12.4%; and the USDA share was unchanged at 0.9%.

Contract interest rates

  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,000 or less) was down four basis points -- to 4.35% from 4.39% -- with points unchanged at 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,000) dropped from 4.32% to 4.27%, with points decreasing to 0.31 from 0.34 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA slipped one basis point to 4.16%, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs fell to 3.55% from 3.61%, with points increasing to 0.34 from 0.33 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs rose six basis points to 3.39%, with points decreasing to 0.18 from 0.22 (including the origination fee) for 80% LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.

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Home prices post solid year-over-year advance in December

Prices, however, remain below their 2006 peak

Home prices were on the rise in December, with advances on both annual and month-over month bases.Property information provider CoreLogic reports its H...

PhotoHome prices were on the rise in December, with advances on both annual and month-over month bases.

Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI), which tracks home prices -- including distressed sales – was up 7.2% from the same month the year before and 0.8% from November.

“As of the end of 2016, the CoreLogic national index was 3.9% below the peak reached in April 2006,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic.

The 2017 outlook

According to the CoreLogic HPI Forecast, home prices will increase by 4.7% in December 2017, and on a month-over-month basis by 0.1% from December 2016 to January 2017.

If realized, the projected year-over-year increase would, according to Nothaft, “put homes prices at a new nominal peak before the end of this year.”

The CoreLogic HPI Forecast is a projection of home prices using the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables. Values are derived from state-level forecasts by weighting indices according to the number of owner-occupied households for each state.

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Ford recalls model year 2016 Focus and C-Max vehicles

The floor pan may have improperly welded left-hand apron joints

Ford Motor Company is recalling 17 model year 2016 Focus and C-Max vehicles.The floor pan may have improperly welded left-hand apron joints which may r...

PhotoFord Motor Company is recalling 17 model year 2016 Focus and C-Max vehicles.

The floor pan may have improperly welded left-hand apron joints which may reduce the front-end structural integrity of the vehicle, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

What to do

Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the apron joints, repairing the vehicle, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin March 6, 2017.

Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 17S03.

 

 

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Pet meds can poison kids, researchers warn

Tips for keeping kids safer around pet medications

It’s not uncommon for kids and pets to share a household, but the family pet may pose a health risk to kids. While Fido’s presence may be innocuous enough,...

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Steady as she goes for job openings in December

The past year saw a net employment gain of 2.4 million

Not much change during December in the number of jobs available for the taking.The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there were 5.5 million job...

PhotoNot much change during December in the number of jobs available for the taking.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there were 5.5 million job openings on the last business day of December -- about the same as in November.

Hires and separations also showed little change at 5.3 million and 5.0 million, respectively.

Job openings

The 5.5 million job openings in December translates to a rate of 3.6%, with little change in the private sector and a drop of 75,000 for government. Openings increased in other services (+50,000) and federal government (+13,000), but fell in state and local government, excluding education (-85,000). The number of job openings was little changed in all four regions of the country.

Hires

The hires rate was 3.6%, with little change in the private sector and down for government. Hires dipped in state and local government, excluding education (-33,000), and in mining and logging (-7,000). The number of hires was little changed in all four regions.

Separations

Total separations includes quits, layoffs, discharges, and other separations, and is referred to as turnover. Separations totaled 5.0 million in December -- little changed from November -- for a rate of 3.4%. There was little change in the number of separations for the private sector, while government posted a loss of 37,000. Declines were registered in state and local government (-28,000), with the number of total separations little changed in all four regions.

Net employment change

Over the 12 months ending in December, hires totaled 62.5 million and separations totaled 60.1 million. That works out to a net employment gain of 2.4 million. The totals include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.

The complete report is available on the BLS website.

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Toyota recalls model year 2016-2017 Tundras

A portion of the bumper may break away

Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 72,847 model year 2016-2017 Tundras equipped with a resin rear step bumper and resin reinforcement br...

PhotoToyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 72,847 model year 2016-2017 Tundras equipped with a resin rear step bumper and resin reinforcement brackets. Vehicles with chrome step bumpers are not affected.

In the event of an impact to the corner of the bumper, the resin bracket may be damaged but not be noticed.

If a person steps on the corner of the bumper that is damaged, a portion of the bumper may break away, increasing the risk of injury.

What to do

Toyota will notify owners, and dealers will replace the resin rear bumper reinforcement brackets with steel ones, and replace the rear bumper tread, free of charge. Remedy parts are not currently available.

Toyota will begin notifying owners of the recall on February 15, 2017. A second notice will be mailed when remedy parts are available.

Owners may contact Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331. Toyota's number for this recall is H0C.

 

 

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Model year 2016-2017 Chevrolet Cruze vehicles recalled

The seat-backs for the front seats may break in a crash

General Motors is recalling 17,197 model year 2016-2017 Chevrolet Cruze vehicles.A bracket used in the driver or front passenger seat-back recliner mec...

PhotoGeneral Motors is recalling 17,197 model year 2016-2017 Chevrolet Cruze vehicles.

A bracket used in the driver or front passenger seat-back recliner mechanism may have been incorrectly welded to the seat-back frame. As a result, in the event of a crash, the head-restraints may not function properly.

As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 202a, "Head Restraints."

The seat-backs for the front seats may break in a crash, increasing the risk of injury to the occupants.

What to do

GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the front passenger seats, replacing any with seat-back frames that are incorrectly welded, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020. GM's number for this recall is 17035.

 

 

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FCC suspends probe of free data programs

Critics charge that the reversal undermines net neutrality

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, with the support of Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly, has moved to suspend the agency's...

PhotoFederal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, with the support of Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly, has moved to suspend the agency's probe of what are known as “zero rating” programs offered by wireless providers.

Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T had been under investigation due to charges that their individual streaming packages violated the Net Neutrality Rule. All three carriers have programs under which subscribers may stream data from certain sources without it counting against their data allowances.

“The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is closing its investigation into wireless carriers' free-data offerings,” Pai said in a statement. “These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace. Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data.”

GOP commissioner Michael O'Rielly backed the move, saying the FCC should be supporting wireless providers in what he called “permissionless innovation.”

Just the first step

“While this is just a first step, these companies, and others, can now safely invest in and introduce highly popular products and services without fear of Commission intervention based on newly invented legal theories,” O'Rielly said.

But Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, currently the lone Democrat on the Commission, objected – not just to the speedy reversal of a pillar of Obama administration communication policy, but the manner in which it was done.

“It is a basic principle of administrative procedure that actions must be accompanied by reasons for that action, else that action is unlawful,” Clyburn said. “Yet that is exactly what multiple Bureaus have done today.”

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality holds that internet service providers may not favor one type of content over another. The FCC was investigating all three companies to determine if their zero rating plans violated that principal.

The agency Friday sent letters to all three companies, informing them that the inquiry has been closed.

Amid a flurry of action Friday, the FCC also reversed another Obama administration move to allow nine internet providers to participate in a federal program to provide subsidized service to low-income households.

The consumer group Free Press joined Clyburn in criticizing both the action and the way it was carried out. Policy Director Matt Wood characterized Pai's initiatives as “strong-armed tactics.”

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Getting kids to eat their vegetables

What parents can do to get little ones used to the taste of bitter veggies

Persuading a picky eater to eat bitter greens, such as kale or brussels sprouts, can be an uphill battle. Kids are notoriously fickle when it comes to food...

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Easy ways to declutter your home

Use these clutter-busting tips to help you get organized

Physical clutter can overload the senses, which is why you might feel stressed and mentally drained amid excess stuff. Clutter-free surroundings, on the ot...

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Another reason to file your tax return ASAP

The longer you wait, the more likely you are to be a victim of identity theft

Many taxpayers are eager to file their tax return because they have a big refund coming. But there's another reason to get your tax return in as quickly as...

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FTC settles with correspondence school over deceptive claims

Stratford Career Institute was charged with misleading students about its educational programs

Correspondence schools, which offer distance learning opportunities to students at all levels, can be found across the U.S. The Federal Trade Commission (F...

PhotoCorrespondence schools, which offer distance learning opportunities to students at all levels, can be found across the U.S. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled with one such school over supposed deceptive claims about its educational programs.

The agency brought charges against Stratford Career Institute in 2016, alleging that it misled consumers about its high school diploma program, which did not meet basic requirements set by most states. The agency said that consumers who tried to use the diploma to further their education were often turned away by college admissions officers.

“Many consumers cannot use their Stratford diplomas to enroll in four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, or vocational schools, or to obtain, keep, or advance in a job,” the complaint states. “According to [Stratford] records and other evidence, prospective employers and admissions counselors decline to accept Stratford’s diploma and tell consumers that they cannot use it as they would a diploma from a traditional high school.”

Under the new stipulated order, Stratford is forbidden from making future false claims about any of its educational programs. It is also required to disclose to consumers that its high school equivalency program may not be recognized by some schools and employers as a substitute for a traditional diploma or equivalency credential.

Additionally, the settlement imposes a $6.5 million judgment on Stratford, which will be suspended partially after the organization has paid $250,000. The full amount will have to be paid if Stratford is found to have misrepresented its financial condition to regulators.

Consumers can learn more about the settlement and find additional information here.

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Drop projected in Valentine’s Day spending

Fewer people celebrating means fewer buck spent

After rising for about a decade, the amount of money being spent on Valentine's Day is expected to decline this year.The annual survey by the National...

PhotoAfter rising for about a decade, the amount of money being spent on Valentine's Day is expected to decline this year.

The annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics projects consumers in the U.S. will shell out an average $136.57, down $10.27 from last year's record high.

In addition, total spending is also expected to fall to $18.2 billion from last year's all-time high of $19.7 billion.

A decline in lovers?

One reason for the decline may be that fewer people will be celebrating. The number of people surveyed who plan to celebrate the holiday has dropped by nearly 10% -- from 63% in 2007 to 54% this year.

“Valentine’s Day continues to be a popular gift-giving occasion even if consumers are being more frugal this year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This is one day of the year when millions find a way to show their loved ones they care regardless of their budget.”

According to this year’s survey, consumers plan to spend an average $85.21 on their significant other/spouse, $26.59 on other family members such as children or parents, $6.56 on children’s classmates/teachers, $6.51 on friends, $4.27 on co-workers, and $4.44 on pets.

What we're buying

Consumers plan to spend $4.3 billion on jewelry (given by 19% of shoppers), $3.8 billion on an evening out (37%), $2 billion on flowers (35%), $1.9 billion on clothing (19%), $1.7 billion on candy (50%t), $1.4 billion on gift cards/gift certificates (16%), and $1 billion on greeting cards (47%).

“Gifts of experience” such as tickets to a concert, sporting event, or an outdoor adventure appear to be popular this year -- at least among potential recipients. While 40% of consumers want one, only 24% plan to give one.

Consumers plan to shop at department stores (35%), discount stores (32%), online (27%), specialty stores (18%), florists (18%), and local small businesses (15%).

The survey, which asked 7,591 consumers about their Valentine’s Day plans, was conducted January 4-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1%.

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Having trouble sleeping? Try going camping for a weekend

Researchers find that a weekend under the stars can reset a person's internal clock

There have been countless “cures” proposed for those who have trouble sleeping. A cursory internet search will suggest anything from sipping warm milk to t...

PhotoThere have been countless “cures” proposed for those who have trouble sleeping. A cursory internet search will suggest anything from sipping warm milk to taking melatonin supplements. However, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have a much more recreational answer: go camping for a weekend.

Doctor Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor and lead author of a paper covering two studies, explains how going camping in an environment with natural light and dark cycles can reverse the damage of living everyday life in an artificially lit environment.

"These studies suggest that our internal clock responds strongly and quite rapidly to the natural light-dark cycle. . . Living in our modern environments can significantly delay our circadian timing and late circadian timing is associated with many health consequences. But as little as a weekend camping trip can reset it," he said.

Managing our internal clocks

This is not the first paper that Wright has published on the beneficial effects of camping. In 2013, he conducted a study where participants were sent to camp for a week in the summer without the use of headlamps or flashlights at night. When they returned, Wright found that their levels of melatonin – a hormone that prepares the body for nighttime and promotes sleep – had synced with sunrise and sunset, a change of almost two hours.

To build on that previous study, Wright set out to find how quickly our internal clocks could change based on the lighting of our environment and the time of the year. The first study consisted of 14 participants – nine of which were asked to camp for a weekend during the summer while the other five stayed home. After the weekend, participants who went camping had melatonin rise 1.4 hours earlier than those who hadn’t gone, suggesting that their internal clocks had altered.

In the second study, five participants camped for an entire week around the time of the winter solstice. Statistics showed that they were exposed to 13 times more natural light than usual and that their melatonin levels began to rise 2.6 hours earlier.

"Weekend exposure to natural light was sufficient to achieve 69 percent of the shift in circadian timing we previously reported after a week's exposure to natural light," Wright stated.

Getting back in sync

So, what does all of this mean for sleep? Essentially, the two studies showed that not being exposed to artificial light allowed participants’ bodies to alter according to the time of the year and their bodies’ natural needs.

When living life normally with artificial light, the body’s internal clock and natural rhythms are often thrown off, which can impact when hormones are released, when we sleep and wake up, and even our appetite and metabolism. However, the studies show that just one weekend of camping away from that environment is enough to put our bodies back in sync. Wright hopes the results will help guide building and city design to help encourage natural light to promote health.

"Our findings highlight an opportunity for architectural design to bring more natural sunlight into the modern built environment and to work with lighting companies to incorporate tunable lighting that could change across the day and night to enhance performance, health and well-being," he said.

The full study has been published in Current Biology.

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Renters seeing a little relief at the start of 2017

The average rent is up slightly after four straight months of declines

For years, young consumers starting households have been caught in a Catch 22.They might like to buy a home, but homeownership requires very good credi...

PhotoFor years, young consumers starting households have been caught in a Catch 22.

They might like to buy a home, but homeownership requires very good credit and plenty of cash for a down payment and closing costs. At the same time, renting continued to get more expensive.

In 2014 and 2015, many in the housing industry fretted over a growing rent affordability crisis, especially in the nation's hottest housing markets. Now, there appears to be a little relief.

The National Apartment List Rent Report shows February is starting with only a slight increase in rent, following four consecutive months in which the average rent actually went down.

Compared to the beginning of February 2016, today's average rent is up 1.8%, but its roughly at the same level it was last May. In 2016, rents grew at a much slower rate than the previous two months.

New apartment construction

One reason has been a flurry of apartment construction over the last few years. With rising rents, building new rental homes became much more profitable and less risky.

At the same time, home sales finally began to rise on the strength of first time home buyers -- consumers who had been renting but now owned their homes. That helped loosen up the rental inventory.

It may be the rental market is only now returning to normal after the contortions caused by the financial crisis. In the years immediately following 2008, it became a lot harder to buy a home, so more people were competing for rental property. In the depths of the Great Recession, apartment construction virtually came to a standstill.

Expensive markets see the biggest drop

The report shows rents have tended to slow the most in the areas where they had gone up the most -- places like Silicon Valley, Miami, and Houston. Eight of the top 10 most expensive rental markets saw rents rise 1% or less last year.

What's changed? Developers have been encouraged by recent increases in rents in these markets to step up building. As inventory has increased, landlords have had less leverage when it comes to rent.

There are still many areas of the country where rents are still rising and take a huge bite out of monthly cash flow. Rents are still rising in Washington, DC, for example. Suburban areas surrounding the nation's most expensive cities are also seeing rising rent.

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How much couples are spending to get married in 2017

Average wedding costs have topped 35k as couples strive to create an unforgettable experience

Couples planning to tie the knot this year may be in for some postnuptial sticker shock. A new study has found that the average cost for a wedding has hit...

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