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      McDonald's to use fresh beef over frozen patties by mid-2018

      The company is going back to basics and improving its burger game

      McDonald’s has been attempting to go back to the basics to rework its fast food image. Earlier this month, the company announced that it would be catering to existing customers by focusing on hamburger sales, instead of selling wraps and other healthier products to draw in new customers.

      Now the chain is doubling down on its burger approach. In an announcement made Thursday, the company said that it would be transitioning from using frozen patties to fresh beef in the majority of its restaurants by mid-2018. The change will augment other modernization efforts, such as using ordering kiosks and providing mobile payment options.

      “Today’s announcement is part of a continuing food journey for McDonald’s,” said McDonald’s U.S. President Chris Kempczinski.

      Fresh beef

      This isn’t the first time that McDonald’s has talked about using fresh beef to make its burgers. About a year ago, the company started testing the idea in 14 restaurants in the Dallas area, saying that if consumers liked it then they would consider rolling it out nationally.

      That program eventually expanded to hundreds of restaurants in the Dallas area, and consumers were happy to see that the change did not overly affect prices, according to the New York Times. While McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary pointed out that prices will ultimately be set by franchise owners, she stated that the company did not expect consumers to feel much burden.

      “We do not anticipate there will be any significant impact on price when this sandwich rolls out nationally,” she said.

      Catering to customers

      While they may be responsible for setting future prices, some franchise owners have expressed concerns about switching from frozen patties. They point out that freezing their product is a good way of killing pathogens like E. coli, and that using fresh beef increases the risk of possible contamination.

      Despite that risk, McDonald’s seems to be running with its new identity of giving the customers what they want. Hary said that if the fresh beef change goes well, then changes to other items could be just around the corner.

      “[McDonald’s will] continue to look at the rest of the menu based on what the customers are asking for,” she said. 

      McDonald’s has been attempting to go back to the basics to rework its fast food image. Earlier this month, the company announced that it would be catering...
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      Santander settles subprime auto loan suit with Massachusetts

      Bank will pay $22 million to state and affected consumers

      During the housing bubble, millions of homebuyers with iffy credit got stuck with subprime mortgages that, in many cases, turned out to be unaffordable.

      In the end, it nearly brought down the financial system.

      Subprime mortgages are less common now, but subprime loans have not disappeared. They're increasingly common in auto lending.

      In Massachusetts, one subprime auto lender, Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., will pay $22 million to settle charges from an investigation into its lending in the state.

      Unfair and unaffordable

      “After years of combating abuses from subprime mortgage lenders, these practices are unfortunately familiar,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy. “We found that Santander, a leading player in the business of packaging and reselling subprime auto loans, funded unfair and unaffordable auto loans for more than 2,000 Massachusetts residents.”

      Healy says Massachusetts is the first state to reach a settlement relating to subprime auto loans. She said the settlement will provide relief to affected consumers and make future abuses less likely.

      Much like the subprime mortgage fiasco, Healy said her investigation found that loans were being made to consumers without a reasonable basis for belief they could be repaid.

      Healy alleges that Santander actually predicted that many of the loans would default, and also realized that financial information submitted by applicants was fictional, or at best inflated.

      How it worked

      Here's how it worked: a consumer found a car at a dealer they wanted to buy. The dealer offered financing, even though the buyer's credit was bad. Regardless, non-dealer institutions like Santander bought the loan and repackaged it, selling a bundle of these loans as securities to investors.

      In 2008, when thousands of subprime mortgages went into default, it destroyed the value of those securities and nearly brought down investment banks, while drastically reducing the value of real estate.

      Could subprime auto loans be as big of a systemic risk? Economists say it's unlikely, since repossessed vehicles are more easily resold than houses. But it certainly is a financial catastrophe for the consumers who lose their cars.

      Healy faulted Santander for what she termed a lack of oversight. She said the bank's own internal audit raised warning flags, concluding that its oversight of the dealers making these subprime loans was inadequate.

      During the housing bubble, millions of homebuyers with iffy credit got stuck with subprime mortgages that, in many cases, turned out to be unaffordable....
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      Consumers overpaying for gasoline, study finds

      GasBuddy finds widest price gap within markets when prices are low

      The price of gasoline has been relatively low for nearly two and a half years. The drop, which began in late 2014, followed 11 years of near record high prices at the pump.

      But while consumers are far better off than they were in 2012, Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, says right now is when consumers are in greatest danger of overpaying for fuel. He says GasBuddy conducted a study that demonstrates just how much we're overpaying.

      Think of it this way. When prices are sky-high, you probably search out the cheapest gas station in your area before filling up. Now, when prices are relatively low, just about any station will do.

      But DeHaan says stations tend to charge closer to the same amount for gas when prices are high. When they're low, there can be a wide variation in the same city.

      Tranquility and affordability

      “We're in a relative period of tranquility and affordability at the pump, and so the data suggests Americans are at particular risk right now of overspending on gasoline,” DeHaan said. “And we expect that to continue for some time.”

      To prove the point, DeHaan says GasBuddy looked at the last seven years of gas price data. In 2012, the national average was $3.61 a gallon. However, the price spread between the 5% of stations with the highest price and the 5% with the lowest price was only 95 cents a gallon.

      But last year, when the national average was a much more affordable $2.13 a gallon, the spread increased to $1.13 a gallon.

      Price complacency

      Prices are not only still low, but they are also lower than expected for this time of year, due to the unexpected drop in oil prices. DeHaan says it could mean motorists have gotten a little complacent about the price they pay.

      In Washington, DC, he notes, the spread between highest and lowest stations is $1.21 a gallon. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, the spread is around $1.

      In some large metros, DeHaan says consumers can pocket $60 a month just by being selective about where they fill up.

      The price of gasoline has been relatively low for nearly two and a half years. The drop, which began in late 2014, followed 11 years of near record high pr...
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      Personal income and spending on the rise in February

      Consumers tucked more away in their savings accounts

      Both personal incomes and spending rose in February -- the former more than the latter.

      The Commerce Department reports incomes climbed $57.7 billion, or 0.4%, last month following a $63 billion gain in January. Disposable personal income (DPI) -- what's left after taxes are extracted -- was up 0.3%, or $44.6 billion.

      The incomes increase was due largely to advances in wages and salaries and rental income of persons.

      Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) -- consumer spending -- inched up 0.1%, or $7.4 billion. When adjusted for inflation, it was actually down 0.1%.

      The PCE price index rose just 0.1% and was up 0.2% when the volatile food and energy categories were stripped out; the PCE price index increased 0.2%.

      The decrease in inflation-adjusted spending reflected cutbacks in spending that were partially offset by an increase in spending for nondurable goods.

      Personal saving in February totaled $808.0 billion – up $4.3 billion from January, for a rate -- personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income -- of 5.6%.

      The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      Both personal incomes and spending rose in February -- the former more than the latter.The Commerce Department reports incomes climbed $57.7 billion, o...
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      Mercedes-Benz recalls model year 2017 E300s and E300 4Matics.

      The front passenger airbag may not deploy properly

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 65 model year 2017 E300s and E300 4Matics.

      The front passenger airbag may not deploy properly if a passenger is sitting on the edge of the seat or is lying in the seat with the seat reclined.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, "Occupant Crash Protection."

      Failure of the airbag to deploy as intended could increase the risk of occupant injury.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will update the air bag control module software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in April 2017.

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

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 65 model year 2017 E300s and E300 4Matics.The front passenger airbag may not deploy properly if a passenger is s...
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      Feds deny bid to ban agricultural pesticide

      Environmentalists say chlorpyrifos poses hazard to consumers and farm workers

      As environmentalists are learning, the Trump administration takes a very different approach to environmental matters than its predecessor.

      At midweek, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied a petition to ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide in agriculture. Under the Obama administration, the EPA had planned to impose a rule that would have effectively banned its use, citing research linking it to damage to the central nervous system.

      Because of a court order, the current administration said it had until the end of this week to decide whether or not to ban the chemical, as environmental groups had filed suit to force it to do. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency would not ban the pesticide as he issued an EPA Order.

      “In this Order, EPA denies a petition requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances for the pesticide chlorpyrifos under section 408(d) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act,” Pruitt wrote. “The petition was filed in September 2007 by the Pesticide Action Network North America (P ANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).”

      The petition was never formally acted upon during Obama's two terms, but in 2015 the administration announced its intentions to impose rules that would not allow for any trace residues of the chemical on food. In announcing his decision to deny the petition, Pruitt said it was based on science rather than “pre-determined results.”

      Environmental groups react

      “EPA turned a blind-eye to extensive scientific evidence and peer reviews documenting serious harm to children and their developing brains, including increased risk of learning disabilities, reductions in IQ, developmental delay, autism and ADHD,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, Senior Scientist at NRDC.

      Kristin Schafer, policy director at PANNA, accused the EPA of caving to corporate pressure and of failing “to follow overpowering scientific evidence of harm to children’s brains.”

      According to a pesticide information network, established by Cornell and several other universities, Chlorpyrifos is known as a broad spectrum insecticide. It was introduced in 1965 and used primarily to kill mosquitoes, but it's no longer approved for that use.

      It is effective at controlling a variety of insects and is currently used on both food and non-food agricultural products.

      The network also notes the chemical is “moderately toxic to humans.” It says studies have show that poisoning from chlorpyrifos may affect the central nervous system, as well as the cardiovascular system, and the respiratory system.

      As environmentalists are learning, the Trump administration takes a very different approach to environmental matters than its predecessor.At midweek, t...
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      Amazon proposes brands bypass brick-and-mortar retailers and bring their products online

      The company has invited executives to a meeting to discuss the possibility

      In a move that would secure its place in the $800 billion food and packaged goods market, Amazon is trying to convince some of the world’s biggest brands to start shipping their products directly to online shoppers and bypass notable chain stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco.

      The company has sent invitations to the executives of prominent packaged goods makers, asking them to come to its headquarters in Seattle in May to hear its proposal, according to a Bloomberg report.

      “Times are changing. . . Amazon strongly believes that supply chains designed to serve the direct-to-consumer business have the power to bring improved customer experiences and global efficiency. To achieve this requires a major shift in thinking,” the invitations read.

      Delivering straight to doorsteps

      If successful, Amazon would topple the current structure that packaged goods makers have with brick-and-mortar retailers and completely change the way that many products are designed, made, packaged, and shipped.

      Manufacturers would no longer have to worry about making sure the product stands out on a grocery aisle shelf, since consumers would no longer have to stroll those aisles. The Bloomberg report points out that many items could be packaged according to new shipping needs; laundry detergent could come in sturdier, leak-proof containers and food items could come in durable and simpler packaging. Supply could also be controlled by plants that produce items based on individual needs instead of just filling trucks with inventory.  

      Experts have pointed out that online grocery sales have mostly floundered in recent years, but such a drastic move could represent a big change in the way that manufacturers sell their products and consumers shop for their essentials.

      “Most of these people haven’t been interested in e-commerce because e-commerce has been such a small piece of their overall sales,” says Melissa Burdick, vice president of e-commerce at The Mars Agency marketing firm. “But we’ve reached a tipping point. We’re at a time when companies are ready to start figuring this stuff out.”

      Fear of missing out

      So, how likely is it that packaged goods companies will be onboard with the idea? While it might be understandable to think that companies might want to retain the status quo, many might be loath to dismiss Amazon and then miss out on any future success.

      "There was a big perceived penalty for missing the boat, fear of missing out on growth," says Jim Hertel, senior vice president at the marketing firm Inmar Inc. "Fear, more than anything else, may compel these companies to pay attention," adds analyst Ken Cassar.

      Of course, brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t likely to go down without a fight. Many chains have already elected to provide online shopping options to blunt the impact of online shopping sites like Amazon, and it’s easy to point out that the proposal hasn’t yet addressed who will ship all of items (though Amazon does have the means of fulfilling those services.)

      Regardless of how the plan shakes out, it’s at least worth noting that the idea of innovation in the industry isn’t dormant. What that means for shoppers remains to be seen. 

      In a move that would secure its place in the $800 billion food and packaged goods market, Amazon is trying to convince some of the world’s biggest brands t...
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      Volkswagen to pay $157 million to 10 states to settle dirty diesel claims

      It's the first time states have won environmental penalties against an automaker

      Volkswagen will pay $157 million to 10 states that sued the company for its secret use of unlawful "defeat device" software to enable their diesel-powered cars to pass emissions inspections.

      It's the first time the states have won environmental penalties against an automaker on their own. Previously, such cases were handled soley by the federal government.

      “Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche tried to pull off an extraordinarily cynical corporate fraud – deceiving hundreds of thousands of consumers, pumping thousands of tons of harmful pollution into our air, and flouting New York and federal environmental laws designed to protect public health,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “This went on for nearly a decade, for no other reason than their bottom line, so the companies could avoid the expense of engineering cars that would actually meet our environmental standards."

      "Adding insult to injury, they marketed these dirty vehicles as environmentally-friendly and technologically-advanced – not only deceiving consumers and harming our environment, but also undercutting the sales of their law-abiding competitors,” Schneiderman said.

      States follow California

      The lawsuits that led to the settlement were filed last summer by New York and Massachusetts. All of the states joining in the action have adopted California's stringent vehicle emission standards. The other states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

      Schneiderman said that setting the precedent of states enforcing emission laws is important because of President Trump's vow to defund federal environmental enforcement, leaving states like New York and California as the first line of defense in environmental matters.

      "New York will continue to enforce the tough auto emission and greenhouse gas standards established by California, and intends to oppose any effort by the federal government to roll back EPA emission standards currently in place," a statement from Schneiderman's office said.

      Electric cars

      As part of today’s settlement, Volkswagen has agreed to substantially increase its commitment to New York’s emerging electric car market. The agreement requires Volkswagen to – by 2020 – at least triple the number of electric car models its Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi brands offer to New Yorkers from one model to three, including two electric SUVs.   

      “Volkswagen was caught – and today’s settlement means we’ve now held them to full account,” Schneiderman continued. “No company – however large or powerful – is above the law in New York.  As we’ve made clear, if the federal government fails to do its job, I will continue to enforce our state’s environmental laws and hold accountable anyone who violates them – to ensure New Yorkers’ public health and environment are protected.”

      Volkswagen will pay $157 million to 10 states that sued the company for its secret use of unlawful "defeat device" software to enable their diesel-powered...
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      U.S. economy continues growing at a so-so rate

      Initial jobless claims were lower last week

      The final tally of economic performance for the past year is in and the results are not encouraging.

      The Commerce Department reports that for all of 2016, real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 2.0%, compared with an increase of 1.9% the previous year.

      Many economists consider between 2-3% to be the “ideal” annual GDP growth rate.

      For the final quarter of last year, GDP expanded at an annual rate of 2.1%, up a tad from the 1.9% reported in the second look at the numbers. In the third quarter of 2016, real GDP increased 3.5%.

      Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, an inflation gauge tied to GDP, rose 2.0%. Excluding food and energy prices, the “core” PCE price index was up 1.3%.

      Corporate profits with inventory valuation adjustment and capital consumption adjustment rose $11.2 billion in the fourth quarter, following a surge of $117.8 billion in the third quarter.

      For all of 2016, profits were down $2.3 billion, compared with a plunge of $64.0 billion in 2015.

      The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      Jobless claims

      The number of people applying for state unemployment benefits for the first time was lower last week.

      The Labor Department (DOL) reports initial jobless claims for the week ending March 25 totaled a seasonally adjusted 258,000, down 3,000 from the previous week's unrevised level.

      The 4-week moving average, which is less volatile and considered by economists to be a better reflection of the labor market, rose 7,750 during the same week to 254,250.

      The full report may be found on the DOL website.

      Photo (c) z amir - FotoliaThe final tally of economic performance for the past year is in and the results are not encouraging.The Commerce Depart...
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      Juratoys recalls toy trolleys

      The toy trolleys can tip backwards

      Juratoys U.S. of Fairfield, N.J., is recalling about 10,300 Bricolo by Janod Push toy trolleys sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The toy trolleys can tip backwards, posing an impact injury hazard to children.

      The company has received two reports of trolleys falling backwards, both resulting in ER visits. One involved a tooth extraction the other a laceration to the child’s nose.

      This recall involves four Bricolo by Janod-push toy trolleys. The French Cocotte Cooker trolley is red with orange wheels and includes a cooktop with fried egg shapes, an oven and eight accessories, including pots and pans “Janod” printed on the side and front of the trolley and J06544 printed on the base of the toy.

      The DIY-Magnetic trolley is gray and black with red wheels with work station and tools. “Bricolo” is printed on the front of the DIY-Magnetic trolley and J06505 is printed on the base of the toy.

      The Redmaster-Magnetic DIY trolley is black and gray with red wheels and 21 accessories, including three magnetic tools and a set of gears. J06493 is printed on the base of the toy.

      The Barbecue trolley is brightly colored and comes with a magnetic spatula, magnetic barbecue fork, one piece of pork, two sausages, one fish, one piece of beef, and three tomatoes. J06523 is printed on the base of the toy. The trolleys measure approximately 17 inches tall and have a 1 foot by 1 foot base.

      Item Number

      Description

      Years Sold

      J06493

      Janod Redmaster –Magnetic DIY Trolley

      2015–2017

      J06505

      Janod DIY – Magnetic Trolley

      2014–2017

      J06544

      Janod French Cocotte Cooker Trolley

      2015–2017

      J06523

      Janod Barbecue Trolley

      2012–2014

      The trolleys, manufactured in China, were sold at various toy stores nationwide including Giggle and Saks Fifth Avenue, and online at Zulily.com from September 2012, to March 2017, for about $100. The Janod Barbecue trolley sold for about $70.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled trolleys and keep them out of the reach of young children until they have installed a repair kit. Contact Juratoys for a free repair kit that includes instructions, tools, and footers to prevent the toy from tipping backwards.

      Consumers may contact Juratoys toll free at 877-277-1663 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.janod.com and click on “Product Recall” under the “Janod Express” tab at the top of the page for more information.

      Juratoys U.S. of Fairfield, N.J., is recalling about 10,300 Bricolo by Janod Push toy trolleys sold in the U.S. and Canada.The toy trolleys can tip bac...
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      Target recalls magnetic tic tac toe games

      The magnets can come off the game pieces

      Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 19,000 magnetic tic tac toe games.

      The magnets can come off the game pieces, posing a choking hazard. In addition, when two or more magnets are swallowed, they can link together inside the intestines and clamp onto body tissues, causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, sepsis and death. Internal injury from magnets can pose serious lifelong health effects.

      The company has received one report of the magnets falling off the game piece. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves a magnetic tic tac toe 10 x 10 inch plywood board with nine “X” and “Heart” game pieces. The game pieces have a magnet on the back. Model number “234-25-1089” is printed on the bottom right corner of the product.

      The games, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Target stores nationwide from December 2016, through February 2017, for about $5.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled tic tac toe game and return it to any Target store for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Target at 800-440-0680 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (CT) any day or online at www.target.com and click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page, then on “School/Stationery/Seasonal” for more information.

      Target Corp., of Minneapolis, Minn., is recalling about 19,000 magnetic tic tac toe games.The magnets can come off the game pieces, posing a choking ha...
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      New urgency in the Takata airbag recall

      Southern California civic leaders say too many unrepaired vehicles are still on the road

      It was nearly two years ago that some automakers began recalling cars equipped with defective Takata airbags that are in danger of spraying metal fragments through the passenger compartment when they deploy.

      Since then, more than 42 million vehicles from 19 different automakers have been recalled and at least 11 people in the U.S. have been killed by the flying metal fragments.

      California civic leaders, alarmed that millions of unrepaired recalled vehicles are still on state highways, have banded together to add urgency to the recall.

      They say Southern California leads the nation in defective airbag deaths. They say the risk is especially high in that region because of warm weather, which is a factor that increases the defect in the airbag inflator. The initiative, called Airbag Recall: Southern California, is trying to spread the word in Southern California that if you are driving a car with one of these airbags, you need to take advantage of the free repair.

      Putting lives at risk

      "Airbags save lives, but defective ones are a hazard that puts our loved ones at risk," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "We have to give people the information they need to protect themselves and their families."

      Federal transportation officials say the airbags with the greatest risk are in certain 2001-2003 Hondas and Acuras, with as high as a 50% chance of exploding upon deployment.

      The affected models include the 2001 and 2002 Honda Civic, the 2001 and 2002 Honda Accord, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey, the 2002 Honda CR-V, the 2003 Acura CL, and the 2003 Honda Pilot.

      The Honda risk

      Honda is participating in the initiative, releasing a statement urging drivers of its affected models to check their vehicle identification number (VIN). If it's a recalled vehicle and the repair has not been made, the company says consumers should go to a Honda dealer for the free recall repairs immediately. The company says replacement parts, which were in short supply early in the recall, are now plentiful.

      Owners of these vehicles may also schedule a repair by calling Honda at 1-888-234-2138.

      Honda says consumers driving certain 2001-2003 Honda and Acura models originally equipped with Takata's older "Alpha" inflators, are at an even higher risk. It says there is a 50% chance an "Alpha" inflator will rupture in a crash.

      Honda says these vehicles should not be driven, except to a dealer for the repair.

      It was nearly two years ago that some automakers began recalling cars equipped with defective Takata airbags that are in danger of spraying metal fragments...
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      Annual gain in home prices sets 31-month high

      January prices were also up from December's level

      Home price gains continued in January on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.

      According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, the National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, jumped 5.9% from a year earlier, setting a 31-month high.

      The 10-City Composite was up 5.1%, and the 20-City Composite reported a rise of 5.7%.

      Seattle, Portland, and Denver had the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities over each of the last 12 months. Seattle led the way in January with an 11.3% year-over-year price increase, followed by Portland (+9.7%) and Denver (+9.2%).

      Twelve cities reported greater price increases in the year ending January 2017 versus the year ending December 2016.

      “Housing and home prices continue on a generally positive upward trend,” said David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

      “The recent action by the Federal Reserve raising the target for the Fed funds rate by a quarter percentage point is expected to add less than a quarter percentage point to mortgage rates in the near future. Given the market’s current strength and the economy, the small increase in interest rates isn’t expected to dampen home buying. If we see three or four additional increases this year, rising mortgage rates could become a concern."

      Month-over-month

      Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a month-over-month gain of 0.2% in January. The 10-City Composite was up 0.3% and the 20-City Composite inched ahead 0.2%.

      After seasonal adjustment, the National Index recorded a 0.6% month-over-month increase, while both the 10-City and 20-City Composites each reported a 0.9% advance. Thirteen of 20 cities reported increases in January before seasonal adjustment; after seasonal adjustment, 19 cities saw prices rise.

      “While prices vary month-to-month and across the country, the national price trend has been positive since the first quarter of 2012,” said Blitzer. “Tight supplies and rising prices may be deterring some people from trading up to a larger house, further aggravating supplies because fewer people are selling their homes. At some point, this process will force prices to level off and decline -- however we don’t appear to be there yet.” 

      Home price gains continued in January on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.According to the S&P; CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, the Nat...
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      Will your credit card company waive your late fee?

      Chances are, it will if you'll just ask

      Consumers hate fees, whether they are levied by a bank or credit card company. Overdraft fees were such a major bone of contention a few years ago that Congress passed legislation to reduce them.

      But fees don't always have to be paid. Sometimes, if you ask, a credit card company will waive them. And it happens a lot more than you might think.

      CreditCards.com reports its latest research which shows that 87% of consumers who asked a credit card company to waive a late fee were successful. It also found that 69% of the time, if a customer asked a credit card company to lower the interest rate, the answer was "yes."

      While it is true that banks and credit card companies depend more on fees than ever these days, it is also true that they are in a very competitive industry. Consumers have lots of options.

      Competition works in your favor

      In many cases, a credit card company would rather waive a fee once than possibly lose a customer. If a customer has a good credit score, he or she can open a new credit card account and transfer a high interest balance, often getting more than a year of 0% interest. Credit card companies know this.

      That said, CreditCards.com found that only 25% of credit card customers ever asked for a waived fee or a lower interest rate. That means consumers are spending money needlessly.

      There's even wiggle room when it comes to annual fees. Many rewards credit cards charge as much as $100 or more for the privilege of using their cards. But CreditCards.com found more than half of credit card customers in the U.S. were able to persuade the company to drop the fee altogether. Thirty-one percent were able to negotiate a lower fee.

      More power than you realize

      "People have far more power with their credit card company than they realize," said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst. "Competition among card issuers is incredibly high these days and customer retention is a priority."

      Schulz says you can't be afraid to ask for an exception because, very often, you're likely to get it.

      That also holds true for credit limits. Of those customers who simply asked their credit card company to raise the card's credit limit, 89% got what they asked for.

      As we have previously reported, this also works in other highly competitive services, such as insurance. If you have been with your insurance carrier for several years, chances are you can get a discount by saying you are shopping for a new policy.

      If you are a senior citizen, or getting close to being one, you can get a discount almost anywhere. But, you have to ask for it. Again, surveys show most people don't.

      Consumers hate fees, whether they are levied by a bank or credit card company. Overdraft fees were such a major bone of contention a few years ago that Con...
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      BMW recalls model year 2017 X5 vehicles

      The passenger front airbag inflators may not vent properly

      BMW of North America is recalling 36 model year 2017 X5 sDrive35i, X5 xDrive35i, X5 xDrive50i, X5 xDrive35d, and X5 xDrive40e vehicles.

      The recalled vehicles are equipped with passenger front airbag modules using certain air-bag inflators that may not vent properly in the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the passenger frontal air bag.

      If the inflator cannot vent properly, the inflator may rupture, resulting in metal fragments striking the vehicle occupants and causing serious injury or death.

      What to do

      BMW has notified owners, and dealers will replace the air bag modules, free of charge. The recall began on March 20, 2017.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 36 model year 2017 X5 sDrive35i, X5 xDrive35i, X5 xDrive50i, X5 xDrive35d, and X5 xDrive40e vehicles.The recalled veh...
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      Virgin America to take the name of its new mate, Alaska

      It may be a modern merger, but the two shall soon be known by a single name

      Well, you knew this was going to happen. Alaska Airlines has teased and tantalized Virgin America's loyal followers, saying it might let Virgin keep its name after the two were joined together as one. 

      But it turns out that was just honeymoon talk. The kindly looking old fellow whose visage adorns Alaska's tails has turned grumpy and exercised the patriarch's prerogative. In other words, Virgin America will soon be no more. In its place will be a lot more Alaska Airlines planes, Alaska made clear this week.

      "After months of research and in-depth conversations with fliers, we’ve made the difficult decision to retire the Virgin America name and logo likely sometime in 2019," the company said in a press release. "However, many of the elements you love about Virgin America will live on, paired with Alaska’s unbeatable performance and top-rated customer service." 

      Virgin America was beloved by many of its regulars. Maybe it was the mood lighting, the nifty entertainment system, the snacks and meals you could order whenever hunger struck, the leather seats. Whatever it was, it was brilliantly executed.

      Not that there's anything wrong with Alaska, of course. Besides being the biggest state in the country, it's a perfectly fine airline. It just doesn't have the zing that Virgin America created.

      Shazaming and such ...

      But Alaska is determined to change all that and its press releases are sounding more like Virgin's all the time. 

      "Imagine arriving at the airport and immediately feeling welcomed to a fresh, modern experience.

      You know you’ll reach your destination on time with minimal hassle, and the airline you’ve chosen offers consistently low fares and more nonstop flights to more destinations from the West Coast than any other. At your gate, you can’t help Shazaming every song on the upbeat playlist, and the overhead announcements tell you what you need to know with a healthy dose of fun."

      This might sound like your old uncle trying to be one of the cool guys, but Alaska deserves some credit for trying. It is, after all, now the fifth largest airline in the country and trying to keep that youthful vibe is a worthy goal.

      Alaska says it will be making upgrades to both Alaska and Virgin aircraft over the next few years, including faster wi-fi, expanded first class and premium sections, and an integrated awards program. 

      Well, you knew this was going to happen. Alaska Airlines has teased and tantalized Virgin America's loyal followers, saying it might let Virgin keep its na...
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      Motorists getting an unusual break this spring

      The annual seasonal price rise hasn't happened so far

      In a famous Sherlock Holmes story, the key clue was the dog that did not bark. When it comes to gasoline prices, the key victory for consumers, it seems, is the price that did not rise.

      By all accounts, the national average gasoline price should have risen about a dime a gallon over the last two or three weeks. It hasn't.

      The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows today's average price of self-serve regular is $2.29 a gallon. That's what it was the day before, and a week ago. If you go back a month, the price was only a penny a gallon more.

      Premium gasoline averages $2.81 a gallon and has a nearly identical pricing pattern to regular.

      The normal pattern is that prices at the pump begin rising in early March as oil refineries begin regular maintenance and start switching over to the production of summer grade fuel blends. The reduced output almost always sends prices higher.

      Oil prices are in reverse

      So what's different about this year? Chances are, it's the price of oil. After breaking through the $55 a barrel level, prices have dropped below $50.

      Oil prices started rising last fall when the OPEC producers, led by Saudi Arabia, decided to reduce production in order to boost oil prices, which had been low for two years. The market assumed OPEC would be successful and traders began bidding up the price of oil, making gasoline more expensive than it was the previous year.

      But in the last few weeks it has become clear that OPEC faces a big challenge in raising oil prices. As the price rose, it became more profitable for U.S. shale producers to increase production, which they have done.

      U.S. stockpiles of oil have become so large that it has weakened the market -- bad for traders and speculators but very good for consumers.

      Saudis cut exports to U.S.

      MarketWatch reports U.S. stockpiles have now hit a record, prompting the Saudis this week to "dramatically" cut oil exports to the U.S. OPEC, it seems, is desperate to reduce the U.S. stockpile of oil. Otherwise, it won't be able to ratchet oil prices higher.

      For consumers, there's some stability at the gas pump this spring. Even in California, one of the most expensive places in the U.S. to fill up, the statewide average has fallen a bit in the last week, remaining below $3 a gallon for regular and at $3.23 for premium.

      The West and upper Midwest has the most expensive fuel this week. The cheapest gasoline is in the Southeast, where the statewide average in South Carolina is $2.02 a gallon for regular and $2.59 for premium.

      In a famous Sherlock Holmes story, the key clue was the dog that did not bark. When it comes to gasoline prices, the key victory for consumers, it seems, i...
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      House prices flat in January

      Prices were up, though on an annual basis

      Housing prices across the U.S. were unchanged in January, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) seasonally adjusted monthly House Price Index (HPI).

      This is just the second month since early 2012 that the HPI has failed to increase. The other occurrence was in November, 2013. The previously reported December HPI increase of 0.4% was unrevised.

      On a year-over-year basis -- from January 2016 to January 2017 -- house prices were up 5.7%.

      The FHFA monthly HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

      Regional performance

      For the nine census divisions, seasonally adjusted monthly price changes from December, 2016 to January, 2017 ranged from -2.0% in the East South Central division to +0.6 percent in the Pacific division.

      The 12-month changes were all positive, ranging from +3.5% in the East South Central division to +8.3% in the Mountain division.

      The complete report may be found on the FHFA website

      Housing prices across the U.S. were unchanged in January, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) seasonally adjusted monthly House Price In...
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      Haibike recalls electric bicycles

      The fork on the front wheel of the bicycles can rupture or break

      Haibike of Denver, Colo., owned by Accell North America, is recalling about 267 electric bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The fork on the front wheel of the bicycles can rupture or break while the bike is in use, posing a fall hazard to the rider.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves Haibike XDURO Urban, Race and Superrace models of electric bicycles. The recalled bicycles have an aluminum frame, hydraulic disc brakes, and a lithium battery.

      They contain a letter/number combination (‘HAERA’ followed by at least three numbers and characters) printed on the front of the frame. Remove the battery to locate the letter/number combination on the frame.

      The following models are included in the recall:

      Model

      Model Year

      Color

      Letter/Number

      Haibike XDURO Urban

      2014, 2015

      Gray

      ‘HAERA’ followed by three numbers and characters

      Haibike XDURO Urban RC

      2016

      Gray

      Haibike XDURO Race

      2014, 2015

      Black

      Haibike XDURO Superrace

      2014, 2015

      Black

      Haibike XDURO Race S RX

      2016

      Gray

      Haibike XDURO Urban S RX

      2016

      White

      The bicycles, manufactured in Germany and Taiwan, were sold at independent bicycle dealers nationwide from January 2014, through February 2017, for about $4,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bicycles and contact Accell North America for a free repair.

      Consumers may Contact Accell North America at 800-222-5527 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday or online at www.haibike.com and click on “Current recalls” on the right side of the page for more information.

      Haibike of Denver, Colo., owned by Accell North America, is recalling about 267 electric bicycles sold in the U.S. and Canada.The fork on the front whe...
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      Model year 2017 Ford Mustangs recalled

      The driver's door may unlatch in a side impact crash

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 5,470 model year 2017 Ford Mustangs.

      The return spring for the driver side interior door handle may come loose, allowing the driver's door to unlatch in a side impact crash.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 206, "Door Locks and Door Retention Components."

      A door unlatching in a crash can increase the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the driver-side interior door handle and repair the return spring, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 24, 2017.

      Owners may contact Ford at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for the recall is 17C04.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 5,470 model year 2017 Ford Mustangs.The return spring for the driver side interior door handle may come loose, allowing...
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      Wells Fargo making ATM accessible with smartphones

      Bank also rolls out new campaign to win back customers

      Next week, if you need to withdraw money from a Wells Fargo ATM, you won't need your debit card. You can use your smartphone.

      The bank ran a pilot program on the technology in several areas of the country and is now ready to roll it out nationwide. To use the new system, Wells Fargo customers who have the bank's mobile app will be able to request a code that they will enter, along with their PIN.

      In an interview with Reuters, Jonathan Velline, Wells Fargo's head of ATM and branch banking, said the new system enhances safeguards against fraud.

      "Security certainly was a big aspect of the cardless feature and the two-step identification helps reduce the risk of fraud," Velline told the wire service.

      The ATMs will still take debit cards, but Velline says the digital access prevents thieves from installing skimmers that intercept and steal data from the inserted cards.

      Repairing customer relations

      The new system is being introduced as Wells Fargo continues its mission to repair relations with customers in the wake of last year's unauthorized accounts scandal. The bank got a black eye when it was revealed thousands of employees had opened checking and credit card accounts for customers without their permission, in a bid to increase fees.

      In Orlando this week, Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan hosted a company-wide town hall meeting to inform employees about efforts to win back trust.

      “We’re making things right for our customers and our team members," Sloan said. "We are fixing problems, and we’re building a better bank for the future.”

      New ad campaign

      Employees also got a sneak peak at a new national advertising campaign with the theme “Building Better Every Day.” The advertising campaign will begin in mid-April across multiple channels.

      Business Insider reports the bank has faced strong headwinds as it tries to reassure consumers, experiencing a pronounced decline in new accounts and an increase in closed accounts since the scandal broke last fall.

      Citing company data, the publication notes that new checking accounts dropped 43% and new credit card accounts fell by 55% in February.

      Next week, if you need to withdraw money from a Wells Fargo ATM, you won't need your debit card. You can use your smartphone.The bank ran a pilot progr...
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      Continued strength for new-home sales in February

      Initial jobless claims head higher

      Following a strong start for 2017 a month earlier, new-home sales rose again in February.

      The Commerce Department reports sales of single-family houses were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000 last month -- 6.1% above January and up 12.8% from February of last year.

      At the same time, the government revised its January report to show sales at a rate of 558,000, versus the 555,000 initially reported.

      "February's increase in new home sales is consistent with builders' growing confidence in the housing market," said National Association of Home Builders Chairman Granger MacDonald. "Builders are encouraged by heightened consumer activity and by the expectation that regulatory costs will decline in the year ahead."

      Pricing and supply

      The median sales price of new houses sold in February -- the point at which half the house sold for more and half for less -- was $296,200. That's down $15,100 from a year earlier and a loss of $12,000 from the month before.

      The average sales price of  $390,400 is a year-over-year gain of $41,000 and up $35,100 from a month earlier.

      The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of February was 266,000, representing a supply of 5.4 months at the current sales rate.

      The complete report may be found on the Commerce Department website.

      Jobless claims

      Also from the government, word that first-time applications for state unemployment benefits were on the rise.

      According to the Department of Labor (DOL), initial jobless claims jumped by 15,000 in the week ending March 18 to a seasonally adjusted 258,000. The previous week's claims level was adjusted upward by 2,000.

      The less volatile four-week moving average came in at 240,000 – up 1,000 from the previous week's average, which was revised higher by 1,750.

      The full report is available on the DOL website.

      Following a strong start for 2017 a month earlier, new-home sales rose again in February.The Commerce Department reports sales of...
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      EuroCan Manufacturing recalls pig ears pet products

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella

      EuroCan Manufacturing is recalling individually shrink-wrapped, 6-pack, 12-pack and 25-pack bags of Barnsdale Farms, HoundsTooth and Mac's Choice Pig Ears pet products.

      The products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      No illnesses of any kind have been reported to date.

      The pig ears, lot number 84, were distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the company Monday – Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (ET) at (888) 290-7606.

      EuroCan Manufacturing is recalling individually shrink-wrapped, 6-pack, 12-pack and 25-pack bags of Barnsdale Farms, HoundsTooth and Mac's Choice Pig Ears...
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      Wellpet recalls one canned topper product for dogs

      The product may contain elevated levels of naturally occurring beef thyroid hormone

      WellPet is recalling a limited amount of one canned topper product for dogs.

      The product may contain elevated levels of naturally occurring beef thyroid hormone.

      The company has received no reports of any health problems to date.

      The the following product, a mixer or topper is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only, is being recalled:

      • Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs – 13.2 oz, Best-By Dates of 02 FEB 19, 29 AUG 19 and 30 AUG 19, located on the bottom of the can.

      The recalled product was distributed at pet specialty retailers throughout North America and online.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product may contact the company at 1-877-227-9587 or by email at wecare@wellpet.com. 

      WellPet is recalling a limited amount of one canned topper product for dogs.The product may contain elevated levels of naturally occurring beef thyroid...
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      Report names top cities for Millennials

      Salt Lake City, Miami, and Orlando rank in the top three

      Millennials may increasingly be settling down in the suburbs, but a new report finds several major U.S. cities have also caught the attention of those between the ages of 25 and 34.

      According to research from Realtor.com, the top cities for Millennials are Salt Lake City, Miami, Orlando, Seattle, Houston, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Albany, San Francisco, and San Jose.

      To come up with its ranking, the online real estate website analyzed the 60 largest markets in the U.S. and compared the share of Millennial page views in each area to the national average.

      What's pumping Millennials into these metro areas? Job prospects and affordability, says Realtor.com.

      Job growth and affordability

      Low unemployment rates and affordable home prices have first-time home buyers flocking to Salt Lake City, Buffalo, and Albany, the study found.

      In Buffalo, the main draw for the demographic was affordability. At 23%, Buffalo was found to have the most affordable home prices relative to salary. Albany came in second for affordability, where people only use 27% of their income on a home.

      Salt Lake City had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.9%, well below the national unemployment rate of 4.7%. Other cities with low unemployment rates included San Francisco, where the tech-fueled job market is drawing Millennials into the area, and San Jose, where job opportunities in Silicon Valley await.

      Rising Millennial populations

      “High job growth in markets such as Orlando, Seattle, and Miami, and the power of affordability in places like Albany and Buffalo are making these markets magnets for millennials,” said Javier Vivas, manager of economic research for realtor.com.  

      “But what really stands out is that all these markets already have large numbers of millennials, which translates into strong populations of millennial home buyers," Vivas said.

      The top markets in the report already have a significant Millennial population, Realtor.com noted. The average share of Millennials in the U.S. is 13%, but the top cities for Millennials were found to have an average share of 14%.

      At nearly 16% of its total population, Salt Lake City had the highest share of Millennials. The population of Millennials was similarly high in Seattle (15.2%), Los Angeles (15%), and San Francisco (15%), despite the difficult-to-afford nature of the latter two locations. 

      Millennials may increasingly be settling down in the suburbs, but a new report finds several major U.S. cities have also caught the attention of those betw...
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      Sears raises doubt about its ability to survive

      The company says it may go under unless it finds a way to compete with other retailers

      Sears Holdings, the company that operates Sears and Kmart stores, is voicing doubts about its long-term ability to stay in business.

      In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company said there is "substantial doubt" about its viability unless it can raise additional capital.

      The retailer has struggled, along with many other brick-and-mortar retailers, as more consumer purchases have shifted to online channels like Amazon. At the same time, overall retail sales have flattened in recent years due to demographic trends.

      'Materially adversely affected'

      In a 10-K filing with the SEC, Sears Holdings candidly warned that unless it found a way to compete effectively in the increasingly competitive retail sector, its business could be "materially adversely affected." In the document, it summed up the problem.

      "The retail industry is highly competitive with few barriers to entry," the company said in the 10-K filing. "We compete with a wide variety of retailers, including other department stores, discounters, home improvement stores, appliances and consumer electronics retailers, auto service providers, specialty retailers, wholesale clubs, online and catalog retailers and many other competitors operating on a national, regional or local level."

      The company notes that some of its competitors are actively engaged in new store expansion while online and catalog businesses, which handle similar lines of merchandise, are often not required to collect sales tax.

      "We also experience significant competition from promotional activities of our competitors, and some competitors may be able to devote greater resources to sourcing, promoting and selling their products. In this competitive marketplace, success is based on factors such as price, advertising, product assortment, quality, service, reputation and convenience," the company said.

      Problems are not new

      Earlier this year Sears Holdings announced plans to transform its retail operations and possibly sell some of its assets, such as its Kenmore appliance and Die Hard battery brands, to raise much-needed cash.

      As we reported in late December, Sears targeted about 30 Sears and Kmart stores for closing and announced it had secured a $500,000 line of credit to help it transform to meet the new retail realities.

      Sears, meanwhile, has not been alone in its predicament. Just last month J.C. Penney announced it is closing around 130 of its stores in a bid to remain competitive.

      It, like many other older, established retailers, announced it would shift more focus to selling online, a space currently dominated by Amazon.

      Sears Holdings, the company that operates Sears and Kmart stores, is voicing doubts about its long-term ability to stay in business.In a filing with th...
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      One more recall expansion for Vulto Creamery cheeses

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is recalling all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses.

      Testing results from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) found Ouleout lot # 617 positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and New York Department of Agriculture and Markets found possible contamination of Ouleout lot #623.

      In the first expansion earlier this month, the company disclosed that testing results have identified Ouleout product contamination, similar to the strain isolated from a cluster outbreak of Listeriosis responsible for six illnesses and two confirmed deaths.

      The soft raw milk cheeses were distributed nationwide, with most being sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, California, Chicago, Portland and Washington, D.C.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at 607-222-3995 Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm ET) or by email at vultocreamery@gmail.com.

      Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is recalling all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses.Testing results...
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      U.S. bans electronic devices from airline cabins on some Mid-East flights

      Rule covers direct flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa

      A new U.S. Transportation Department rule taking effect today prohibits passengers from carrying electronic devices aboard commercial aircraft flying directly to the U.S. from certain Middle Eastern countries.

      A number of news outlets reporting the ban have quoted “senior U.S. officials” providing details of the new rule.

      The devices – including smartphones, laptops, and tablets – may be packed in checked baggage.

      The ban is said to be limited to flights departing 10 airports from the Middle East and North Africa and is based on security concerns. Officials told The Washington Post that intelligence continues to pick up on terrorist interest in targeting commercial aviation. The concern is that electronic devices can be modified to contain explosives.

      According to Reuters, the affected cities include Cairo; Istanbul; Kuwait City; Doha, Qatar; Casablanca, Morocco; Amman, Jordan; Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates.

      Reuters quotes Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen as saying the U.S "did not target specific nations. We relied upon evaluated intelligence to determine which airports were affected."

      The affected airports are served by nine airlines that have non-stop flights to the U.S. The carriers include Royal Jordanian Airlines, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways.

      A new U.S. Transportation Department rule taking effect today prohibits passengers from carrying electronic devices aboard commercial aircraft flying direc...
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      Blue Buffalo recalls dog food product

      The product may contain elevated levels of naturally- occurring beef thyroid hormones

      Blue Buffalo Company is recalling one production lot of BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs.

      The product may contain elevated levels of naturally- occurring beef thyroid hormones. Dogs ingesting high levels of beef thyroid hormones may exhibit symptoms such as increased thirst and urination, weight loss, increased heart rate and restlessness.

      These symptoms may resolve when the use of the impacted food is discontinued. However, with prolonged consumption these symptoms may increase in severity and may include vomiting, diarrhea, and rapid or difficulty breathing.

      There have been no reports of illness.

      The following item is being recalled:

      Product NameUPC CodeBest Buy Date

      BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain 
      Recipe Red Meat Dinner Wet 
      Food for Adult Dogs 12.5 oz can

      840243101153

      June 7, 2019

      The recalled product was distributed nationally through pet specialty and on-line retailers.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should dispose of it or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Blue Buffalo at 866-201-9072 from 8 AM – 5 PM(ET) Monday through Friday, or by email at CustomerCare@bluebuffalo.com for more information.

      Blue Buffalo Company is recalling one production lot of BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs.The product may c...
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      Rare Frank Zappa albums to be re-released

      A new generation will get a taste of the pioneering rock artist

      During his life and career, rock musician Frank Zappa was not exactly a mainstream artist. And that's part of what made him cool.

      He leaned heavily on rock, pop, and jazz, but also tossed in intriguing bits of jazz fusion, orchestral, and works that used various eclectic sounds. He and his band, The Mothers of Invention, had an extremely devoted following in the late 1960s.

      Now, the Zappa Family Trust and Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) are teaming up to release 24 Zappa albums, some of them rare, later this month. The music will be available on CD, digital downloads, and streaming on March 24.

      "For more than two decades, the only place to get exclusive Frank Zappa albums was through our mail order and website," said Ahmet Zappa, son of the late artist and the Trust's executor. "We are thrilled to be able to make these titles available to fans across the globe with the help of our friends at Universal."

      According to UMe, nine of the albums in the collection, including Zappa's 100th release, "Dance Me This," and the cult favorite live disc, "Roxy By Proxy," have never been made available for download or for streaming.

      The collection also includes a recording from a 1971 performance at Carnegie Hall and a 1974 recording made at KCET-TV studios in Los Angeles, which ended up being used in a number of different Zappa projects.

      Zappa died in 1993 after a long battle with cancer. He was 53.

      During his life and career, rock musician Frank Zappa was not exactly a mainstream artist. And that's part of what made him cool.He leaned heavily on r...
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      Leading economic indicators on a roll

      February's gain was the sixth in a row

      There's a good chance that the nation's economy will continue to chug along in the months ahead.

      The Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose 0.6% to 126.2.

      “After six consecutive monthly gains, the U.S. LEI is at its highest level in over a decade,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, director of Business Cycles and Growth Research at The Conference Board. “Widespread gains across a majority of the leading indicators points to an improving economic outlook for 2017, although GDP growth is likely to remain moderate,” he added, pointing out that “only housing permits contributed negatively to the LEI in February, reversing gains over the previous two months.”

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

      The ten components of the LEI include:

      • Average weekly hours, manufacturing
      • Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance
      • Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials
      • ISM Index of New Orders
      • Manufacturers' new orders, nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft orders
      • Building permits, new private housing units
      • Stock prices, 500 common stocks
      • Leading Credit Index
      • Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds
      • Average consumer expectations for business conditions
      There's a good chance that the nation's economy will continue to chug along in the months ahead.The Conference Board reports its Leading Economic Index...
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      Job openings edge higher January

      Hiring was also up a bit

      Job openings edged up slightly during January, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

      On the final business day of the month, there were 5.626 million job openings, compared with 5.539 million in December, for a job openings rate of 3.7%.

      The number of job openings was up a bit for the private sector -- from 5.065 million to 5.173 million, with most of them in professional and business services, and down for government -- to 452,000 from 474,000.

      Hires

      Hires during the month went from 5.303 million in December to 5.440 million, with a hires rate of 3.7%. There were 5.104 million private sector hires and 336,000 for government. Other services (+54,000) and finance & insurance (+41,000) led hiring in the private sector. The number of hires was little changed in all four geographic regions.

      Separations

      Total separations includes quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations, and is referred to as turnover. There were 5.258 million total separations in January, versus 5.084 in December. The total separations rate was 3.6%. The number of total separations was little changed in all four regions.

      Net employment change

      Over the 12 months ending in January, hires totaled 63.1 million and separations totaled 60.7 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.4 million.

      This includes workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.

      The full report may be found on the BLS website.

      Job openings edged up slightly during January, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).On the final business day of the month, t...
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      Builder confidence at 12-year high in March

      However, challenges remain

      The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) is at its highest point since June 2005.

      The HMI, a measure of builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes, shot up six points during the month to a level of 71.

      “While builders are clearly confident, we expect some moderation in the index moving forward,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Builders continue to face a number of challenges, including rising material prices, higher mortgage rates, and shortages of lots and labor.”

      Still, “builders are buoyed by President Trump’s actions on regulatory reform,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald, “particularly his recent executive order to rescind or revise the waters of the U.S. rule that impacts permitting.”

      The HMI uses a monthly survey to gauge builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair,” or “poor.” Builders are also 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.

      A strong March showing

      All three HMI components posted robust gains during the month. The component gauging current sales conditions was up seven points to 78, while the index charting sales expectations in the next six months rose five points to 78. Meanwhile, the component measuring buyer traffic jumped eight points to 54.

      Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Midwest rose three points to 68 and the South rose one point to 68. On the other hand, the West dipped three points to 76 and the Northeast inched down a point to 48.

      The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) is at its highest point since June 2005.The HMI, a measure of b...
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      RBR Meat Company recalls frozen pizza product

      The product may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes

      RBR Meat Company of Vernon, Calif., is recalling approximately 21,220 pounds of frozen pizza product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.

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

      The following item, produced on February 23, 2017, is being recalled:

      • 50.6-oz. corrugated box containing 1 shrink wrapped 16” pizza labeled as “Marketside Extra Large Supreme Pizza,” with lot code 20547.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. 1821” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail distribution centers in California, Nevada, Utah and Washington.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Eunice Wu at (323) 826-2144 Ext. 190.

      RBR Meat Company of Vernon, Calif., is recalling approximately 21,220 pounds of frozen pizza product that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes....
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      Advanced Sports International recalls Fuji bicycles

      The rear wheel freehub can slip during pedaling

      Advanced Sports International of Philadelphia, Pa., is recalling about 650 Fuji bicycles.

      The rear wheel freehub can slip during pedaling, posing a fall hazard.

      The company has received four reports of freehub slipping while pedaling. No crashes or injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Advanced Sports International’s 2017 Fuji bicycles with Oval Concepts Rear Wheels. The aluminum or carbon fiber bicycles come in a variety of colors. The bicycle model name is printed on the frame of the bicycle. The wheel model number is printed on the rim of the wheel. The hub model number is printed on the drive-side hub flange.

      Recalled models include:

      Bike Model

      Wheel Model

      Hub Model

      Fuji Altamira CX 1.1

      Oval 950 Disc

      3LLR

      Fuji Altamira CX 1.3

      Oval 723 Disc

      Fuji Brevet 1.1 Disc

      Fuji Cross 1.1

      Fuji Gran Fondo 1.1 Disc

      Fuji Gran Fondo 1.3 Disc

      Fuji SL 1.3 Disc

      Fuji Gran Fondo Elite Disc

      Oval 924 Disc

      Fuji SL 1.1 Disc

      Fuji Norcom Straight 1.1

      Oval 980

      3NVR

      Fuji Norcom Straight 1.3

      Fuji SL 1.1

      Oval 935

      Fuji SL 1.3

      Fuji Transonic Elite

      Oval 950

      The bicycles, manufactured in China and Taiwan, were sold at Fuji Bicycle and Authorized Oval Concept dealers from April 2016, through October 2016, for between $2000 to $8000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop riding the recalled bicycles and contact Advanced Sports International to receive a free replacement freehub body.

      Consumers may contact Advanced Sports International toll‐free at 888-286‐6263 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.fujibikes.com or www.ovalconcepts.com and click on “Recall Notice” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Advanced Sports International of Philadelphia, Pa., is recalling about 650 Fuji bicycles.The rear wheel freehub can slip during pedaling, posing a fall...
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      January -- a tough month for air travelers

      A security incident in Florida caused massive tarmac delays

      Getting off the ground was a major challenge in some areas if you were flying anywhere during January.

      According to the Transportation Department's (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR), airlines reported 30 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and 12 delays of more than four hours on international flights.

      Fourteen of those long domestic delays and eight of the delays on foreign flights international were at occurred at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida on January 6 because of a security incident. That may have had a ripple effect at other airports on this date. DOT is investigating all reported extended tarmac delays.

      During the same month, carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 76.0%. While that's not as good as the 81.3% on-time rate a year earlier, it is a bit better than December's 75.6% mark.

      The airlines also report canceling 2.0% of their scheduled domestic flights in January, an improvement over the year-ago rate of 2.6%, but worse than the 1.6% rate chalked up a month earlier.

      The ATCR, which is found on the DOT website, also includes data on chronically delayed flights, and the causes of flight delays, and other problems with baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, disability, and discrimination. 

      Getting off the ground was a major challenge in some areas if you were flying anywhere during January.According to the Transportation Department's (DOT...
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      New home construction gets a February bump

      Initial jobless claims headed lower last week

      Home builders took advantage of the warm spell the country enjoyed last month as housing starts rose 3.0% from the revised January level to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.288 million.

      At the same time, the Commerce Department revised the previous month's report to a rate of 1.251 million from 1.246 million.

      Construction of new single-family homes were up 6.5% to a rate of 872,000, with gains posted in all regions but the South. The rate for apartment buildings dropped 7.7% to 396,000.

      Building permits

      Although the February construction numbers were encouraging, the outlook for the next few months isn't.

      Building permits were issued last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.213 million -- down 6.2% below the revised January rate of 1.293 million.

      The decline came primarily in authorizations for multi-unit buildings, which plunged 26.9% to a rate of 334,000. Permits for single-family homes were up 3.1% to a rate of 832,000.

      Only the Midwest showed an increase in overall permits issued.

      The complete report may be found on the Commerce Department website.

      Jobless claims

      Initial applications for state unemployment benefits were lower in the week ending March 11 after rising a week earlier.

      The Department of Labor (DOL) reports new claims totaled 241,000, a drop of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level.

      The four-week moving average rose 750 from the previous week to 237,250. Because of its relative lack of volatility, this tally is seen by many economists as a more accurate gauge of the labor market.

      The full report is available on the DOL website.

      Home builders took advantage of the warm spell the country enjoyed last month as housing starts rose 3.0% from the r...
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      Whole Foods Market expands recall of Vulto Creamery cheeses

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Whole Foods Market is expanding its recall of cheese products made by Vulto Creamery to include Andes, Hamden and Walton Umber cheeses sold in eight stores in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      While Vulto has reported six illnesses and two deaths, Whole Foods Market has not received any reports of illnesses or injuries from consumers who purchased the recalled products.

      The recalled products, cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with scale labels beginning with PLU codes 0200307, 0201357 or 0206308 and "sell by" dates from January 2, 2017, to April 2, 2017, were sold at the following Whole Foods Market stores:

      • 94 Derby Street, Hingham, Mass.
      • 1255 Raritan Road Unit 150, Clark, N.J.
      • 300 Bergen Town Center, Paramus, N.J.
      • 238 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, N.Y.
      • 1095 Avenue of the Americas. New York, N.Y.
      • 270 Greenwich Street, New York, N.Y.
      • 4 Union Square South, New York, N.Y.
      • 575 Boston Post Road, Port Chester, N.Y.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should bring their receipts to the store for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may call 607-222-3995 Monday-Friday, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (ET) or email vultocreamery@gmail.com.

      Whole Foods Market is expanding its recall of cheese products made by Vulto Creamery to include Andes, Hamden and Walton Umber cheeses sold in eight stores...
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      Hyundai recalls nearly a million Sonatas and Sonata Hybrids

      The front seat belts may detach from the anchor pretensioners

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 977,778 model year 2011-2014 Sonatas and model year 2011-2015 Sonata Hybrids.

      The seat belt linkages for both front seat belts may detach from the seat belt anchor pretensioners, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify owners and dealers will inspect the connection between the seat belt linkages and the seat belt anchor pretensioners, repairing them as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 7, 2017.

      Owner's may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for the recall is 160.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 977,778 model year 2011-2014 Sonatas and model year 2011-2015 Sonata Hybrids.The seat belt linkages for both front s...
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      Chrysler recalls model year 2017 Fiat 500X vehicles

      The tire pressure monitoring system warning light may not illuminate

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 278 model year 2017 Fiat 500X vehicles.

      When the vehicle has a tire with low tire pressure, the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) warning light may not illuminate.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 138, "Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems."

      Driving a vehicle with an underinflated tire may result in tire failure and increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Fiat will notify owners, and dealers will update the instrument panel software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin April 21, 2017.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is T16.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 278 model year 2017 Fiat 500X vehicles.When the vehicle has a tire with low tire pressure, the tire pressure monitor...
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      Bird flu suspected at Alabama poultry farms

      The farms are across the state line from a Tennessee farm where the virus was detected

      State agriculture officials and executives at a major poultry operation have announced thousands of chickens at three farms have been euthanized over the suspected presence of bird flu.

      The company, Aviagen, said it found the presence of virus antibodies in a flock, even though none of the chickens displayed symptoms of the disease. Officials were on high alert because the operation in Northern Alabama is just across the state line from a Tennessee farm where bird flu was detected last month.

      According to Reuters, the company euthanized the flock and destroyed the eggs that had been collected from the chickens. Reuters quotes Alabama State Veterinarian Tony Frazier as saying about 15,000 chickens, out of a flock of around 153,000, were killed.

      Alabama.com, a local news website, reports Frazier has issued a "stop movement" order for some poultry in the affected area. Officials so far believe the suspected outbreak is confined to a limited area.

      Preliminary test results

      Preliminary test results have confirmed bird flu at three sites, but further testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will determine the strain of flu and its severity.

      Last week the USDA completed testing on bird flu samples from Lincoln County, Tenn., confirming the strain as H7N9 HPAI. All eight gene segments of the virus show that the virus originated among North American wild birds.

      USDA took pains to point out the strain is different from the severe H7N9 virus that impacted poultry and caused illness among humans in Asia.

      "USDA continues to work with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on the joint incident response," the agency said in a release. "Birds on the affected premises have been depopulated, and burial is in progress. An epidemiological investigation is underway to determine the source of the infection.

      Bird flu spreads quickly among animals but so far can only be transmitted to humans who come in contact with an infected bird. There have been no confirmed cases of human to human transmission of the virus.

      State agriculture officials and executives at a major poultry operation have announced thousands of chickens at three farms have been euthanized over the s...
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      U.S. researchers say e-cigarettes not a gateway to tobacco

      Study said it looked for evidence but didn't find it

      When electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) appeared in the marketplace a few years ago, it caught anti-smoking advocates by surprise.

      Cigarette smoking was on the decline. Now there was another product that looked like a cigarette, delivered nicotine, but contained no tobacco. Was it safe? Would it lead to a resurgence of smoking?

      Since then, opposition to e-cigarettes among these groups has hardened. The devices are said to deliver harmful chemicals and serve as a gateway to cigarettes, hooking young people on nicotine.

      Questioning conventional wisdom

      While the health effects of e-cigarettes are still being studied, new research calls into question the contention that they are a gateway to tobacco. Researchers from the University at Buffalo (UB) and University of Michigan flatly assert the evidence isn't there.

      “The national trends in vaping and cigarette smoking do not support the argument that vaping is leading to smoking,” said Lynn Kozlowski, the paper’s lead author and a professor at UB.

      Kozlowski says that existing research shows that as use of e-cigarettes has increased, overall smoking rates in the U.S. have declined. Kozlowski says the research team looked for the link between e-cigarettes and tobacco but didn't find it.

      Questioning previous research

      But what about previous studies that contend there is a link? Kozlowski and his colleagues say these studies have flaws. In particular, he says these studies don't clearly define what "smoking" is.

      “Measures of ‘at least one puff in the past six months’ can mean little more than the experimenting vaper was curious how cigarettes compared,” Kozlowski said.

      Kozlowski says the study only looked at the risks associated with moving from vaping on an e-cigarette to becoming a regular cigarette smoker. Critics of e-cigarettes, meanwhile, have worried that young people are increasingly vaping, and will develop a nicotine dependency that will eventually only be satisfied with tobacco.

      Different ideas across the Atlantic

      As we noted in 2015, the UK and U.S. have different ideas about e-cigarettes. Public health officials in the UK had just released a report saying e-cigarettes were 95% less harmful than cigarettes.

      "My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health," said Professor Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University, a co-author of the report.

      The report also concluded there was no evidence that people who used e-cigarettes later took up smoking. Kozlowski says efforts in the U.S. should focus more on product safety.

      “The public deserves accurate information on the health risks of e-cigarettes versus cigarettes,” Kozlowski said. “From the best evidence to date, e-cigarettes are much less dangerous than cigarettes. The public has become confused about this.”

      When electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) appeared in the marketplace a few years ago, it caught anti-smoking advocates by surprise.Cigarette smoking w...
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      Retail sales inch upward in February

      Sales were generally soft across the board

      Retail sales turned in an anemic performance in February, totaling $474.0 billion -- an increase of 0.1% from a month earlier but up 5.7% from a year earlier.

      The Commerce Department report shows there were few, if any, stellar showings last month. Building material & garden equipment & supplies dealers led the way with a sales advance of 1.8%, followed by nonstore retailers (+1.2%), health & personal care stores (+0.7'%), and furniture and home furnishing stores (+0.7'%).

      On the losing end were electronics & appliance stores, where sales plunged 2.8%. Department store sales fell 1.1%, miscellaneous store retailers were off 0.8%, and gas stations sales dipped 0.6%. Sales at auto dealerships were down 0.1%.

      The full report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      Retail sales turned in an anemic performance in February, totaling $474.0 billion -- an increase of 0.1% from a month earlier but up 5.7% from a year earli...
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      Consumer prices post tiny gain in February

      Falling gas prices offset increases elsewhere

      The Department of Labor's (DOL) Consumer Price Index (CPI) posted its smallest advance since last July -- rising just 0.1% in February. That put the gain over the last 12 months at 2.7%.

      The slight monthly increase came as gasoline costs fell, partially offsetting increases in other categories including food, housing, and recreation.

      Energy down, food on the rise

      Energy prices fell 1.0%, in February, its first decline since last July, with gasoline costs down 3.0%. Other major components were up, with natural gas rising 1.5% and electricity increasing 0.8% -- its first advance in four months. Over the past year, energy costs are up 15.2% with all of its major components rising.

      Food costs were up 0.2% following January's 0.1% increase. Grocery prices, or food at home, rose 0.3% -- the sharpest advance since June 2015. Four of the six major grocery store food groups were higher: nonalcoholic beverages (+1.5%), dairy and related products (+0.8%), fruits and vegetables (+0.7%), and meats, poultry, fish & eggs (+0.2%). Cereals and bakery products and other food at home both fell 0.4%. Over the last 12 months, grocery prices are down 1.7%.

      Food away from home (restaurant prices) rose 0.2% last month after an increase of 0.4% in January. Over the last 12 months, food away from home is up 2.4%, leaving the overall price of food unchanged.

      Core inflation

      Prices for all items, excluding the volatile food and energy categories, were up 0.2% in February, with the costs of housing, recreation, clothing, airline fares, motor vehicle insurance, education, and medical care among those that increased. Decliners included communication, used cars & trucks, new vehicles, and household furnishings and operations.

      For the 12 months ending in February, this “core” rate of inflation was up 2.2% -- the 15th straight month it's been in the range of 2.1-2.3 percent. 

      The complete report is available on the DOL website.

      The Department of Labor's (DOL) Consumer Price Index (CPI) posted its smallest advance since last July -- rising just 0.1% in February. That put the gain o...
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      For-profit schools riding high under Trump regulation rollback

      Education Department delays Obama-era rules cracking down on money-making schools

      With the founder of Trump University in the White House, for-profit education is riding high once again. After years of increasing federal oversight, the for-profit college industry sees President Trump's regulation rollback as its ticket to renewed growth.

      The Education Department last week announced it would delay enforcing the "gainful employment" rules drafted by the Obama Administration to crack down on schools that leave their students with huge debts and scant job opportunities.

      “This action is taken to allow the Department to further review the GE regulations and their implementation,” the agency said.

      The rules cut off access to taxpayer funds for colleges and vocational training institutions if their graduates spend at least 20% of their discretionary income, or 8% of their total earnings each year, paying off student debt.

      Regulations challenged

      Schools have challenged the data used to make the determinations. 

      The industry's lobbying group, Career Education Colleges and Universities, has taken the position that all schools -- public, private, and for-profit -- should be treated equally.

      Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is an advocate of private education and said during her confirmation hearings that she would work to promote trade schools as an alternative to four-year colleges. 

      President Trump's now-defunct Trump University claimed to offer training in real estate and finance but closed after a series of lawsuits and challenges from regulators and former students who said they got little for their money but sales pitches.

      In November 2016, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of about 7,000 former students. 

      One of the named plaintiffs in the case, Sonny Low, said he still had $9,000 in credit card debt and had to take a job at Home Depot to try to finally pay off the remainder, attorney Rachel Jensen said.

      With the founder of Trump University in the White House, for-profit education is riding high once again. After years of increasing federal oversight, the f...
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      Young workers most likely to feel 'vacation shamed' for taking time off

      New research finds that less than half of workers use all of their paid vacation days

      The majority of working Millennials feel shamed for taking time off work, according to new research from Alamo Rent A Car.

      “Vacation shame” was a familiar feeling for around half (49%) of U.S. workers, but young workers were most likely to report feeling shamed for planning and taking vacations from their jobs.

      Last year, 59% of Millennials who responded to Alamo’s Family Vacation Survey said they felt vacation shamed. This year, the number rose to 68%. 

      Millennials are more likely than non-Millennials to say that vacation shaming would keep them from planning or going on a vacation (40% compared to 17%). But across the board, feelings of guilt surrounding time off translate to unused paid vacation days.

      Unused vacation days

      Findings from the study showed that less than half of all workers (47%) are using all of their paid vacation days, compared with 60% in the 2015 study and 57% in the 2016 study.

      Millennials were the least likely age group to say they used all of their vacation days, with 60% opting to leave unused vacation days on the table.

      What’s more, nearly half (48%) of employees said they have felt the need to justify to their employer why they are using their vacation days. Of those who do muster up the emotional fortitude to use their paid time off, just one in five will actually go on a vacation. The majority choose to spend time staying home and running errands.

      Forgoing rest and relaxation

      "Our research shows roughly one in four U.S. workers say the biggest benefit of vacation is feeling less stressed at work -- yet, the majority still choose to limit their vacation days and forgo some much-needed rest and relaxation," said Rob Connors, vice president of brand marketing for Alamo Rent A Car.

      "This year's survey suggests that American workers are putting a lot of pressure on themselves in workplaces when it comes to planning and taking vacations, especially in vacation-shaming environments,” he added.

      Additional findings from the study showed that, overall, 54% of workers feel their colleagues are serious when they engage in vacation-shaming activities.

      Interestingly, the generation most likely to feel vacation shamed is also the generation most likely to inflict guilt upon others. Millennials were more likely than non-Millennials to say they vacation shame their colleagues all of the time or sometimes (33% vs. 14%).

      The majority of working Millennials feel shamed for taking time off work, according to new research from Alamo Rent A Car. “Vacation shame” was a famil...
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      The rate of wholesale inflation slows in February

      Energy costs played a big part in the increase

      The cost of living one step shy of the consumer level -- referred to by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand -- rose at a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.3% last month.

      For the 12 months ended February 2017, wholesale prices were up 2.2%, the largest advance since an increase of 2.4% in the 12 months ended March 2012.

      Services and goods on the rise

      Over 80% of the February advance was due to a 0.4% increase for services, the sharpest since last June. A major factor in the increase was the 4.3% surge in the price of traveler accommodation services. Costs for chemicals and allied products wholesaling; legal services; apparel wholesaling; health, beauty, and optical goods retailing; and architectural and engineering services also moved higher.

      Offsetting those increases was a 10.0% plunge in the price of automotive fuels and lubricants retailing, along with declines in the costs of wireless telecommunication services and for securities brokerage, dealing, and investment advice.

      Prices for goods were up 0.3%, the sixth consecutive rise. Over half of that was due to energy costs, which were up 0.6% with electricity prices surging 1.6%.

      Prices for fresh and dry vegetables, jet fuel, liquefied petroleum gas, pharmaceutical preparations, and residual fuels also rose.

      Gasoline costs were down 2.5%, while prices for beef and veal, and for search, detection, navigation & guidance systems, and equipment also decreased.

      The core rate of inflation, which excludes the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.3%.

      The complete report is available on the BLS website.

      The cost of living one step shy of the consumer level -- referred to by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as the Producer Price Index (PPI) for final de...
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      Vulto Creamery expands raw milk cheese recall

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is expanding its earlier recall of raw milk cheeses.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      All lots of four additional cheeses have been added to the recall: Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden & Walton Umber.

      In all, Vulto has recalled the following eight cheese items: Heinennellie, Miranda,, Willowemoc, Ouleout , Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden & Walton Umber.

      Testing results have identified Ouleout product contamination, similar to the strain isolated from a cluster outbreak of Listeriosis responsible for six illnesses and two confirmed deaths.

      The recalled products were distributed nationwide, with most being sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, California, Chicago Ill., Portland Ore., and Washington, D.C.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions may contact Vulto at 607-222-3995 Monday-Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (ET) or by email at vultocreamery@gmail.com.

      Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is expanding its earlier recall of raw milk cheeses.The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.Al...
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      Domino's settles New York wage theft suit for $480,000

      The company will remain a defendant in similar cases across the state

      Last May, the state of New York sued Domino’s pizza for allegedly underpaying its workers by an estimated $565,000. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had said that the wage violations were the result of franchisees using a computer system called “PULSE,” which had been known to undercalculate gross wages and overtime pay.

      “At some point, a company has to take responsibility for its actions and for its workers’ well-being. We’ve found rampant wage violations at Domino’s franchise stores. And, as our suit alleges, we’ve discovered that Domino’s headquarters was intensely involved in store operations, and even caused many of these violations,” said Schneiderman in a statement.

      The case quickly attracted attention because it was the first time that New York had held a corporation liable for actions taken by its franchisees. However, it seems that three franchisees will ultimately be footing the bill for the suit. Shueb Ahmed, Anthony Maestri, and Matthew Denman, the owners of the three franchisees comprising ten restaurants, will pay back $150,000, $240,000, and $90,000, respectively, to affected employees.

      Under the proposed agreement, Domino’s will remain a defendant in the case because of further allegations of wage theft across the New York. Schneiderman says that similar wage theft accusations and labor law violations have been resolved throughout the state, with money going back into workers’ pockets.

      "The Attorney General has now settled investigations into labor law violations at 71 Domino's franchise locations in New York State, owned by fifteen individual franchisees. These locations comprise more than half of the franchise stores and over a third of the total number of Domino's stores in New York. . . The Attorney General's office has secured nearly $2 million in total restitution for Domino's workers statewide through these settlements," the Attorney General’s office stated in a release.

      “My office will continue with our lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza to end the systemic violations of workers’ rights that have occurred in franchises across the State. We will not allow businesses to turn a blind e to blatant violations that are cheating hard working New Yorkers out of a fair day’s pay,” said Schneiderman.

      Last May, the state of New York sued Domino’s pizza for allegedly underpaying its workers by an estimated $565,000. New York Attorney General Eric Schneide...
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      Whole Foods Market recalls cheeses in four Northeastern states

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Whole Foods Market, in response to Vulto Creamery’s recall of soft wash- rind raw milk cheeses, is recalling the products from nine stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine and New York.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No illnesses have been reported to date.

      The recall includes Vulto Creamery Ouleout and Miranda soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses which were cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with scale labels beginning with PLU codes 0200305 and 0200306 and "sell by" dates from 12/27/2016 to 03/28/2017.

      The Ouleout products were sold at the following stores:

      • 350 Grasmere Avenue, Fairfield, Conn.
      • 115 Prospect Street, Cambridge, Mass.

      The Miranda products were sold at the following stores:

      • 170 Great Road, Bedford, Mass.
      • 575 Worcester Road, Framingham, Mass.
      • 647 Washington Street, Newton, Mass.
      • 2 Somerset Street, Portland, Maine
      • 1425 Central Avenue, Albany, N.Y.
      • 250 7th Ave, New York, N.Y.
      • 270 Greenwich Street, New York, N.Y.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products may bring their receipts to the store for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may call 607-222-3995 Monday-Friday, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (ET) or by email at vultocreamery@gmail.com.

      Whole Foods Market, in response to Vulto Creamery’s recall of soft wash- rind raw milk cheeses, is recalling the products from nine stores in Connecticut,...
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      Vulto Creamery recalls soft, wash-rind raw milk cheeses

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is recalling all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses.

      Testing results from the Food & Drug Administration found Ouleout lot # 617 positive for Listeria monocytogenes and New York Department of Agriculture and Markets found the possible contamination of Ouleout lot #623.

      The recalled products were sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, California, Chicago, Portland and Washington, D.C.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should return the cheese to the purchase location for a refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the firm at 607-222-3995 Monday-Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (ET) or by email at vultocreamery@gmail.com.

      Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y., is recalling all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses.Testing results...
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      How much sunshine is enough?

      Spanish researchers say the answer varies with the season, time of day and other factors

      Too much sunshine isn't good for you, but neither is too little. Hoping to strike a proper balance, Spanish researchers have estimated the duration of sola..

      Home prices post annual and month-over-month gains in January

      The CoreLogic forecast calls for more of the same

      There's a good chance the value of your home went up during January.

      Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows home prices nationwide -- including distressed sales -- shot up 6.9% in January from the same month a year ago and inched ahead 0.7% from December 2016.

      “With lean for-sale inventories and low rental vacancy rates, many markets have seen housing prices outpace inflation,” said CoreLogic Chief Economist Dr. Frank Nothaft.

      Looking ahead

      The increase in values seems likely to continue.

      “The spring home buying season is shaping up to be one of the strongest in recent memory,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “A potent mix of progressive economic recovery, demographics, tight housing stocks and continued low mortgage rates are expected to support this robust market outlook for the foreseeable future.”

      According to the CoreLogic HPI Forecast, home prices should advance of 4.8% from January 2017 to January 2018 and increase 0.1% from January to February.

      There's a good chance the value of your home went up during January.Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) shows ho...
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      Ford recalls Edges and Lincoln MKXs and Continentals

      The driver's front airbag may not fully inflate during a crash

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 27,531 model year 2016-2017 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX vehicles and 2017 Lincoln Continental vehicles.

      The driver's front airbag may not fully inflate or the airbag cushion may detach from the airbag module during a crash.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, "Occupant Crash Protection."

      If the airbag does not fully inflate or the cushion detaches during a crash, there is an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver front airbag module, free of charge. Owners will be notified when remedy parts are available, currently expected to be in August 2017.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 17C02.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 27,531 model year 2016-2017 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX vehicles and 2017 Lincoln Continental vehicles.The driver's front...
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      Meijer expands cheese recall

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Meijer is expanding its earlier recall of cheeses to include its Meijer brand Artisan Made Natural Muenster Cheese and its pre-wrapped Ham Sub on Artisan White Baguette.

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no known illnesses reported to Meijer associated with these products.

      The recalled Meijer brand Artisan Made Natural Muenster Cheese was located on “cheese islands” within the retailer’s deli section, has the expiration dates of March 28, 2017, May 13, 2107, and June 10, 2017, and the UPC 8-86926 27573-5.

      The recalled Meijer pre-made Ham Sub on Artisan White Baguette was located in its “grab-and-go” fresh deli cases with sell by dates between November 2, 2016, and December 30, 2016, and the UPC Code 7-13733 76499-5.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should stop using them and and either dispose of them or return them to the customer service desk at any Meijer store for a full refund.

      Consumers seeking additional information may contact Meijer at (800) 543-3704, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

      Meijer is expanding its earlier recall of cheeses to include its Meijer brand Artisan Made Natural Muenster Cheese and its pre-wrapped Ham Sub on Artisan W...
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      Ohio Farms Packing recalls veal products

      The products may be contaminated with E. coli O103

      Ohio Farms Packing Co. Ltd., of Creston, Ohio, is recalling approximately 40,680 pounds of boneless veal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103.

      None of the products were sold directly to consumers, and there have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

      The the following items, produced November 30, 2016, through February 3, 2017, are being recalled:

      60-lb boxes of “Atlantic Veal & Lamb Inc.: Boneless Veal SF” with product codes:

      • 511012
      • 511020
      • 511021
      • 511023
      • 511024
      • 511030
      • 511032
      • 511034
      • 511336
      • 511337
      • 511340
      • 511341
      • 511343
      • 511351
      • 511362
      • 511365

      60-lb boxes of “Atlantic Veal & Lamb LLC: Boneless Veal” with product codes:

      • 507023
      • 507030
      • 507335
      • 507342
      • 507356
      • 507358

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 34569” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to distributors in Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Canada.

      What to do

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

      Companies that purchase products from Ohio Farms Packing Co. Ltd. should contact the firm directly to determine whether the products they have purchased is subject to the recall.

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Shawn Peerless at (718) 599-6400.

      Ohio Farms Packing Co. Ltd., of Creston, Ohio, is recalling approximately 40,680 pounds of boneless veal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O10...
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      When is the best time to list your home for sale?

      According to Zillow, it's a Saturday in early May

      It's become a seller's real estate market in much of the country in the last few months. Declining inventories have increased competition for the fewer homes that are for sale, and they usually sell quickly.

      But if you're looking for an even faster sale, real estate marketplace Zillow suggests listing your home in late spring. Specifically, it recommends May 1 to May 15. Homes hitting the market in that two-week period, it reports, sell faster and for more money.

      If you happen to live in one of the nation's 25 largest metro areas, you might think about getting on the market sooner, such as in April.

      Home shortage has spurred activity

      Zillow reports buyers are getting active earlier than in years past because of the shortage of homes on the market. They realize the process might take longer and that their attempt to purchase a home might not always be successful. The Zillow Group report notes fewer than half of buyers got the first home on which they made an offer.

      "With 3% fewer homes on the market than last year, 2017 is shaping up to be another competitive buying season," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Many home buyers who started looking for homes in the early spring will still be searching for their dream home months later.”

      The reason May is a good month for selling, Gudell says, is the anxiety some buyers may feel makes them willing to pay a premium to close the deal.

      List on Saturday

      The study also shed some light on the best day of the week for your listing to show up on Zillow. Not surprisingly, it's Saturday. That's when the most people are home from work at the start of the weekend and may be more inclined to search for houses.

      In January, Mortgage News Daily reported that existing home inventory hit a record low. The 1.65 million existing homes available for sale at the end of December was down 10.8% from the previous month.

      Inventory is down for a number of reasons, including the fact that new home construction is about half the level it was before the housing market crash.

      It's become a seller's real estate market in much of the country in the last few months. Declining inventories have increased competition for the fewer hom...
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      Versa Marketing recalls Fusia Szechuan Stir Fry

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Versa Marketing of Fresno, Calif., is recalling 4,089 cases of Fusia Szechuan Stir fry.

      The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      The company says it has not received any complaints in relation to this product and is unaware of any illnesses associated with the product to date.

      The following product, distributed to Aldi stores in poly bags in a multi-pack, is being recalled:

      • Fusia Szechuan Stir fry, Net Weight 21 oz (595 grams) UPC code 041498-178864 Code: Best by date 6-14-18

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled should not consume it, but throw it away.

      Consumer desiring refunds or with questions may contact the company at 1-877-228-6814, Monday-Friday, 8 am – 3 pm.

      Versa Marketing of Fresno, Calif., is recalling 4,089 cases of Fusia Szechuan Stir fry.The product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes....
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      Wayne Farms recalls ready-to-eat chicken products

      The products may contain bacterial pathogens

      Wayne Farms of Decatur, Ala., is recalling approximately 12,610 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.

      A potential processing defect may have resulted in the potential survival of bacterial pathogens in the products.

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

      The following ready-to-eat breaded chicken bite items, packaged on December 1, 13 and 30, 2016, are being recalled:

      • Cases of 2 clear plastic 5-lb bags of “Waffle Breaded Bites: Fully Cooked Breaded White Meat Chicken Bites.”

      The recalled products, bear establishment number “P-20214” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to Food Lion stores in Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Alan Sterling of Wayne Farms at 678-450-3092.

      Wayne Farms of Decatur, Ala., is recalling approximately 12,610 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products.A potential processing defect may have resulted...
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      Gourmet Classic Salads recalls ready-to-eat meat and poultry products

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Gourmet Classic Salads of Lake Wales, Fla., is recalling approximately 3,236 pounds of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions or illnesses due to consumption of these products.

      The following ready-to-eat salad, wrap and snack items, produced and packaged from January 30, 2017, through February 24, 2017, are being recalled:

      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Turkey Pesto on Tomato Basil Wrap.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Steak Fajita on White Wrap.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Chicken Pepper Jack Wrap.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Chicken Caesar Salad.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Chef Salad.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Cobb Salad.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Chicken Caesar on Spinach Wrap.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Chicken Salad Snacker.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad Snacker.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Chicken Salad Cup.”
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Pepperoni & Cheese” snack box.
      • Clear plastic container containing 1 “Turkey & Havarti Lettuce Wrap.”
      • Round black plastic bowl containing 1 “Breakfast Bowl: Italian Sausage, Egg, Cheese & Potato.”
      • Round black plastic bowl containing 1 “Southwest Breakfast Bowl.”
      • Round black plastic bowl containing 1 “Chicken Tender Bowl.”
      • Round black plastic bowl containing 1 “Ziti with Sausage & Cheese”.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 19276” or “P-19276” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to a distributor in Florida for further distribution.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions regarding the recall may contact Pete Bellamy with Gourmet Classic Salads at 863-223-8625.

      Gourmet Classic Salads of Lake Wales, Fla., is recalling approximately 3,236 pounds of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products that may be adulterated with...
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