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    Share of first-time homebuyers continues to shrink

    Survey suggests the housing market is far from normal

    At first glance the U.S. housing market appears to have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. Home values are up, foreclosures are down, and homes in most markets are selling quickly.

    But new research from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has revealed some trends which show this is not exactly a normal housing market. The first one that stands out is a slight decline in the number of first-time homebuyers, largely made up of millennials.

    This group makes up 34 percent of this year's homebuyers, compared to 35 percent last year. Researchers say normally this share should be growing, not shrinking, and that the figure represents the fourth-lowest share of first-time buyers since 1981.

    Dimmed dreams

    NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun points out that many of these first-time buyers are having trouble finding a home in what has become a very restricted market.

    "The dreams of many aspiring first-time buyers were unfortunately dimmed over the past year by persistent inventory shortages, which undercut their ability to become homeowners," he said. "With the lower end of the market seeing the worst of the supply crunch, house hunters faced mounting odds in finding their first home."

    Yun explains that a shrinking housing supply also means that entry-level homes are more likely to draw multiple offers. Investors who eye these homes as rental property -- and who can offer cash -- usually have the upper hand over first-time buyers in a competitive bidding situation.

    Higher prices and student loan debt

    The competition for a smaller number of homes on the market has also resulted in higher prices, making home affordability an issue for some consumers hoping to purchase their first home.

    "Solid economic conditions and millennials in their prime buying years should be translating to a lot more sales to first-timers," Yun said. "But the unfortunate reality is that the nation's homeownership rate will remain suppressed until entry-level supply conditions increase enough to improve overall affordability."

    Another factor inhibiting first-time homebuyers is the large amount of student loan debt that many of them carry. The NAR research shows that 41 percent of consumers looking for their first home have student loan debt, with an average balance of $29,000. Twenty-five percent of these consumers said saving for a down payment was the most difficult part of the homebuying process.

    Less wiggle room

    Despite high prices, NAR says that people who are buying homes this year are more likely to pay the list price, or even higher. However, the researchers say that's a direct result of reduced inventory, which is creating competition in many markets for available homes.

    Buyers whose offers are accepted report it is now a little less difficult to obtain a mortgage. Thirty-four percent of buyers described the process as more difficult than expected, compared to 37 percent last year.

    NAR attributes that improvement to more buyers with stronger financial statements and credit scores, along with a slight easing of credit standards.

    Single women moving up

    Another key take-away from the report is the growing number of single women making home purchases. This year, single women make up 18 percent of homebuyers, the second largest group of purchasers after married couples.

    Despite continuing struggles from first-time homebuyers, NAR says that down payments were smaller this year. The average down payment on a first-time home purchase is currently five percent, down from six percent last year.

    Meanwhile, people buying their second or third homes used their equity to make larger down payments. These consumers made an average down payment of 14 percent, up from 11 percent in 2016.

    At first glance the U.S. housing market appears to have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. Home values are up, foreclosures are down, and homes in m...

    Gasoline prices near 2017 highs

    Rising oil prices may keep gas prices higher than last year, despite the switch to winter grade fuel

    Gasoline prices are moving higher at a time when they normally move lower. The summer driving season is over and refineries are producing cheaper winter gr..

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      Relish Foods recalls frozen tuna loins

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Relish Foods of Culver City, Calif., is recalling frozen Newport brand tuna loins that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

      The recalled product was sold in Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona between August 15, 2017, and September 25, 2017, through food service operations, retail stores, and restaurants.

      It was distributed to the following retail locations and may have been sold in an unbranded form:

      RetailerCityState
      BASHA'S #71TUCSONAZ
      BASHA'S #66CAREFREEAZ
      BASHA'S #47FOUNTAIN HILLSAZ
      RANDALS FINE MEATSFLAGSTAFFAZ
      YOKES FRESH MKT #07DEER PARKWA
      YOKES FRESH MKT #10MEADWA
      YOKES FRESH MKT #13KENNEWICKWA
      YOKES FRESH MKT #11SPOKANEWA
      YOKES FRESH MKT #05KELLOGGID
      YOKES FRESH MKT #15RICHLANDWA
      YOKES FRESH MKT #16LIBERTY LAKEWA
      YOKES FRESH MKT #17POST FALLSID
      YOKES FRESH MKT #20CHENEYWA
      CAL MARTCALISTOGACA
      RALEY'S #103 SEAFOODRENONV
      RALEY'S #106 SEAFOODRENONV
      RALEY'S #108 SEAFOODRENONV
      RALEY'S #109 SEAFOODGARDNERVILLENV
      RALEY'S #110 SEAFOODSPARKSNV
      RALEY'S #113 SEAFOODINCLINENV
      RALEY'S #114 SEAFOODCARSON CITYNV
      RALEY'S #119 SEAFOODSO. LAKE TAHOECA
      RALEY'S #127 SEAFOODSO. LAKE TAHOECA
      RALEY'S #213 SEAFOODGRASS VALLEYCA
      RALEY'S #229 SEAFOODAUBURNCA
      RALEY'S #317 SEAFOODTRACYCA
      RALEY'S #319 SEAFOODNAPACA
      RALEY'S #331 SEAFOODFAIRFIELDCA
      RALEY'S #332 SEAFOODFAIRFIELDCA
      RALEY'S #343 SEAFOODBENICIACA
      RALEY'S #410 SEAFOODFOLSOMCA
      RALEY'S #412 SEAFOODGRANITE BAYCA
      RALEY'S #417 SEAFOODFAIR OAKSCA
      RALEY'S #421 SEAFOODFAIR OAKSCA
      RALEY'S #422 SEAFOODPLACERVILLECA
      RALEY'S #426 SEAFOODJACKSONCA
      RALEY'S #440 SEAFOODRANCHO CORDOVACA
      CONCORD PRODUCE MRKTCONCORDCA
      RALEY'S #338 SEAFOODOAKDALECA
      RALEY'S #339 SEAFOODMODESTOCA
      RALEY'S #329 SEAFOODPETALUMACA
      BEL AIR MKT #501 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
      BEL AIR MKT #502 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
      BEL AIR MKT #509 SEAFOODROSEVILLECA
      BEL AIR MKT #514 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
      BEL AIR MKT #516 SEAFOODELK GROVECA
      BEL AIR MKT #517 SEAFOODAUBURNCA
      BEL AIR MKT #519 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
      BEL AIR MKT #521 SEAFOODYUBA CITYCA
      BEL AIR MKT #522 SEAFOODGOLD RIVERCA
      BEL AIR MKT #524 SEAFOODFOLSOMCA
      BEL AIR MKT #528 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
      SPD MARKET #1NEVADA CITYCA
      NOB HILL #602 SEAFOODGILROYCA
      NOB HILL #603 SEAFOODMORGAN HILLCA
      NOB HILL #605 SEAFOODHOLLISTERCA
      NOB HILL #615 SEAFOODCAPITOLACA
      NOB HILL #617 SEAFOODWATSONVILLECA
      NOB HILL #620 SEAFOODSCOTTS VALLEYCA
      NOB HILL #621 SEAFOODMARTINEZCA
      NOB HILL #623 SEAFOODNAPACA
      NOB HILL #635 SEAFOODSAN JOSECA

      The product from the recalled lots will have been displayed in the seafood departments of the stores where they sold, and is likely to have been sold as steak loins or pieces of loins on a tray with clear plastic wrap cover.

      It also may have been sold out of the fresh case and wrapped in "butcher paper" to the customer's order.

      What to do

      Customers concerned about whether the tuna they purchased may contain the recalled tuna loin product should check with the store where they purchased the tuna. That store will be able to determine if it used the recalled product to prepare the tuna.

      Consumers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the distributor for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-888-730-3875, Mondays through Fridays, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. (PDT).

      Relish Foods of Culver City, Calif., is recalling frozen Newport brand tuna loins that may be contaminated with Salmonella.The recalled product was sol...

      Polaris recalls General ROVs

      The steering wheel shaft can shift and detach while in use

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 19,000 General side-by-side recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

      The steering wheel shaft can shift and detach while in use, resulting in a loss of control and crash hazard.

      The firm has received 5 reports of the steering shaft separating and 1 report of a broken hand injury.

      This recall involves model year 2016 and 2017 Polaris General 2- and 4-seat side-by-side recreational off-highway vehicles.

      The vehicles were sold in black, blue, camouflage, orange, red, silver and white and have a cargo box on the back.

      “Polaris” is printed on the front grill, “GENERAL” is printed on the rear panel and “1000” is printed on the front panel.

      The VIN is printed on the left rear vehicle frame below the cargo box.

      The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from December 2015, through September 2016, for between $16,000 and $21,000.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact Polaris to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Polaris at 800-765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off Road Safety Recalls” for more information. 

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 19,000 General side-by-side recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).The steering wheel shaft c...

      Keeping your pet safe on Halloween

      Avoid a Halloween scare by following these tips for keeping pets safe and happy

      Candy, pet costumes, and increased household commotion that come with Halloween parties or trick-or-treaters can pose a number of potential safety hazards for pets.

      From heightened stress levels to adverse health effects, the hustle and bustle can do damage to a pet’s health if proper precautions aren’t taken, and some may not be so obvious as keeping chocolate treats out of reach.

      Tips for a trick-free Halloween

      To help ensure your four-legged family member has a safe and happy Halloween, be sure to keep the following tips in mind:  

      • Choose a safe costume. According to the National Retail Federation, 16% of pet owners will dress their pet in a costume this Halloween. If your pet is one of them make sure it’s safe, comfortable, and allows free movement. The American Humane Society says pet parents should avoid costumes that require tying anything around the pet’s neck that can choke them, or costumes that hang to the ground that could pose a tripping hazard. Small, dangling accessories that could easily be chewed off and swallowed should also be avoided.
      • Keep Halloween treats out of reach. Chocolate -- especially baking chocolate -- should not be given to dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine, while candy and gum often contain a low-calorie sweetener called Xylitol -- both substances can be toxic to pets. To reduce your pet’s temptation to sneak a Halloween treat, feed them before any guests arrive. Additionally, be sure to tell your guests not to feed your pet any scraps from the table. 
      • Provide a safe, quiet space. People in costume and a busier-than-usual household environment can be scary and confusing for animals. To keep your pet’s stress to a minimum, consider putting them in a quiet, escape-proof room away from the festivities. Remember to provide plenty of food and water and make sure you or a member of your household checks on them periodically. 
      • Make sure pets have ID. Whether your dog will be accompanying the kids to go trick-or-treating or staying home with you, it’s important to make sure your pet has proper identification. Current, securely attached identification tags will improve the odds of your pet returning home if they happen to slip away. Microchips are even better, since they can’t be lost by pets. Be sure to watch the door to keep your pet from darting out the door when the doorbell rings. 
      • Avoid dangerous decor. Candy wrappers, paper decorations, and other fall decor can be dangerous if consumed. Keep seasonal decorations and jack-o-lanterns with lit candles out of paw’s reach. Faux candles or glow sticks can used in jack-o-lanterns to reduce the risk of a fire or pet injury.
      Candy, pet costumes, and increased household commotion that come with Halloween parties or trick-or-treaters can pose a number of potential safety hazards...

      New Amazon service places online orders in your home

      Amazon Key is available in select U.S. markets starting November 8

      Amazon has changed the way consumers buy things, and now it wants to change the way those items are delivered. Instead of leaving boxes on your doorstep, Amazon has created a new service called Amazon Key that will allow deliveries to be safely deposited inside your home, even when you aren’t there.

      The service, which is currently only available to Amazon Prime members, requires consumers to install an Amazon Key-compatible smart lock on their front door, the company’s new Cloud Cam inside their home, and the Amazon Key app on their phone or smart device. When the time comes for a delivery to arrive, a courier will be able to remotely unlock the front door and place the package inside.

      In the video below, Amazon explains how the service can be used for receiving packages or for providing scheduled access to family, friends, or other services like cleaners or pet sitters.

      Secure access

      Of course, not just anyone will be able to gain access to your home through the service. To gain entry to a customer’s home, a delivery driver requests access through an encrypted authentication process that determines if the driver is at the right address with the correct package.

      After receiving all the necessary confirmations, Amazon then sends a signal that unlocks the door and initiates the Amazon Cloud Cam to start recording. The driver never receives an access code and the customer is alerted so they can view the delivery in real time on their smartphone or watch a recording later.

      “Amazon Key gives customers peace of mind knowing their orders have been safely delivered to their homes and are waiting for them when they walk through their doors,” said Peter Larsen, Amazon's vice president of delivery technology.

      Designed for Prime members

      Amazon says the service is designed specifically with Prime members in mind, since these consumers not only buy a lot of things from Amazon but tend to be busy and not at home when important deliveries are being made.

      To use the service, Prime members will have to buy the Amazon Key In-Home Kit -- which includes the smart lock and Amazon Cloud Cam -- for $249.99. Consumers can choose to install the equipment themselves or have Amazon professionals install it for them at no extra cost.

      Currently, there are no extra charges applied to Amazon Key deliveries; eligible shoppers simply have to select the “FREE in-home delivery” option when checking out items on the site. The service will be available starting November 8 in 37 U.S. markets.

      For more information on Amazon Key, including a list of frequently asked questions, consumers can visit Amazon’s site here.

      Amazon has changed the way consumers buy things, and now it wants to change the way those items are delivered. Instead of leaving boxes on your doorstep, A...

      Arctic Cat ROVs recalled

      Heat from the exhaust can melt the plastic panels, posing a fire hazard.

      Arctic Cat is recalling about 15,500 Arctic Cat recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

      Heat from the exhaust can melt the plastic panels behind the operator and passenger seat, posing a fire hazard.

      The firm has received 444 reports of the plastic panels melting, with 5 resulting in fires. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves all model year 2014 through 2017 Wildcat Trail and 2015 through 2017 Wildcat Sport models of Arctic Cat ROVs.

      The recalled vehicles were sold in multiple colors, have four wheels and side-by-side seating for two people.

      “Wildcat Trail” or “Wildcat Sport” is printed on each side of the vehicle.

      The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Arctic Cat dealers nationwide from December 2013, through August 2017, for between $10,500 and $19,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact Arctic Cat to schedule a free repair.

      Arctic Cat is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      If you need assistance locating an authorized dealer to conduct this repair, contact Arctic Cat at 800-279-6851 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.arcticcat.com for more information.

      Arctic Cat is recalling about 15,500 Arctic Cat recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.Heat from the exhaust can...

      Avon Viper Stryke tires recalled

      A bulge may develop in the tread or the tread may separate from the tire

      Max-Trac Tire is recalling 245 Avon Viper Stryke tires, sizes 120/70R14, 120/70R15, 160/60R14, and 160/60R15, manufactured from January 4, 2015, through April 8, 2017.

      A bulge may develop in the tread or the tread may separate from the tire.

      Thus, they vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 119, "New Pneumatic Tires-Other than Passenger Cars."

      A bulge in the tread or a tread separation can cause a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Max-Trac will notify owners, and dealers will replace the tires, free of charge.

      The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Avon Motorcycle Tyres North America at 1-800-642-7470 extension 3159. Max-Trac's number for this recall is 169.

      Max-Trac Tire is recalling 245 Avon Viper Stryke tires, sizes 120/70R14, 120/70R15, 160/60R14, and 160/60R15, manufactured from January 4, 2015, through Ap...

      Model year 2010 Lexus HS 250h Hybrids recalled

      The vehicle may suffer a complete loss of power

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 18,130 model year 2010 Lexus HS 250h Hybrids.

      A component within the hybrid transaxle assembly may short circuit and result in a reduction or a complete loss of available power for moving the vehicle.

      A complete loss of motive power can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Lexus will notify owners, and dealers will replace the hybrid vehicle transaxle assembly, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin November 20, 2017.

      Owners may contact 1-800-255-3987. Toyota's number for this recall is HLE.

      Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing is recalling 18,130 model year 2010 Lexus HS 250h Hybrids.A component within the hybrid transaxle assembly may...

      PlanToys recalls baby gyms

      Babies can strangle on the side rope crossbars

      PlanToys of Union City, Calif., is recalling about 500 PlanToys baby gyms.

      Babies can strangle on the baby gym's side rope crossbars.

      No incidents or injuries are reported.

      This recall involves PlanToys baby gyms that are set on the floor for babies. Babies lie under the gym to play with the hanging mobiles.

      The wooden gyms are tan and have four legs with four different color balls in the middle that are connected by two ropes on the sides. There are two space-themed mobiles hanging from the top bar.

      The manufacturing date code TH 080116 through TH 082916 is printed on the top corner joint connecting ball.

      The gyms, manufactured in Thailand, were sold at specialty toy and baby product stores nationwide and online at Diapers.com, Target.com and other websites from September 2016, through May 2017, for about $50.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the baby gyms and contact PlanToys for a free replacement baby gym.

      Consumers may contact PlanToys toll-free at 866-517-7526 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday, by email at Michael@plantoysinc.com or online at www.PlanToys.com and click on Safety at the bottom of the page for more information.

      PlanToys of Union City, Calif., is recalling about 500 PlanToys baby gyms.Babies can strangle on the baby gym's side rope crossbars.No incidents or...

      Jeep Compass earns an IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK award

      It's the first redesign for the vehicle in a decade

      The 2017 Jeep Compass, equipped with optional front crash prevention, has been named winner of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK award.

      The addition of that feature marks the first time in a decade that the Compass has been redesigned. The award affects models built in the 2017 calendar year; however, a few 2017 models built in 2016 have the old design.

      A vehicle must have good ratings in all five IIHS crashworthiness tests -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints -- to earn a TOP SAFETY PICK award. The vehicle must also earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

      The small SUV earned a superior rating for its optional front crash prevention system by avoiding collisions in the 12 mph and 25 mph IIHS track tests.

      Headlights a disqualifier

      The Compass would have qualified for the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award had its headlights not fallen short of an acceptable or good rating.

      The vehicle's optional high-intensity discharge lights and high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high beams and low beams when other vehicles are present, earned a marginal headlight rating.

      Its base halogen headlights were rated “poor.”

      Touting Jeep's safety

      FCA US LLC, Jeep's parent company, expects the IIHS award will improve sales of the Compass.

      Product PR Manager Jordan Wasylyk noted that the new Compass has been on sale in the U.S. for only six months, and that last month it posted its best sales month ever with 11,356 vehicles sold -- an increase of 75 percent from the previous year.

      “As with any award,” said Wasylyk, “it’s confirmation of why the vehicle should be considered for purchase and validates the Jeep brand’s safety claim.”

      However, he added that, “for competitive reasons the company doesn’t disclose projected sales.”

      The 2017 Jeep Compass, equipped with optional front crash prevention, has been named winner of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFE...

      Great Lakes Cheese recalls imitation mozzarella cheese

      The product contains whey and casein, milk allergens not declared on the label

      Great Lakes Cheese is recalling of 60 packages of American Accent Shredded Imitation Mozzarella Cheese.

      The product contains whey and casein, milk allergens not declared on the label.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products to date.

      The following product, sold at Bashas’, AJ's Fine Foods, Food City and Bashas’ Dine Markets stores in Arizona and New Mexico, is being recalled

      • American Accent Shredded Imitation Mozzarella Cheese; Size 32 oz, UPC Code 0 365148012 6, Best By JUN 8 2018

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard them immediately or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact the Great Lakes Cheese customer care hotline at 1-800-677-7181.

      Great Lakes Cheese is recalling of 60 packages of American Accent Shredded Imitation Mozzarella Cheese.The product contains whey and casein, milk aller...

      More than 400,000 Jeep Libertys, Chrysler 200s and Dodge Avengers recalled

      The active headrests may not deploy in a rear-end crash

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 414,134 model year 2012 Jeep Libertys, and model year 2012-2013 Chrysler 200s and Dodge Avengers.

      A component within the occupant restraint controller (ORC) may fail and prevent the active headrests from deploying in a rear-end crash.

      A failure to deploy increases the risk of injury to front seat occupants.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the ORC as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 29, 2017.

      Owners may contact FCA customer service at 1-800-853-1403. FCA's number for this recall is T56.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 414,134 model year 2012 Jeep Libertys, and model year 2012-2013 Chrysler 200s and Dodge Avengers.A component within...

      Fisher-Price recalls infant motion seats

      The motor housing can overheat, posing a fire hazard

      Fisher-Price of East Aurora, N.Y., is recalling about 65,000 Soothing Motions Seats sold in the U.S., and Canada.

      The motor housing can overheat, posing a fire hazard.

      The company has received 36 reports of the product overheating, including one report of a fire contained within the motor housing. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Fisher-Price Soothing Motions Seats with model numbers CMR35, CMR36, CMR37, and DYH22 and Smart Connect Soothing Motions Seats with model number CMR39.

      The seat bounces, sways, or bounces and sways together, vibrates, plays 10 songs and nature sounds, and has an overhead mobile.

      The model number is located on the underside of the motor housing.

      The infant seats, manufactured in China, were sold at BuybuyBaby, Target, Toys R Us, Walmart and other stores nationwide and online at Amazon.com and other websites from November 2015, through October 2017, for about $160 for the Soothing Motions Seat and $175 for the Smart Connect Soothing Motions Seat.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled Soothing Motions Seats and contact Fisher-Price for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Fisher-Price at 800-432-5437 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at www.service.mattel.com and click on Product Recalls & Safety Alerts for more information.

      Fisher-Price of East Aurora, N.Y., is recalling about 65,000 Soothing Motions Seats sold in the U.S., and Canada.The motor housing can overheat, posing...

      VW recalls more than 200k Audis

      The heater wires could overheat or melt

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 216,440 model year 2013-2016 Audi A5 Coupe, A5 Cabriolet, A4 Sedan, A4 Allroad and Q5 vehicles.

      Contact corrosion within the electrical connector for the auxiliary heater may cause the heater wires to overheat or melt, increasing the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Audi will notify owners, and dealers will replace the auxiliary heater and, as necessary, update the software, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule.

      Owners may contact Audi customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's numbers for this recall are 80C5 and 80C6.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 216,440 model year 2013-2016 Audi A5 Coupe, A5 Cabriolet, A4 Sedan, A4 Allroad and Q5 vehicles.Contact corrosi...

      Spicely Organics recalls organic tarragon

      The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

      Spicely Organics of Fremont, Calif., is recalling Organic Tarragon that has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

      There have been no reports of illnesses to date.

      The recalled product is packaged in 0.4-oz (11g) glass jars with black caps with marks “best if used by: 12/31/20 OTW100134.”

      It was sold through retails stores and e-commerce in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

      What to do

      Customers who have purchased the product may return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-510-440-1044 ext. 1001 Monday – Friday, 7:00am – 2:30pm (PST). 

      Spicely Organics of Fremont, Calif., is recalling Organic Tarragon that has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.There have been no reports...

      Herman Miller recalls fiberglass rocking chairs due to fall hazard

      The rocker’s base can separate from the seat

      Herman Miller, Inc., of Zeeland, Mich., is recalling nearly 1,800 Eames fiberglass rockers sold inb the U.S. and Canada.

      The rocker’s base can separate from the seat, posing a fall hazard.

      The company has received 9 reports of consumers falling, including 6 resulting in injuries that included bumps and cuts.

      This recall involves Herman Miller’s Eames-branded molded fiberglass armchair rockers with model numbers beginning with RFAR.

      The rockers were sold in multiple shell colors and frame finishes, and with or without upholstery.

      The upholstered rockers measure about 25.25 by 25.5 by 27 inches and the non-upholstered about 25 by 25.5 by 27 inches.

      Recalled rockers were manufactured from May 1, 2013 through September 8, 2017. The manufacture date in MM/DD/YYYY format and the model number are printed on a label located on the underside of the seat.

      The Herman Miller, the Eames Office and the Eames signature logos are molded into the underside of the seat

      The rockers, manufactured in the U.S, were sold at Herman Miller, Design Within Reach and Herman Miller’s authorized retailers and dealers nationwide and online at http://store.hermanmiller.com and www.dwr.com from May 2013, through September 2017, for about $650 (non-upholstered) and $890 (upholstered).

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled rockers and contact Herman Miller to return the product free of cost for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Herman Miller online at www.hermanmiller.com and click on Recall Information at the bottom of the page, by email at recall_info@hermanmiller.com or toll-free at 866-866-3124 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET).

      Herman Miller, Inc., of Zeeland, Mich., is recalling nearly 1,800 Eames fiberglass rockers sold inb the U.S. and Canada.The rocker’s base can separate...

      Possible choking hazard prompts recall of wind-up musical toys

      The metal post and/or handle of the wind-up mechanism can detach

      Kids Preferred of East Windsor, N.J., is recalling about 587,000 wind-up musical toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The metal post and/or handle of the wind-up mechanism can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children.

      The firm has received six reports of parts from the wind-up handle detaching from the toy. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Carter’s, Child of Mine, Guess How Much I Love You and Just One You brands of wind-up musical plush toys.

      The toys have a metal wind-up mechanism that can be turned to play music, and were sold in variety of animal characters and colors.

      The model number and batch code are printed on the smallest white sewn-in label behind the care label.

      Brand

      Product

      Description

      Model Number

      Batch Codes

      Just One You

      Waggy Musical Kitty

      a pink plush kitten with bright pink back feet and a bright pink heart on the backside and a silver colored metal windup post and handle

      66834

      105379 1015 66834, 105380 1115 66834, 105968 0516 66834, 105969 0616 66834, 105971 0816 66834 & 106598 1016 66834

      Just One You

      Waggy Musical Puppy

      a gray and white plush puppy with light blue inner ears and back feet and a silver colored metal windup post and handle

      66835

      105379 1015 66835, 105380 1115 66835, 105968 0516 66835, 105969 0616 66835,&105971 0816 66835

      Just One You

      Waggy Musical Owl

      a pink plush owl with a white face and pink belly and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the Owl’s backside

      67058

      106454 1016 67058, 106626 1116 67058 & 106627 1216 67058

      Just One You

      Waggy Musical Giraffe

      a white and gray plush giraffe with a gray star appliqued on the giraffe’s left side and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the giraffe’s left side

      67059

      106454 1016 67059, 106626 1116 67059 & 106627 1216 67059

      Child of Mine

      Waggy Musical Elephant

      a gray plush elephant with light pink inner ears and feet, a mint green heart on the backside and a silver colored metal windup post and handle

      62279

      105736 0316 62279 105813 0416 62279, 105817 0516 62279,  105818 0316 62279, 105819 0616 62279, 105820 0716 62279, 106364 0816 62279, 106462 0916 62279, 106463 1016 62279, 106554 1016 62279, 106624 1116 62279 & 106625 1216 62279 

      Child of Mine

      Waggy Musical Lamb

      a white plush lamb with pink feet, a pink bow and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the lamb’s left side

      62280

      105736 0316 62280, 105813 0416 62280, 105817 0516 62280, 105818 0316 62280, 105819 0616 62280, 105820 0716 62280, 106364 0816 62280, 106462 0916 62280, 106463 1016 62280, 106554 1016 62280, 106624 1116 62280 & 106625 1216 62280

      Child of Mine

      Dino Waggy Musical

      a green plush dinosaur with grey feet and black spots on his back and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the dino’s left side

      62281

      105736 0316 62281, 105813 0416 62281, 105817 0516 62281, 105819 0616 62281, 105820 0716 62281, 106364 0816 62281, 106412 0816 62281, 106413 0916 62281, 106462 0916 62281, 106554 1016 62281,  106621 1016 62281, 106624 1116 62281 & 106625 1216 62281

      Child of Mine

      Giraffe Waggy Musical

      a yellow plush giraffe with blue and white striped feet and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the giraffe’s left side

      62282

      105736 0316 62282, 105813 0416 62282, 105817 0516 62282, 105819 0616 62282, 105820 0716 62282, 106365 0616 62282, 106462 0916 62282, 106463 1016 62282, 106554 1016 62282, 106624 1116 62282 & 106625 1216 62282

      Carter’s

      Lamb Waggy Musical

      a white plush sitting lamb with silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the lamb’s left side

      66940

      105834 0416 66940, 105854 0416 66940, 105857 0516 66940, 105859 0716 66940 & 106557 1016 66940

      Carter’s

      Zebra Waggy Musical

      a gray and white stuffed zebra with a pink snout and feet and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the zebra’s left side

      61405

      106051 0616 61405 & 105514 1016 61405

      Carter’s

      Giraffe Waggy Musical

      a tan and beige plush giraffe with a satin ribbon tail accent and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the giraffe’s left side

      61406

      106051 0616 61406 & 106514 1016 61405

      Carter’s

      Puppy Waggy Musical

      a blue plush puppy with gray feet and gray stars appliqued on the dog’s left side and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the dog’s left side

      66806

      106514 1016 66806 & 106829 1216 66806

      Carter’s

      Owl Waggy Musical

      a pink plush owl with a white face and belly and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the owl’s backside

      67015

      105926 0516 67015

      Carter’s

      Unicorn Waggy Musical

      a white plush unicorn with a pink mane and tail and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the unicorn’s backside

      67115

      106514 1016 67115 & 106829 0117 67115

      Carter’s

      Monkey Waggy Musical

      a brown plush monkey with light tan feet and face and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the monkey’s backside

      67116

      106514 1016 67116 & 106829 0117 67116

      Carter’s

      Bunny Waggy Musical

      a white plush bunny with pink inner ears and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the monkey’s backside

      67117

      106514 1016 67117 & 106829 0117 67117

      Carter’s

      Lamb Waggy Musical

      a white plush standing lamb with gray feet, mint stars appliqued on the lamb’s left side and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the lamb’s left side

      66804

      105981 0416 66804, 106051 0616 66804 & 106514 1016 66804

      Carter’s

      Elephant Waggy Musical

      a pink plush elephant with gray feet and gray stars appliqued on the elephant’s left side and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the elephant’s left side

      66805

      106514 1016 66805

      Guess How Much I Love You

      Big Nutbrown and Little Nutbrown Waggy Musical

      a tan plush mama and baby bunny with embroidered lettering on the mama’s right foot and a silver colored metal wind up post and handle on the mama’s backside

      96814

      106643 0117 96814 

      The wind-up musical toys, manufactured in China, were sold at Carter’s, Target, Walmart and other stores nationwide and online from January 2016, through August 2017, for between $11 and $20.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled toys, take them away from young children and contact Kids Preferred for a free replacement toy.

      Consumers may contact Kids Preferred toll-free at 888-968-9268 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, by email at recall@kidspreferred.com or online at www.kidspreferred.com and click on “Product Safety” for more information.

      Kids Preferred of East Windsor, N.J., is recalling about 587,000 wind-up musical toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.The metal post and/or handle of the w...

      Mercedes-Benz recalling nearly a half million vehicles

      The driver's air bag may deploy unexpectedly

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 495,290 of the following vehicles:

      • 2014-2018 CLA250, CLA250 4Matic, CLA45 AMG 4Matic,
      • 2015-2018 GLA250, GLA250 4Matic, GLA45 AMG 4Matic, C300 4Matic, C63S AMG,
      • 2012-2014 C250, C350, C300 4Matic, E550 4Matic,
      • 2013-2014 C63 AMG,
      • 2012-2015 C250 Coupe, C350 Coupe, C63 AMG Coupe,
      • 2013-2015 C350 4Matic Coupe, GLK250 4Matic BlueTec, GLK350, GLK350 4Matic,
      • 2016-2017 C350e, C43 AMG,
      • 2015 C400 4Matic,
      • 2016-2018 C63 AMG, GLC300, GLC300 4Matic,
      • 2017-2018 C300 Coupe, C300 4Matic Coupe, C43 AMG, C63 AMG Coupe, C63S AMG Coupe, C300 Cabriolet, C300 4Matic Cabriolet, C43 AMG Cabriolet, C63 AMG Cabriolet, C63S AMG Cabriolet, GLC300 4Matic Coupe, GLC43 AMG, GLC43 AMG Coupe,
      • 2014 E350 Coupe, E350 4Matic Coupe, E350 Cabriolet, E400 Hybrid,
      • 2015-2017 E400 Coupe, E400 4Matic Coupe, E400 Cabriolet,
      • 2014-2017 E550 Coupe, E550 Cabriolet, B250e,
      • 2014-2016 E250 BlueTec, E63 AMG 4Matic Wagon,
      • 2012-2013 E350 BlueTec,
      • 2012-2016 E350, E350 4Matic,
      • 2015-2016 E400, E400 4Matic,
      • 2012 E63 AMG,
      • 2014-2015 E250 4Matic BlueTec,
      • 2013-2016 E350 Wagon, 2017 GLC300d 4Matic, and
      • 2018 GLC350e 4Matic.

      The driver's air bag may deploy unexpectedly due to insufficient grounding of the steering components if an electrostatic discharge occurs and the air bag clockspring is broken.

      If the driver air bag inadvertently deploys, it can increase the risk of injury and a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will add sufficient grounding to the steering components, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin in December 2017. Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-877-496-3691.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 495,290 of the following vehicles: 2014-2018 CLA250, CLA250 4Matic, CLA45 AMG 4Matic, 2015-2018 GLA250, GLA2...

      Toyota recalls older Siennas

      The shift lever could move out of the “Park” position without depressing the brake pedal

      Toyota Motor North America is recalling about 310,000 model year 2005 – 2007, 2009 and 2010 Siennas.

      Grease inside the shift lever assembly could transfer to other internal components, causing them to function improperly.

      This could allow the shift lever to be moved out of the “Park” position without depressing the brake pedal.

      If this occurs when the parking brake is not engaged, it could lead to a vehicle rollaway and increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Toyota dealers will replace the shift lock solenoid with a new one, remove the grease, and reapply an appropriate amount of grease at no cost to customers.

      All known owners of the involved vehicles will be notified by first class mail by mid-December.

      Owners with questions may call Toyota customer service at 1-800-331-4331. 

      Toyota Motor North America is recalling about 310,000 model year 2005 – 2007, 2009 and 2010 Siennas.Grease inside the shift lever assembly could transf...

      Ten midsize cars earn good ratings on new IIHS crash test

      The test focuses on safety for front seat passengers

      Because it believed some automakers were giving short shrift to the right side of the vehicle, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has instituted a small overlap front crash protection for the vehicle's passenger side.

      A good or acceptable passenger-side rating will be required to qualify for the Institute's 2018 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

      In the first test group, 10 out of 13 midsize cars earned a good rating, while one was deemed acceptable and two earned a marginal rating.

      "The midsize cars we tested didn't have any glaring structural deficiencies on the right side," said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller. "Optimizing airbags and safety belts to provide better head protection for front-seat passengers appears to be the most urgent task now."

      That test sends a vehicle into a barrier at 40 mph with just 25 percent of the vehicle's front end overlapping the barrier on the driver side.

      It mimics what happens when the front driver-side corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or with an obstacle such as a tree or utility pole.

      The test results

      The Subaru Outback was one of the top performers and its good passenger-side rating also applies to its twin, the Subaru Legacy.

      In the test, the passenger's space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the right edge of the toepan. The safety belt and front and side curtain airbags worked together to keep the dummy in place, and measures taken from the dummy showed there would be a low risk of injury in a similar real-world crash.

      The Chevrolet Malibu and the Volkswagen Passat earn a marginal passenger-side rating.

      In both cars, the passenger dummy's head slid off the front airbag and contacted the dashboard. Measures taken from the dummy showed head injuries would be possible in a real-world crash of the same severity.

      In the passenger-side small overlap test of the Subaru Outback, the passenger dummy's head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound.

      The Passat is one of five cars with an acceptable, instead of good, structural rating. It had maximum intrusion of 7 inches at the lower door-hinge pillar.

      The vehicle with the most structural damage was the Mazda 6, where intrusion reached 9 inches at the lower door-hinge pillar, compared with 5 inches in the driver-side test. 

      Because it believed some automakers were giving short shrift to the right side of the vehicle, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has instit...

      Bel Brands USA recalls Merkts Port Wine Cheese Spread

      The product contains small pieces of plastic

      Bel Brands USA is recalling Merkts Port Wine Cheese Spread.

      The product contains small pieces of plastic.

      While a few consumers have reported finding small pieces of plastic in the product, no injury, illness or allergic reactions have been reported to date.

      The following item, produced On September 1, 2017 and sold nationwide is being recalled:

      SizeNameUPC#DatePlant Code
      14-oz.Merkts Port Wine76306 60200

      “BEST BEFORE”

      date of April 29, 2018

      LC2442A

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, but discard it.

      Consumers with questions may call contact 1-888-840-0096 from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM (ET), Monday through Friday.

      Bel Brands USA is recalling Merkts Port Wine Cheese Spread.The product contains small pieces of plastic.While a few consumers have reported finding...

      Dangerous driving behaviors to address with your teen

      NHTSA suggests talking points for parents as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week

      Crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2015, approximately 2,300 teen ages 16 to 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes.

      Fatal car accidents claim more teen lives than injuries, disease, or violence.

      Experts attribute teens’ heightened risk of involvement in a crash to their overconfidence, inexperience, and an increased likelihood to speed, make mistakes, and get distracted -- especially if their friends are in the car.

      The NHTSA is raising awareness during National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 15-21), and encouraging parents to talk with their teen drivers about what is and isn’t safe driving behavior.

      Risky behaviors

      Distracted driving, drowsy driving, speeding, alcohol use, not wearing a seatbelt, and driving with passengers are among the risky driving behaviors teens are more likely than older drivers to engage in behind the wheel.

      Surveys show teens whose parents set firm rules for driving tend to engage in less risky driving behaviors and be involved in fewer crashes

      Reducing crash risk

      Here are a few topics to talk about while going over safe driving habits with teens:

      • Don’t drink and drive. Despite not being legally allowed to buy alcohol, almost one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking, according to 2015 data from the NHTSA. Remind your teen that driving under the influence of any substance– including illicit prescription or even over the counter drugs–could have deadly consequences and is strictly enforced.

      • Always wear a seatbelt. The simple act of buckling up before embarking on a drive could save your teen’s life or help prevent injuries.

      • Avoid distractions. Distraction was a key factor in 58 percent of crashes involving drivers ages 16 to 19, according to an analysis of video footage of 1,691 moderate-to-severe crashes 6 seconds before they occurred. Ask your teen not to text while they’re driving and to limit other distractions, such as eating, fiddling with controls, or talking to passengers.

      • Pull over if you’re drowsy. Drowsiness can impair your ability to drive just like alcohol. If your teen suddenly feels drowsy, tell them they should immediately slow down and pull off the road into a safe parking space. Alternatively, they could take a pit stop, use the bathroom, and get a soda or coffee to wake up.

      • Stick to the speed limit. Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers, according to AAA. Inexperienced drivers, in particular, should make sure they heed the speed limits, especially in construction work zones.

      • Maintain a safe distance. Following too closely accounts for a large number of the crashes caused by teens. In wet weather, double or triple the space you normally leave between you and the car in front of you. More space is needed to stop on slick roads.

      Crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2015, approximatel...

      Three declines in a row for new home construction

      The outlook for the months ahead is not all that bright

      Consumers looking to buy a new home in the next few months will likely find a dwindling selection to choose from.

      The Commerce Department reports construction of privately-owned houses fell 4.7 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,127,000. However, even with that decline, the annual rate of housing starts is 6.1 percent above the same month a year ago.

      A closer look at the report shows ground-breaking for single-family homes was down 4.6 percent from August at a rate of 829,000. Construction was started on multi-unit buildings at a rate of 286,000 -- a decline of 6.2 percent.

      The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) believes Hurricanes Harvey and Irma had an impact on the September numbers.

      "Looking at historical data, there is a pattern of decreased production immediately following natural disasters," said NAHB Senior Economist Michael Neal, adding that he thinks, "economic fundamentals will drive the longer-term trend in housing starts."

      Building permits

      Building permits, an indicator of what developers are planning for the next few months, fell 4.5 percent last month to an annual rate of 1,215,000.

      However, authorizations for single-family houses came in at a rate of 819,000, a gain of 2.4 percent from August. However, permits for buildings with five units or more plunged 17.4 percent to an annual rate of 360,000.

      The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

      Consumers looking to buy a new home in the next few months will likely find a dwindling selection to choose from.The Commerce Department reports constr...

      Mortgage applications break losing streak

      The increase is the first in five weeks

      After falling for four weeks in a row, mortgage applications are headed higher.

      According to the latest survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association, applications rose 3.6 percent in the week ending October 13, including an adjustment for the Columbus Day holiday.

      The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 3.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 7 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 3 percent from the previous week.

      The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index was up 4 percent from a week earlier, while the Refinance Index advanced 3 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity, however, dipped to 48.6 percent of total applications from 49.0 percent the previous week.

      The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity came in at 6.1 percent of total applications; the FHA share went from 10.3 percent to 10.4 percent; the VA share edged down to 10.5 percent from 10.6 percent; and the USDA share of total applications increased to 0.8 percent from 0.7 percent the week before.

      Contract interest rates

      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) slipped 2 basis points to 4.14 percent from 4.16 percent, with points unchanged at 0.44 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) rose to 4.13 percent from 4.11 percent, with points increasing to 0.32 from 0.31 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA held steady at 4.00 percent from the week prior, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate was unchanged from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs inched up 1 basis point to 3.45, with points increasing to 0.43 from 0.36 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs dropped to 3.31 percent from 3.33 percent, with points decreasing to 0.40 from 0.43 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

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

      After falling for four weeks in a row, mortgage applications are headed higher.According to the latest survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association, ap...

      Polaris Recalls ACE 325 ROVs

      The exhaust header pipe can crack

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 6,300 Polaris ACE 325 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

      The exhaust header pipe can crack and release hot exhaust gases into the engine compartment, posing fire and burn hazards.

      The company has received six reports of cracked exhaust pipes, including two reports of seat damage due to melting. No fires or injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves all model year 2014 through 2016 Polaris ACE 325 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).  

      Year

      Model

      Description

      2014

      A14BH33AJ

      Ace 325 in white

      2015

      A15DAA32AA

      Ace 325 in green

      2015

      A15DAA32AJ

      Ace 325 in white

      2016

      A16DAA32A1

      Ace 325 in green

      2016

      A16DAA32A7

      Ace 325 in red

      The recalled ROVs have a single seat and were sold in white, green and red.

      For model year 2014 and 2015 ATVs, “Polaris” is printed on the front grill and “Ace” is printed on the rear panel.

      For model year 2016 ATVs, “Polaris” is printed on the front grill and “Polaris Ace” is printed on the rear panel.

      The VIN is printed on the right front frame of the vehicles.

      The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from December 2014, through July 2017, for about $7,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact Polaris to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Polaris at 800-765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off Road Safety Recalls” for more information. 

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 6,300 Polaris ACE 325 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).The exhaust header pipe can crac...

      Macy's to be open on Thanksgiving

      Department store chain continuing a move it started in 2014

      Getting an early jump on Black Friday shopping, Macy's will reportedly open its doors on Thanksgiving afternoon, continuing a tradition it began in 2014.

      Last year, the department store chain opened an hour earlier than previous years, at 5:00 pm. Phil Dengler, of shopping site BestBlackFriday.com, tells ConsumerAffairs he has confirmed with seven different Macy's locations that the stores will open at 5:00 pm on Thanksgiving day.

      Dengler says he has confirmed the following stores and holiday hours: 

      • Deptford Mall - Deptford, New Jersey - Thanksgiving 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm Black Friday
      • Cherry Hill Mall - Cherry Hill, New Jersey - Thanksgiving 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm Black Friday
      • Hamilton Mall - Mays Landing, New Jersey - Thanksgiving 5:00 pm - 2:00 am ; Opening 6:00 am on Black Friday to 10:00 PM
      • Houston Galleria at Hidalgo - Houston, Texas - Thanksgiving 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm Black Friday
      • South Hills Village Mall - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Thanksgiving 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm Black Friday
      • Stanford Shopping Center - Palo Alto, California - Thanksgiving 5:00 pm to 2:00 am; Opening 6:00 am on Black Friday to 10:00 pm
      • Westside Pavilion - Los Angeles, California - Thanksgiving 5:00 pm to 2:00 am; Opening 6:00 am on Black Friday to 10:00 pm

      Big Lots and GameStop are unconfirmed

      Dengler says his company has confirmed that Big Lots and GameStop will be open on Thanksgiving but he has not been able to confirm the hours.

      Some stores made a point last year of closing on Thanksgiving in order to give employees the holiday to be with family. The gesture may not be that costly to the retailers, since consumers who want to shop on Thanksgiving Day can do so online, without the brick and mortar stores being open.

      PracticalECommerce.com reports consumers spent $1.93 billion in online sales on Thanksgiving Day last year, an 11.5 percent increase over 2015. Many stores that close their brick and mortar locations on that day ring up online sales all day long.

      Based on last year, Dengler predicts Best Buy, Dicks Sporting Goods, JC Penney, Kohl's, Michael's, Sears, Target, Toys R Us, Walgreens, and Walmart will be open on Thanksgiving Day, though none have yet been confirmed.

      Getting an early jump on Black Friday shopping, Macy's will reportedly open its doors on Thanksgiving afternoon, continuing a tradition it began in 2014....

      Vermont Livestock Slaughter and Processing recalls ground beef

      The product may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7

      Vermont Livestock Slaughter and Processing of Ferrisburg, Vt., is recalling approximately 133 pounds of ground beef.

      The product may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

      Two illnesses have been reported.

      The following item, produced on July 24 and 25, 2017, is being recalled:

      • 1-lb. vacuum sealed packages containing “Bread & Butter Farm Ground Beef” with lot codes #072517BNB and #072417BNB.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “EST. 9558” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was sold at Bread & Butter farm in Shelburne, Vt.

      What to do

      Customers 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 Carl Cushing at (802) 877-3421.

      Vermont Livestock Slaughter and Processing of Ferrisburg, Vt., is recalling approximately 133 pounds of ground beef.The product may be contaminated wit...

      Ford recalls F-150 Raptor Super Cab pick-ups

      Rivets are missing from the vehicle's roof braces

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 39 model year 2018 Ford F-150 Raptor Super Cab pick-ups not equipped with a moonroof.

      The structural roof braces may be missing rivets at the attachment of the roof rail, thereby reducing the structural integrity.

      If the structural integrity is reduced, in the event of a rollover crash, there may be an increased risk of injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will install the rivets for the roof brace attachments, free of charge. The recall was expected to begin October 16, 2017.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 17S29.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 39 model year 2018 Ford F-150 Raptor Super Cab pick-ups not equipped with a moonroof.The structural roof braces may be...

      IRS warns of multiple scams in wake of recent tragedies

      Scammers often try to capitalize on a national tragedy to bilk consumers

      Consumers are targeted by scams every day, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns that recent tragedies have unfortunately created an uptick in scams seeking to exploit Americans’ desire to help victims.

      The IRS points out the country has experienced a series of major disasters and a mass shooting in quick succession, so donors need to be particularly vigilant to look for signs of a scam before sending money.

      “These scams evolve over time and adjust to reflect events in the news, but they all typically are variations on a familiar theme,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Recognizing these schemes and taking some simple steps can protect taxpayers against these con artists.”

      Beware of unfamiliar charities

      Consumers should look out for appeals for donations from unfamiliar charities, or organizations that have names similar to a legitimate charitable organization. They should also be highly suspicious of appeals that come in the form of an email, text, or telephone call since legitimate charities usually stick to mass advertising like television commercials to solicit donations.

      Consumers who want to donate to any charitable cause should initiate the search for a group themselves, not respond to direct contact that may not be legitimate. The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and United Way are three groups that are involved in providing help to victims of wildfires, hurricanes, and mass shootings.

      The IRS, meanwhile, is also trying to help victims of the California wildfires. It's extending the deadline to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments until Jan. 31, 2018. The extension postpones deadlines beginning October 8 and applies to residents of seven California counties.

      Impersonating IRS agents

      The tax agency spends a good deal of its time countering the efforts of scammers, who often pose as IRS agents to fool consumers. Most recently, it has warned about scammers using a phishing scheme to steal client email addresses from tax professionals to access insurance and annuity accounts.

      The IRS reminds consumers that it does not call and leave pre-recorded, urgent messages demanding a call back. If you get one of these calls, it's from a scammer who hopes to scare you into thinking you will be arrested if you do not respond.

      There are legitimate IRS functions that scammers may also try to exploit. The agency has sent letters to taxpayers whose overdue accounts have been assigned to one of four private sector collection agencies. Scammers are already trying to take advantage of this by calling and threatening taxpayers if they do not pay the overdue amount quickly.

      What to do

      If you receive one of these calls but are not aware that you have an overdue bill, it's a scam. The IRS says all of the taxpayers receiving calls about their overdue accounts are well aware of the issue, since they have been corresponding with the IRS about it for years.

      Legitimate contact with the IRS almost always begins with a letter through the U.S. Mail. In rare cases, an IRS official may show up at your home or business, but they will always first establish the time and reason in a letter.

      Any consumers with a question about whether a contact from the IRS is real should go online, look up the number for the closest IRS office, and call the agency directly to inquire.

      Consumers are targeted by scams every day, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns that recent tragedies have unfortunately created an uptick in scams...

      J Bar B Foods recalls fully cooked shredded beef

      The products may be contaminated with pieces of plastic

      J Bar B Foods, of Waelder, Texas, is recalling approximately 12,816 pounds of fully cooked shredded beef products.

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

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

      The following items, produced under the H-E-B label on September 16, 2017, are being recalled:

      • 28-oz. trays of H-E-B Fully Cooked Smoked Seasoned Shredded Beef with BBQ sauce with a use by date of Dec. 15 2017.
      • 16-oz trays of H-E-B Fully Cooked Smoked Seasoned Shredded Beef with BBQ sauce with a use by date of Dec. 15 2017.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “EST. 7066” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail locations in Texas.

      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 Bonnie Hyman at (830) 788-7511. 

      J Bar B Foods, of Waelder, Texas, is recalling approximately 12,816 pounds of fully cooked shredded beef products.The products may be contaminated with...

      BMW recalls X3 Sports Activity Vehicles

      The front passenger seat occupant detection mat could malfunction

      BMW of North America is recalling 85,302 model year 2006-2010 BMW X3 2.5i, X3 3.0i and X3 xDrive30i Sports Activity Vehicles.

      The front passenger seat occupant detection mat that determines if, and how, the passenger front air bag should deploy in a crash may fatigue and develop cracks which could lead to a system failure.

      Should the system fail, in the event of a crash, the front passenger air bag would be deactivated, increasing the risk of personal injury.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger seat occupant detection mat, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 20, 2017.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 85,302 model year 2006-2010 BMW X3 2.5i, X3 3.0i and X3 xDrive30i Sports Activity Vehicles.The front passenger seat o...

      Ford recalls model year 2017 Ford F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 trucks

      The seat belt anchor may not be adequately welded to the seat cushion frame

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 504 model year 2017 Ford F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, and F-550 trucks with manually-adjusted front passenger seats.

      The seat belt anchor may not be adequately welded to the seat cushion frame.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 210, "Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages," and 207, "Seating Systems."

      The seat belt buckle weld may fail, preventing the occupants from being properly restrained in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger manual seat track, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 6, 2017.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Ford's number for this recall is 17C17.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling 504 model year 2017 Ford F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, and F-550 trucks with manually-adjusted front passenger seats.The...

      Tailgating for the big game? Here are some tips so you can do it like a pro

      Regardless of who you root for, there are plenty of ways to ensure a memorable, safe game day

      We’re well into football season, and for avid sports fans, that means weeks of going to games and participating in one of the most beloved sports traditions: tailgating.

      At its best, tailgating is a way for passionate fans to come together on game day and revel in the team and game that they love. Its main features include great food, fun pre-game activities, and plenty of sports talk as everyone hypes themselves up for the coming contest.

      Having a successful tailgating experience isn’t just reserved for the pros, though. Here’s how even the most casual fans can pull off an awesome, memorable, and safe game day.

      Get your barbeque on

      You might think that getting to the stadium and setting up your tailgate party is a no-brainer, but experienced parking-lot warriors will tell you that there’s more to it.

      First, you’ll want to arrive early to beat traffic and find a good parking spot. Most stadiums will allow fans to park several hours before kickoff, and you’ll need every precious second to set up.

      You’ll also want to cook fan favorites like burgers, hot dogs, wings, and ribs. And for those, you’re going to need a good grill. You can check out reviews on some of the top brands by looking here.

      Play safely

      Of course, a successful tailgating experience isn’t just about the food. To get the best experience, you’ll want to create a fun, safe environment. What happens if your tailgate gets dinged while you’re enjoying the camaraderie of your friends and fellow fans?

      To avoid any headaches from a potential accident, ensure that your auto policy and warranty is up-to-date. Nothing is more of a buzz kill than not being prepared for accidents. For more information on auto warranties, visit ConsumerAffairs’ site here.

      Then continue with some fun games like backyard favorites KanJam and Cornhole. Game on.

      Tailgate or Tickets?

      While you might be tempted to keep the party going, the biggest fans will want to make their way into the stadium for the actual sporting event. This is when it’s important to have your tickets ready.

      While ticket prices vary based on the sporting event, it’s not a bad idea to shop around to make sure that you’re getting the best deal. You always have the option to buy from the team if seats aren’t sold out to season ticket holders. Plus, many online ticket sellers offer great deals.

      You can also check out reviews for the best ticket websites by visiting ConsumerAffairs’ Ticket Websites Buyer’s Guide. Whether you scream “Roll tide” or “Go tigers,” you’ll have a ball — pun intended.

      We’re well into football season, and for avid sports fans, that means weeks of going to games and participating in o...

      A strong September showing for retail sales

      Business was brisk at gas stations

      Consumers loosened up their purse strings in September and did some shopping.

      The Commerce Department reports retail sales surged 1.6 percent last month, totaling $483.9 billion. That put sales 4.4 percent higher than they were in September 2016.

      Sales at gas stations soared 5.8 percent from August and were up 11.4 percent from September 2016. Also showing strong month-over-month gains were motor vehicle and parts dealers (+3.6 percent), as well as building materials, garden equipment, and supplies dealers (+2.1 percent).

      Declines in sales were registered by electronics & appliance stores (-1.1 percent), department stores (-0.4 percent), and health & personal care stores (-0.4 percent).

      The rough weather during the month played a role in the increase, according to National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

      “Hurricane impacts were very clear, with a strong boost for building materials going a long way to offset downturns elsewhere," he said.

      "Results were mixed among several business lines but the bottom line was a good increase over August and strong growth from a year ago. While the hurricanes played a major role in the data, they did not fundamentally affect the upward path of the economy.”

      The complete report is on the Commerce Department website.

      Consumers loosened up their purse strings in September and did some shopping.The Commerce Department reports retail sales surged 1.6 percent last month...

      Consumer prices head higher in September

      The increase means a bump in 2018 Social Security benefits

      The cost of living moved upward in September, due in large part to rising gasoline costs.

      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent last month and is up 2.2% over the last 12 months.

      Because of that year-over year bump, more than 66 million people on Social Security will see their benefits rise 2.0 percent next year.

      Information on Medicare changes for 2018 will be announced later.

      Energy costs soar

      Energy prices surged 6.1 percent last month on top of August’s 2.8 percent jump. The driving force was an increase of 13.1 percent in the cost of gasoline -- the largest monthly increase since June 2009. Fuel oil prices posted a gain of 8.2 percent, while electricity was unchanged and natural gas prices fell 0.8 percent.

      Over the year ending in September, energy prices are up a sharp 10.1 percent, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending this past March.

      Food prices barely budge

      Food costs inched up just 0.1 percent in September, the same as in August, with grocery prices (food at home) holding steady and restaurant prices up 0.3 percent.

      At the supermarket, consumers paid more for nonalcoholic beverages (+0.4 percent), cereals & bakery products, and so-called "other food at home."

      Prices were lower for dairy & related products (-0.6 percent), meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (-0.4 percent), and fruits and vegetables (-0.2 percent).

      Over the last 12 months, grocery prices rose 0.4 percent, with the overall food category up 1.2 percent.

      Core inflation

      The core rate of inflation, which strips out the volatile food and energy segments, was up just 0.1 percent in September and 1.7 percent over the past 12 months.

      Within that, the cost of shelter, auto insurance, and education increased 0.3 percent. Prices for recreation, wireless phone services, and alcoholic beverages also rose.

      Prices fell for new vehicles, household furnishings & operations, used cars and trucks, medical care, and clothing.

      The complete report is on the BLS website.

      The cost of living moved upward in September, due in large part to rising gasoline costs.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Consume...

      Cost Plus World Market recalls Girona outdoor dining chairs

      The seat base can separate from the chair back

      Cost Plus Management Services of Alameda, Calif., is recalling about 2,600 Girona outdoor dining chairs.

      The seat base can separate from the chair back causing the chair to collapse, posing a fall hazard to consumers.

      The firm has received three reports of separation of the tenon joint located between the chair’s back and seat, and two reports of in-store display chairs collapsing while being used by customers, resulting in minor cuts and bruises.

      This recall involves Girona outdoor wooden dining chairs with four legs, and a back and seat made of flat woven weather-resistant wicker straps.

      The chair is sold in two colors:

      • white (SKU/UPC 536034/0000002536034)
      • grey (SKU/UPC 536033/0000002536033).

      The SKU and UPC can be found on the UPC ticket attached to the underside of the chair seat.

      The chairs, manufactured in Vietnam, were sold exclusively at Cost Plus World Market and World Market stores nationwide and online at www.worldmarket.com from January 2017, through August 2017, for about $180.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and return them to any Cost Plus World Market or World Market store for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Cost Plus toll-free at 877-967-5362 from 7 a.m. to midnight (ET) daily, or online at www.worldmarket.com and click on “Product Recalls” for more information.

      Cost Plus Management Services of Alameda, Calif., is recalling about 2,600 Girona outdoor dining chairs.The seat base can separate from the chair back...

      Model year 2015-2017 RAM ProMaster City vehicles recalled

      The vehicle's tire placard contains incorrect information

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,291 model year 2015-2017 RAM ProMaster City vehicles.

      These vehicle's tire placard has incorrect information including vehicle capacity weight, total number of occupants, tire pressure and/or "None" designation for the spare tire size when a full size spare tire is present.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 110, "Tire Selection and Rims."

      The incorrect information can cause the operator to exceed the vehicle's weight capacity, or inflate the tires to an incorrect pressure, affecting vehicle handling, which can increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the incorrect tire placard with a corrected one, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 15, 2017.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is T62.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 1,291 model year 2015-2017 RAM ProMaster City vehicles.These vehicle's tire placard has incorrect information includ...

      Survey finds Americans are obsessed with sending GIFs

      The short, looping videos have risen to prominence in modern pop culture

      When creator Steve Wilhite first created his short, looping video format (commonly known as a “GIF”) back in 1987, there was some doubt that the medium would be able to keep up with other emerging formats.

      But now, 30 years later, consumers have become obsessed with sending the bite-sized clips. A recent survey of 1,000 people by Gfycat – the world’s largest user-generated GIF platform – shows that nearly a quarter of Americans (24 percent) send GIFs every couple of hours.

      However, GIFs are much more popular than even that number indicates. The study finds that a whopping 85 percent of Americans admit to sending GIFs occasionally, and perceptions of GIF users are positive overall.

      Over half (55 percent) of Americans say that a person is funnier if they send GIFs, while 21 percent say that a person is “cool” if they use the format. Another 20 percent say that a GIF sender is more likely to be in touch with pop culture, and 18 percent perceive them as being more tech-savvy.

      The rise of the GIF

      It’s possible that GIFs have risen in popularity in tandem with the emergence of millennials as the largest living generation. In an age dominated by constructs like social media, the GIF can be used in a variety of ways to relate how users are feeling.

      The survey shows that the favorite type of GIF Americans like to send is the Reaction GIF. Has your boss made you stay late and you want to express your frustration? A GIF of Michael Scott from the popular TV show “The Office” might relate just how you feel about the situation.

      The survey also finds that GIFs are helping consumers connect with other people. Thirty-one percent of respondents said that they have bonded with a friend over similar taste in GIFs, while 21 percent say they regularly send GIFs to co-workers. Another 22 percent even say that GIFs are their favorite way to flirt online.

      What’s next?

      So, what will the next evolution of the GIF likely be? While the format has come a long way from the first small, animated versions, other formats will likely seek to capitalize on the concise, easily consumable media style. We’ve seen this already on platforms like Vine, which was wildly popular for a time before being shut down by Twitter last year.

      Instagram’s recent acquisition of Boomerang shows that companies are continuing to buy into the concept underlying GIFs, so it’s likely that our obsession with the medium won’t be dying anytime soon.

      When creator Steve Wilhite first created his short, looping video format (commonly known as a “GIF”) back in 1987, there was some doubt that the medium wou...

      Foreclosure activity plunges in the third quarter

      Improving economy and tougher lending standards may be responsible

      Foreclosure activity hit an 11-year low in this year's third quarter, as an improving economy and stricter mortgage standards helped stabilize the housing market to pre-2008 levels.

      The Third Quarter 2017 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, compiled by ATTOM Data Solutions, shows there were 191,824 properties subject to foreclosure filings, which include default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions.

      The number is down 13 percent from the second quarter and 35 percent lower from a year ago. It's the lowest level since the second quarter of 2006, at the height of the housing bubble.

      This does not appear to be a one-off occurrence. The drop in foreclosure activity in the last quarter was the fourth straight quarter in which it has tracked below the pre-recession average.

      “Legacy foreclosures from the high-risk loans originating between 2004 and 2008 have largely been cleared out of the distressed market pipeline,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.

      Tougher lending standards

      New post-crash mortgages must adhere to stricter standards and are subsequently performing much better, Blomquist says. The exception is FHA loans made in 2014.

      Blomquist says those loans aren't performing nearly as well, with a foreclosure rate higher than any year since 2009. He explains it by noting there was a gradual loosening of credit that year.

      Lenient lending standards in the early 2000s, along with a large number of subprime mortgages, created a “foreclosure tsunami” that was out of control by 2007. A year later, one in every 538 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing during March 2008, a five percent rise over the previous month and a shocking 57 percent increase over March 2007.

      Now, applicants are required to have two solid years of employment history at the same company or in the same industry, have a good credit score, and a debt to income ratio of no more than 43 percent.

      According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), studies have shown that mortgage applicants with a higher debt-to-income are more likely to have trouble making their monthly mortgage payments.

      Benefits for homeowners

      At the height of the foreclosure crisis, buyers had a lot more homes to choose from than they do today. However, the decline in foreclosures has produced major benefits for homeowners. The housing market is now more stable and home prices have risen back to their pre-crash levels in many housing markets.

      Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, covering the Seattle market, says foreclosure activity there is at a record low.

      “As long as the regional economy continues to flourish, I do not expect to see foreclosures rise,” Gardner said.

      The current threat to the housing market, he says, is price growth, which is good for homeowners but has started to negatively affect affordability, and according to Gardner, “is becoming troublesome.”

      Foreclosure activity hit an 11-year low in this year's third quarter, as an improving economy and stricter mortgage standards helped stabilize the housing...

      Wholesale prices on the rise

      The surging cost of gasoline was a huge factor

      Wholesale prices pushed higher in August, with rising gasoline costs figuring strongly in the mix.

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports its Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand shot up a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent in September after rising 0.2 percent in August and dipping 0.1 percent in July.

      For the 12 months ended in September, the PPI was up 2.6 percent, the sharpest increase since the year ended in February 2012.

      Goods prices head higher

      The cost of goods jumped 0.7 percent last month, the biggest advance since a 1.0 percent increase in January.

      Two-thirds of the September increase can be attributed to the price of gasoline, which soared 10.9 percent due likely to reduced refining capacity in the Gulf Coast area because of Hurricane Harvey. All told, energy prices climbed 3.4 percent.

      Other commodities showing increases were jet fuel, motor vehicles, diesel fuel, fresh & dry vegetables, and chicken eggs. Prices for young chickens, on the other hand, fell 4.7 percent with the costs of electric power and integrated microcircuits also lower.

      A hike in services prices

      The cost of services was up 0.4 percent in September, the largest rise since April. Roughly 30 percent of that was for machinery, equipment, parts, and supplies wholesaling, which jumped 1.3 percent.

      Also advancing were prices for clothing, footwear & accessories retailing; health, beauty, and optical goods retailing; truck transportation of freight; deposit services; and food and alcohol wholesaling

      The cost of residential real estate loans fell 2.6 percent, with prices for automobiles & automobile parts retailing and for clothing wholesaling also declining.

      The core rate of inflation, which strips out the volatile foods and energy was up 0.3 percent.

      The complete report is on the BLS website.

      Wholesale prices pushed higher in August, with rising gasoline costs figuring strongly in the mix.The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports its Prod...

      Job openings dip in August

      Some individual industries did show healthy increases, though

      There were fewer job openings on the last business day of August than there were a month earlier.

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there were 6.082 million positions up for grabs versus an upwardly revised 6.140 million in July.

      Still, the job openings rate held steady at 4.0 percent. There was little change in the number of job openings for total private and for government.

      While there were increases in health care and social assistance (+71,000) and durable goods manufacturing (+31,000). Declines were registered in other services (-95,000), educational services (-51,000), and nondurable goods manufacturing (-48,000).

      The number of job openings increased in the Midwest region.

      Hires

      There were 5.430 million hires during August, a drop of 91,000 from the month before, dropping the hires rate to 3.7 percent from 3.8 percent.

      There was little change in hiring for all industries, both in the private and government sectors.by total private and for government. Hires were down in the Northeast region.

      Separations

      Total separations -- which includes quits, layoffs & discharges, and other separations (and is also referred to as a turnover) -- were lower for the month.

      The 5.228 million total separations was down by 134,000 from the July level for a total separations rate of 3.6 percent. There was little change in private and government separations.

      Within that total, there were 3.124 million quits, 1.729 million layoffs & discharges, and 376,000 other separations, which include retirement, death, disability, and transfers to other locations of the same firm.

      Net employment change

      Net employment change is the product of the relationship between hires and separations. When the number of hires is higher, employment rises. On the other hand, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines.

      In the 12 months ending in August, hires totaled 63.8 million and separations totaled 61.7 million, for a net employment gain of 2.1 million.

      The full report is available on the BLS website.

      Jobless claims

      In a separate report, the government reports Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria continued to affect the collection of initial unemployment claims last week.

      According to the Department of Labor (DOL), 243,000 people filed first-time applications for state unemployment benefits in the week ending October 7, down 15,000 from the previous week's level, which was revised down by 2,000.

      What many economists consider a more accurate gauge of the labor market -- the four-week moving average -- fell by 9,500. The previous week's number was revised down by 1,250.

      The complete report is on the DOL website.

      There were fewer job openings on the last business day of August than there were a month earlier.The Bureau of Labor...

      Southwest offers cheap flights for the upcoming holiday season

      The limited-time sale covers flights originating from across the country

      Travelers planning holiday flights will want to move quickly on Southwest's ultra-cheap deals happening now through Thursday, October 12 at 11:59 p.m.

      On its site, the airline says that travelers can book one-way trips for nonstop domestic routes for as little as $49, but longer trips across the country or to destinations outside the U.S. can cost upwards of $150. The sale features flights originating from nearly 100 destinations, including major airports like Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Baltimore, New York, Boston, and Chicago.

      While the deal will only last until 11:59 p.m. on October 12, all purchased flights must be limited to travel between October 31 and December 19 of this year, or between January 3 and February 14 of 2018.

      Other restrictions – including exemptions for weekend flights and trips to certain international locations – are detailed under the web page’s terms and conditions.

      Travelers planning holiday flights will want to move quickly on Southwest's ultra-cheap deals happening now through Thursday, October 12 at 11:59 p.m.O...

      Mortgage applications fall again

      The decline is the fourth in as many weeks

      Applications for mortgages continue to fall.

      Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association show applications were down for a fourth consecutive week in the week ending October 6 -- declining 2.1 percent.

      The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index dipped 0.1 percent from a week earlier, while the Refinance Index was down 4 percent. Those factors pushed the refinance share of mortgage activity down 1.1 percent to 49.0 percent of total applications.

      The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity rose to 6.6 percent of total applications, the FHA share went up 0.3 percent to 10.3 percent, the VA share of total applications rose to 10.6 percent from 10.0 percent the week before, and the USDA share slipped to 0.7 percent from 0.8 percent the previous week.

      Contract interest rates

      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) rose 4 basis points -- to 4.16 percent from 4.12 percent -- with points decreasing to 0.44 from 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) inched up to 4.11 percent from 4.09 percent, with points increasing to 0.31 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA was up one basis point to 4.00 percent, with points decreasing to 0.36 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs rose to 3.44 percent from 3.42 percent, with points decreasing to 0.36 from 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs was up 3 basis points to 3.33 percent, with points unchanged at 0.43 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

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

      Applications for mortgages continue to fall.Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association show applications were down for a fourth consecutive week in the...

      AAA says drivers are still distracted by infotainment systems

      Even touch screen and voice controls aren't helping that much

      The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has presented new research that shows new infotainment systems found in late model cars and trucks, even those with voice controls, continue to pose dangerous distractions for drivers.

      These infotainment systems, which play music from multiple sources and display maps outlining routes, often come with higher levels of sophistication and more features. According to AAA, that's not a good thing.

      The researchers say they found drivers who used in-vehicle technologies like voice-based and touch screen features could be both visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when programming a navigation or sending a text message.

      The auto club cites previous research that found taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.

      Unsafe situations for drivers

      "Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers on the road by increasing the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel," said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

      Yang doesn't rule out the possibility that in-vehicle technology could be made less distracting. In fact, he says some systems, while far from perfect, are not as bad as others.

      "When an in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete," Yang said

      The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, who examined both the visual and mental demands of infortainment systems. They also measured the time it took to complete a task using the systems installed in 30 vehicles from the 2017 model year.

      Participants in the study were instructed to use voice command, touch screen, and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio, or program navigation -- all while keeping the vehicle on the road.

      Navigation most distracting

      The study found that programming a navigation system was the most distracting task for a driver, taking an average of 40 seconds to complete.

      Remarkably, the study found none of the 30 infotainment system generated low demand on drivers. Seven were found to generate moderate demands on a driver's attention, while 11 generated high demand and 12 were "very high" in their demands.

      Among the most demanding were the infotainment systems found in the Honda Civic Touring, Ford Mustang GT, and Tesla Model S.

      The least distracting infotainment systems – those imposing a “moderate” demand on the driver – were found in the Chevy Equinox LT, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Toyota Camry SE, and Lincoln MKC Premier.

      "Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers," said Marshall Doney, AAA's CEO.

      Doney says drivers are more distracted when they encounter problems using the audio or navigation systems in their cars. However, since research shows consumers like these sophisticated systems, Doney says AAA is meeting with auto manufacturers and suppliers to find ways to make them easier to use.

      The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has presented new research that shows new infotainment systems found in late model cars and trucks, even those with v...

      July mortgage delinquencies remain near 10-year low

      The serious delinquency rate posted the biggest decline

      Although many people are still behind in their mortgage payments, the delinquency rate continues to fall.

      In its monthly loan performance report, property information provider CoreLogic says that, nationally, 4.6 percent of mortgages were in some stage of delinquency (30 days or more past due including those in foreclosure) in July.

      That's a decline of 0.9 percent from a year earlier when it was 5.5 percent.

      The foreclosure inventory rate, which measures the share of mortgages in some stage of the foreclosure process, was 0.7 percent -- a year-over-year drop of 0.9 percent and the lowest since the rate was also 0.7 percent in July 2007.

      "While the U.S. foreclosure rate remains at a 10-year low as of July, the rate across the 100 largest metro areas varies from 0.1 percent in Denver to 2.2 percent in New York," said CoreLogic Chief Economist Dr. Frank Nothaft.

      "Likewise, the national serious delinquency rate remains at 1.9 percent, unchanged from June, and when analyzed across the 100 largest metros, rates vary from 0.6 percent in Denver to 4.1 percent in New York."

      Delinquency by stage

      The national rate for early-stage delinquencies -- 30-59 days past due -- was 2 percent in July, down 0.3 percent from July 2016.

      The share of mortgages 60-89 days past due was 0.7 percent, the same as a year earlier.

      The serious delinquency rate (90 days or more past due) fell from 2.5 percent in July 2016 to 1.9 percent this past July and remains near the 10-year low of 1.7 percent reached in July 2007.

      Alaska was the only state to experience a year-over-year increase in its serious delinquency rate.

      "Even though delinquency rates are lower in most markets compared with a year ago, there are some worrying trends," said CoreLogic CEO Frank Martell. "For example, markets affected by the decline in oil production or anemic job creation have seen an increase in defaults. We see this in markets such as Anchorage, Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana where the serious delinquency rate rose over the last year."

      Although many people are still behind in their mortgage payments, the delinquency rate continues to fall.In its monthly loan performance report, proper...

      BMW recalls F800 GT and F800 R motorcycles

      Rear side reflex reflectors may not be properly visible

      BMW of North America is recalling 1,478 model year 2014-2016 F800 GT and model year 2015-2016 F800 R motorcycles.

      The rear side reflex reflectors on these vehicles may not be properly visible in certain traffic conditions.

      As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 108, "Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment."

      Obscured reflectors may reduce the visibility of the motorcycle, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      BMW will notify owners, and dealers will modify the license plate holder to reposition the rear side reflex reflectors, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 13, 2017.

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

      BMW of North America is recalling 1,478 model year 2014-2016 F800 GT and model year 2015-2016 F800 R motorcycles.The rear side reflex reflectors on the...

      Reading difficulties for children may indicate hearing impairment

      Researchers say hearing problems can be detrimental to the learning process

      If your child has reading difficulties, the problem may not lie in their comprehension – it might be due to a hearing problem.

      That’s the conclusion of a Coventry University study, which found that 25 percent of young participants who had reading difficulties also had mild to moderate hearing impairment. Report author Dr. Helen Breadmore says the finding indicates a greater need to screen young children for hearing problems.

      "Many children in school may have an undetected mild hearing loss, which makes it harder for them to access the curriculum,” she said. "Current hearing screening procedures are not picking up these children, and we would advise that children have their hearing tested in more detail and more often.

      Detrimenal to development

      The study compared children with dyslexia to a group of children with a history of repeated ear infections to see if both groups had similar difficulties with reading comprehension.

      The researchers asked nearly 200 participants to complete a series of tests to determine how they used word sounds and meanings in speech and literacy. After an 18-month period, all participants were tested again.

      The test results showed that 25 percent of participants with dyslexia suffered from some kind of hearing impairment, with symptoms mild enough to be missed by parents. Literacy problems were slightly more common in children with hearing infections, affecting 33 percent of these participants.

      Breadmore points out that these hearing problems can be detrimental in a classroom setting, and that it can negatively impact long-term development.

      "A mild-moderate hearing loss will make the perception of speech sounds difficult, particularly in a classroom environment with background noise and other distractions. Therefore, children who have suffered repeated ear infections and associated hearing problems have fluctuating access to different speech sounds precisely at the age when this information is crucial in the early stages of learning to read,” she said.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that there is no single treatment or intervention for childhood hearing loss. However, it says that some options may include working with a support group or medical professional, or buying a hearing aid.

      If your child has reading difficulties, the problem may not lie in their comprehension – it might be due to a hearing problem.That’s the conclusion of...

      Greencore USA recalls egg salad and ham salad sandwiches, and seafood stuffing

      The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

      Greencore, USA is recalling egg salad sandwiches, ham salad sandwiches, and seafood stuffing that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

      No confirmed illnesses have been reported.

      The following items, distributed from September 24 – 27, 2017, are being recalled:

      CustomerProductSizeUPC Code“Use by date”
      HannafordEgg Salad Club Roll5.1 oz41268165879/28 – 10/2
      Ham Salad Club Roll5.1 oz41268165899/28 -10/2
      Seafood Stuffing10 oz412682050910/2 – 10/19
      WalgreensEgg salad on White Bread6.1 oz49022720439/29 – 10/1
      Turkey Hill Fresh SelectsEgg salad on Homestyle Bread4.7 oz73508750019/29 – 10/1
      Ham salad on Homestyle Bread4.9 oz73508750039/29 – 10/1
      TargetEgg salad on White Bread5.973508757929/29 – 10/1
      American Food and VendingEnza Choice Egg Salad on White Bread4.7735087573510/1
      American Food and VendingEnza Choice Ham Salad on White Bread4.7735087581510/1

      The recalled products were distributed to American Food and Vending, Hannaford Brothers, Target and Turkey Hill in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York.

      The “Use By Date” of sandwiches is listed on the back panel of the package.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should not consume them, but dispose of them.

      Consumers with questions may call Greencore at 630-786-2011 between from 9 am – 5 pm (CST).

      Greencore, USA is recalling egg salad sandwiches, ham salad sandwiches, and seafood stuffing that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.No co...

      SRAM recalls bicycle brakes

      A rivet in the brake assembly can loosen or disengage, resulting in brake failure

      SRAM of Chicago, Ill., is recalling about 7,000 Avid SD7 bicycle brakes.

      A rivet in the brake assembly can loosen or disengage, resulting in brake failure, posing crash and injury hazards to the rider.

      The company has received 5 reports of loose or detached rivets. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves the Avid SD7 bicycle mechanical rim brake. There is a date code stamped on the back of the brake arm with the date format DDMMYY representing the day, month and year of manufacture.

      The brakes were sold separately by SRAM and were also installed as original equipment on ElliptiGO model 11R elliptical cycles.

      The brakes, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at specialty bike stores nationwide and online at www.jenson.com and www.REI.com from June 2014, to May 2017, for about $40, and installed as original equipment on ElliptiGO model 11R elliptical cycles from October 2014 to May 2017 for about $3,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled brakes and contact SRAM to receive free replacement brakes and installation instructions.

      Consumers may contact SRAM at 800-346-2928 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (ET) Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Fridays or online at www.sram.com and click on the “Recall Information” tab for more information.

      SRAM of Chicago, Ill., is recalling about 7,000 Avid SD7 bicycle brakes.A rivet in the brake assembly can loosen or disengage, resulting in brake failu...

      Hyundai recalls model year 2018 Santa Fe Sport vehicles

      The front coil springs may fracture under certain loads

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 197 model year 2018 Santa Fe Sport vehicles.

      The front coil springs may have been improperly manufactured and, as a result, may fracture under certain loads while the vehicle is being driven

      A coil spring fracture can puncture the tire, causing a loss of vehicle control and increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      The affected vehicles are currently unsold on dealer lots. Dealers will replace both front coil springs, free of charge prior to the vehicle's sale.

      Consumers may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 167.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 197 model year 2018 Santa Fe Sport vehicles.The front coil springs may have been improperly manufactured and, as a r...

      Toys “R” Us recalls infant wiggle balls

      The ball’s knobs and back can detach, posing a choking hazard

      Toys “R” Us of Wayne, N.J., is recalling about 30,000 Bruin infant wiggle ball toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.

      The wiggle ball’s rubber knobs and plastic back can detach, posing a choking hazard to infants.

      The firm has received six reports of rubber knobs breaking off, including four reports of pieces of the product found in children's mouths.

      This recall involves Bruin Infant Wiggle Ball toys also called a giggle ball.

      The blue ball has textured bumps for gripping and has orange, green and yellow rubber knobs around the ball. The ball wiggles, vibrates and plays three different musical tunes. It has an on/off switch and requires 3 AA batteries to operate.

      The recalled wiggle balls have model number 5F6342E and Toys “R” Us printed on the product.

      The wiggle balls, manufactured in China, were sold exclusively at Babies “R” Us and Toys “R” Us stores nationwide from June 2016, through January 2017, for about $13.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled balls, take them away from babies and return them to Babies “R” Us or Toys “R” Us for a full refund.

      Consumers may contact Toys “R” Us at 800-869-7787 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or online at www.toysrus.com and click on Product Recalls for more information.

      Toys “R” Us of Wayne, N.J., is recalling about 30,000 Bruin infant wiggle ball toys sold in the U.S. and Canada.The wiggle ball’s rubber knobs and plas...

      U.S loses jobs in September

      It's the first decline in 7 years

      A sharp drop in employment at restaurants and bars contributed to an overall loss of jobs in September.

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports 33,000 jobs disappeared last month, the first monthly job loss since 2010. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent from the August reading of 4.4 percent.

      The BLS said the loss of 105,000 jobs at food services and drinking places, as well as below-trend growth in some other industries, was likely due to the severe damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

      The unemployment rates for adult men (3.9 percent) and Blacks (7.0 percent) declined in September, while the jobless rates for adult women (3.9 percent), teenagers (12.9 percent), Whites (3.7 percent), Asians (3.7 percent), and Hispanics (5.1 percent) showed little change.

      The employment-population ratio rose 0.3 percent to 60.4 percent in September and is up 0.6 percent over the past 12 months.

      The labor force participation rate rose 0.2 percent to 63.1 percent, but it has shown little movement over the year.

      Where the jobs are

      In addition to the steep employment decline in food services and drinking places, job losses were reported in commercial banking (-3,000) and manufacturing (-1,000).

      Jobs were added in health care (+23,000), transportation and warehousing (+22,000), professional and business services (+13,000), and financial activities (+10,000).

      Employment in other major industries, including mining, construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, information, and government, showed little change.

      Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 12 cents in September to $26.55. Over the past 12 months, hourly earnings have increased by 74 cents, or 2.9 percent.

      Total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised up from +156,000 to +169,000, while July was revised down from +189,000 to +138,000.

      After revisions, job gains have averaged 91,000 over the past 3 months.

      The complete report is available on the BLS website.

      A sharp drop in employment at restaurants and bars contributed to an overall loss of jobs in September.The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports 33,...

      Hyundai recalls model year 2017 Santa Fes with 3.3L engines

      Engine bearing wear may cause the vehicle to stall

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 420 model year 2017 Santa Fes equipped with 3.3L engines.

      The crankshaft assemblies may have been produced with surface irregularities in the crankshaft pin, causing engine bearing wear.

      The engine bearing wear may cause the vehicle to stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify all owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the engine, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 18, 2017.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 168.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 420 model year 2017 Santa Fes equipped with 3.3L engines.The crankshaft assemblies may have been produced with surfa...

      H-E-B Meat Plant recalls chicken thighs

      The product contains wheat, an allergen not declared on the label

      H-E-B Meat Plant of San Antonio, Texas, is recalling approximately 1,150 pounds of diced chicken thighs.

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

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

      The following item, produced on September 22, 2017, is being recalled:

      • 1.75-lb. (approximate catch weight per package) plastic shrink wrapped packages of “MI TIENDA PARA TACOS DE POLLO CASERO SEASONED DICED SKINLESS CHICKEN THIGHS” with a freeze by -/- sell by date of Oct. 12, 2017.

      The recalled product, bearing establishment number “P-7231” inside the USDA mark of inspection, was shipped to retail locations in Texas.

      What to do

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

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact Dya Campos, at (210) 938-8075.

      H-E-B Meat Plant of San Antonio, Texas, is recalling approximately 1,150 pounds of diced chicken thighs.The product contains wheat, an allergen not dec...

      Model year 2010 Lexus HS 250h vehicles recalled

      Transaxle assembly components may wear, leading to a potential short circuit

      Toyota Motor North America is recalling about 18,000 model year 2010 Lexus HS 250h vehicles.

      A manufacturing issue in the hybrid vehicle transaxle assembly may cause components to wear, leading to a potential short circuit that will illuminate warning lights and warning messages.

      In most cases, the vehicle will enter a fail‐safe mode, resulting in reduced propulsion and allowing it to be driven safely for a limited distance.

      Under rare conditions, the hybrid system could shut down. While power steering and braking assist will function normally, a hybrid system shutdown while driving at higher speeds could increase the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Lexus dealers will replace the hybrid vehicle transaxle assembly with a new one at no cost to customers.

      All known owners of the involved vehicles will be notified by first class mail by late November.

      Owners with questions may call Toyota customer service at 1‐800‐331‐4331 or Lexus customer service at 1‐800‐255‐3987.

      Toyota Motor North America is recalling about 18,000 model year 2010 Lexus HS 250h vehicles.A manufacturing issue in the hybrid vehicle transaxle assem...

      September sees big year-over year drop in job cuts

      Once again, retail was the biggest job-slasher

      Fewer people found themselves getting pink slips in September.

      According to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, U.S.-based employers announced they were eliminating 32,346 jobs in September -- down 4.4 percent from the month before and a year-over-year decline of 27 percent.

      “Job cuts have remained low since the second half of last year,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger. “As companies grapple with potential deregulation and changes to health care costs in a tight labor market, employers are holding on to their existing workforces while many positions requiring skilled labor go unfilled."

      The September announcement brings the third quarter total to 94,478 -- 6.2 percent lower than the previous three months and down 22.5 percent from the third quarter of 2016.

      It also puts the third quarter total at its lowest level since the same period last year and marks the lowest third quarter total since the third quarter of 1996.

      So far this year, 321,478 job cuts have been announced -- a drop of 26.2 percent from the first 9 months of 2016.

      Retail on the front line

      The retail sector is the top job cutter, with 71,057 so far this year and 3,461 in September alone. That's up 36.8 percent from September 2016.

      However, while retail leads in announced job cuts, it's also the top sector for hiring announcements, with plans to add over 500,000 new jobs -- both seasonal and permanent.

      The service sector has seen 24,977 payroll positions go away so far this year, up a whopping 193 percent from same period last year. Health care companies came in third with 24,761 terminations.

      “The fourth quarter is typically when we see the highest number of job cuts, as companies determine their needs for the next fiscal year,” said Challenger. “With cuts down from last year in most industries, people should remain optimistic about job prospects.”

      Jobless claims

      There was a big drop in the filings of first-time applications for state unemployment benefits during the final week of September.

      The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial claims in the week ending September 30 totaled 260,000, down 12,000 from the previous week.

      The four-week moving average, which provides what some economists believe is a more accurate picture of the labor market, came in at 268,250, a drop of 9,500 from a week earlier.

      The complete report is available on the DOL website.

      Fewer people found themselves getting pink slips in September.According to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Chr...

      ATM and overdraft fees reach record highs

      While costs are going up, there are ways to avoid these fees

      A new Bankrate.com report shows that consumers are paying more than ever when it comes to ATM and overdraft fees.

      Findings show that the cost of an average out-of-network ATM withdrawal rose to $4.69 – an increase of 2.6 percent from the previous year – while the average ATM surcharge rose to a record high of $2.97. It was the 11th year in a row that out-of-network ATM fees hit a record high and the 13th year in a row that surcharges broke records.

      Meanwhile, after seeing a slight dip in 2016, the average overdraft fee set a new high at $33.38. However, analysts say that the most common fee for overdrawing an account was $35, with the number of banks that increased their fee outnumbering those who lowered their fee by a 7-to-1 margin.

      The report shows that consumers in Pittsburgh pay the highest out-of-network ATM fee among the top 25 major metro areas (at $5.19) while Dallas ranked lowest on that list with an average cost of $4.07. Consumers in Philadelphia earned the dubious distinction of paying the most for overdraft fees ($35.30), while consumers from San Francisco paid the lowest on average ($31.44).

      Avoiding unnecessary fees

      Although consumers are paying more for ATM and overdraft fees, Bankrate chief financial analyst Greg McBride says it’s now easier than ever to avoid them altogether.

      “When it comes to ATM and overdraft fees, a little advance planning can go a long way,” he said. “Knowing where you can make free ATM withdrawals and monitoring your available balance to avoid overdrafts are as close as your smartphone.”

      Consumers can minimize ATM fees by always opting to use their own bank’s ATM whenever possible and by planning ahead for times when they’ll need cash. Using a debit or credit card may also be a viable option, especially if those cards offer a cash-back incentive. Additionally, some banks do not charge an out-of-network fee, so it might be worth shopping around to find the best offer.

      When it comes to overdrawing their accounts, a recent report shows that many consumers needlessly pay overdraft fees. Opting out of overdraft protection can save consumers money in the long-run, but setting up account alerts and closely monitoring your available balance should also do the trick.

      A new Bankrate.com report shows that consumers are paying more than ever when it comes to ATM and overdraft fees.Findings show that the cost of an aver...

      Continued growth in September for the economy's services sector

      Activity is at its highest level in 17 years

      The U.S. services sector has continued a steady month-by-month growth, reaching its highest numbers in more than a decade.

      The latest report from the Institute for Supply Management shows the Non-Manufacturing Index rose 4.5 percentage points in September to 59.8, the highest reading since August 2005.

      A reading above 50 indicates expansion; below 50 means contraction.

      The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index grew for the 98th consecutive month, with an increase of 3.8 percentage points.

      The New Orders Index came in at 63 percent, up 5.9 percentage points, while the Employment Index inched ahead 0.6 percentage points to 56.8 percent.

      The Prices Index shot up 8.4 percentage points to 66.3 percent, the highest reading since February 2012 and the fourth consecutive monthly increase.

      How they performed

      The following 15 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in September:

      1. Retail Trade;
      2. Other Services;
      3. Management of Companies & Support Services;
      4. Information;
      5. Utilities;
      6. Transportation & Warehousing;
      7. Real Estate, Rental & Leasing;
      8. Wholesale Trade;
      9. Construction;
      10. Professional, Scientific & Technical Services;
      11. Finance & Insurance;
      12. Health Care & Social Assistance;
      13. Public Administration;
      14. Educational Services; and
      15. Accommodation & Food Services.

      Just two industries -- Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Mining -- reported contracting.

      The U.S. services sector has continued a steady month-by-month growth, reaching its highest numbers in more than a decade.The latest report from the In...

      Job growth slows in September

      Hurricanes Harvey and Irma account for some of the slowdown

      The increase in private sector employment slowed considerably in September from the robust pace of August.

      According to the ADP National Employment Report, produced by the ADP Research Institute in collaboration with Moody's Analytics, just 135,000 jobs were created last month.

      August saw the addition of 237,000 payroll positions.

      Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to ADP Research Institute President Ahu Yildirmaz, “significantly impacted smaller retailers. In addition, the continued slow down we have seen in small business hiring could be due to a lack of competitive compensation to attract skilled talent.”

      Indeed, small businesses, which are often in the forefront of job creation, saw the loss of 7,000 positions in September. Large businesses were responsible for the bulk of last month's additions (+79,000 jobs), followed by medium-sized firms (+63,000).

      Jobs by industry

      As is generally the case, most of the hiring was done in the services sector, where there were 88,000 new jobs.

      The strength was found in professional/business services (+51,000), professional/technical services (+40,000), and education/health services (+29,000), which offset losses in trade/transportation/utilities (-18,000) and Information (-11,000).

      The goods-producing sector cranked out 48,000 new jobs, led by construction (+29,000), manufacturing (+18,000), and natural resources/mining (+1,000).

      Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi said while Harvey and Irma hurt the job market in September, things look stable for the future. “Looking through the storms, the job market remains sturdy and strong," he said.

      The increase in private sector employment slowed considerably in September from the robust pace of August.According to the ADP National Employment Repo...

      Three straight declines for mortgage applications

      Contract interest rates were on the rise

      Mortgage applications posted their third decline in a row during the week ending September 29, dipping a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent from a week earlier.

      The Mortgage Bankers Association reports the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index was up 1 percent, while the Refinance Index fell 2 percent. Those changes brought the refinance share of mortgage activity down to 50.1 percent of total applications from 50.8 percent a week earlier.

      The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity fell to 6.0 percent of total applications, while the FHA share rose to 10.0 percent from 9.6 percent. The VA share of total applications remained unchanged at 10.0 percent, and the USDA share edged up to 0.8 percent from 0.7 percent from the previous week.

      Contract interest rates

      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) with conforming loan balances ($424,100 or less) inched up 1 basis point to 4.12 percent from 4.11 percent, with points increasing to 0.45 from 0.40 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs with jumbo loan balances (greater than $424,100) rose to 4.09 percent from 4.06 percent, with points unchanged at 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 30-year FRMs backed by the FHA went up 1 basis point to 3.99 percent, with points decreasing to 0.37 from 0.50 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 15-year FRMs increased to 3.42 percent from 3.38 percent, with points decreasing to 0.39 from 0.40 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.
      • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs dropped 8 basis points to 3.30 percent, with points decreasing to 0.43 from 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

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

      Mortgage applications posted their third decline in a row during the week ending September 29, dipping a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent from a week earlie...

      Volkswagen recalls model year 2004-2007 Touaregs

      The fuel filter flange may crack, allowing fuel to leak

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 73,941 model year 2004-2007 Touaregs.

      The gasoline-powered vehicles have a fuel filter flange that may crack, allowing fuel to leak.

      A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source increases the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      Volkswagen will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the fuel filter flange for cracks, replacing the flange if cracks are found. If no cracks are found, a protective cover will be installed onto the filter flange. These repairs will be performed free of charge.

      Parts are not currently available, but owners will be notified of the recall beginning November 19, 2017. A second notice will be sent when remedy parts become available.

      Owners may contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Volkswagen's number for this recall is 20Ai.

      Volkswagen Group of America is recalling 73,941 model year 2004-2007 Touaregs.The gasoline-powered vehicles have a fuel filter flange that may crack, a...

      Equifax provides few details on its credit-freezing tool

      Consumers will be able to freeze and unfreeze credit without paying fees

      Equifax says consumers concerned about the company's massive data breach will be able to freeze and unfreeze their credit at will and not pay a fee.

      In his testimony before a House subcommittee Tuesday, former Equifax CEO Richard Smith listed the new tool among other free remediation tools the company is providing to consumers to help them protect their identity, but he did not elaborate on it.

      A credit freeze prevents anyone from accessing a consumer's credit report, so an identity thief who has stolen the victim's Social Security number and other identifying information would be unable to open a fraudulent credit account because the lender would be unable to pull the credit file.

      The credit file could only be unfrozen with the consumer's permission, making the credit freeze among the strongest identity theft prevention measures that can be taken. Normally, the consumer pays a fee to freeze the credit file and another fee when it is unfrozen.

      Equifax has disclosed few details of the tool, other than to say it hopes to have it available by the end of January. In an email to ConsumerAffairs, a company spokespereson said additional details would be provided closer to the launch date.

      Different opinions

      Security and identity theft experts have different opinions about whether a simple, easy-to-use tool to freeze and unfreeze credit is a good idea. Some have backed the idea, saying that hackers will have a harder time stealing identities if more consumers are freezing their credit files.

      But Eva Valasquez, CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), thinks the process should not be so simple and quick that it becomes vulnerable to hacks.

      "I hope that the solution that industry proposes is not more automated technology," Valasquez told ConsumerAffairs in an interview last month. "Because the process of establishing who you are goes through several steps, and we should appreciate that it's going to take a little longer."

      Whatever form the freeze tool takes, it won't be a complete solution. That's because it will only freeze one credit file -- the one managed by Equifax. Consumers also have credit files with the two other credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion.

      There will still be fees to freeze and unfreeze those files. Valasquez says ITRC has launched an online petition urging Experian and TransUnion to also waive fees when consumers freeze and unfreeze their credit reports.

      Equifax says consumers concerned about the company's massive data breach will be able to freeze and unfreeze their credit at will and not pay a fee.In...

      600k Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees recalled

      The recall is to verify that earlier repairs were performed properly

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 646,394 model year 2011-2014 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees.

      The recalled vehicles had brake booster shields installed under a previous campaign to prevent water from entering the brake booster and limiting braking ability.

      This recall is to verify that the brake booster shield installation was performed properly.

      If the brake booster shield was not installed properly, the vehicle's braking ability may be reduced, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the brake booster shield, correcting the installation as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin November 7, 2017.

      Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler's number for this recall is T59.

      Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling 646,394 model year 2011-2014 Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees.The recalled vehicles had brake booster shields...

      GM announces expanded electric car line-up

      Carmaker hopes for 20 all-electric models by 2023

      General Motors (GM) says it will introduce two new all-electric vehicles in the next 18 months, the first of at least 20 new electric cars it hopes to put on the road by 2023.

      Mark Reuss, GM's executive vice president of Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, says the company is committed to an all-electric future.

      “Although that future won't happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers' needs,” Reuss said.

      GM says the first electric cars will be based on what the company has learned from the current Chevrolet Bolt EV. As the program moves ahead, some vehicles will be powered by batteries while others will generate electricity using hydrogen fuel cells.

      A more transparent industry

      Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book (KBB), finds these kinds of automotive pre- announcements an abrupt departure from the way car companies have traditionally operated.

      "In the past, it was all hush-hush until the big reveal at an auto show," Lindland told ConsumerAffairs. "Now, there’s increasing transparency regarding upcoming products and announcements done throughout the calendar. [This is] in part to keep consumers engaged, but also to stay on top of the latest trends and news cycles. This latest event by GM regarding all electric is further proof of a rapidly changing industry, whether the consumer wants it or not."

      And to date, there is little evidence the consumer is clamoring for electric cars. One industry source reports 2017 U.S. sales of electric vehicles through August totaled just over 121,000 units.

      One reason for the apparent lack of enthusiasm may be the cost. The best-selling electric so far this year is the Tesla Model S, starting at $68,000.

      How practical for long trips?

      A second issue may be range. The longest range of a current electric vehicle is just over 300 miles, with the typical range around 100 miles between recharges. KBB analyst Akshay Anand notes most automakers are moving toward electric cars and are counting on significant improvements in technology to make them more practical.

      The move away from gasoline and diesel-powered internal combustion engine comes at the urging of governments like China, the UK, and France, who have all proposed regulations to ban internal combustion engines in the next few decades. Automakers have taken note.

      In July Volvo announced plans to design all of its vehicles with an electric or hybrid engine by 2020. Last month Volkswagen announced a similar move, saying it plans to move to an all-electric line-up by 2030.

      General Motors (GM) says it will introduce two new all-electric vehicles in the next 18 months, the first of at least 20 new electric cars it hopes to put...

      Home prices post solid gains in August

      The increases come even though sales growth has stalled

      Home prices posted strong increases on both an annual and monthly basis during August.

      Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price Index (HPI) jumped 6.9 percent from August 2016 and 0.9 percent from July 2017.

      "While growth in home sales has stalled due to a lack of inventory during the last few months, the tight inventory has actually helped stabilize price growth," said CoreLogic Chief Economist Dr. Frank Nothaft.

      "Over the last three years, price growth in the CoreLogic national index has been between 5 percent and 7 percent per year, and CoreLogic expects home prices to increase about 5 percent by this time next year."

      A closer look

      An analysis of the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas based on housing stock shows 34 percent of cities have an overvalued housing stock as of August 2017, according to CoreLogic Market Conditions Indicators (MCI) data.

      The MCI analysis categorizes home prices in individual markets as undervalued, at value, or overvalued by comparing home prices to their long-run, sustainable levels, which are supported by local market fundamentals such as disposable income.

      As of August, 27 percent of the top 100 metropolitan areas were undervalued and 39 percent were at value. An analysis of only the top 50 markets based on housing stock revealed that 46 percent were overvalued, 16 percent were undervalued, and 38 percent were at value.

      An overvalued housing market is defined as one in which home prices are at least 10 percent higher than the long-term, sustainable level, while an undervalued housing market is one in which home prices are at least 10 percent below the sustainable level.

      CoreLogic CEO Frank Martell points out that nearly half of the nation’s 50 largest markets are overvalued. “The lack of real estate affordability has spread beyond the typically expensive coasts into the interior of the nation,” he said, “hitting cities such as Denver, Nashville, Austin and Dallas.”

      A look ahead

      The CoreLogic HPI Forecast (a projection of home prices using the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables) indicates home prices will increase by 4.7 percent on a year-over-year basis from August 2017 to August 2018.

      On a month-over-month basis, home prices are expected to inch up 0.1 percent from August 2017 to September 2017. 

      Home prices posted strong increases on both an annual and monthly basis during August.Property information provider CoreLogic reports its Home Price In...

      Prestage Foods recalls ground turkey

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials

      Prestage Foods of St. Pauls, N.C., is recalling approximately 38,475 pounds of fresh ground turkey.

      The products may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically metal shavings.

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

      The following items, produced September 25 – 26, 2017, are being recalled:

      • 1.3-lb. White Styrofoam trays with clear plastic film covering packages containing ground turkey labeled “Publix ground turkey breast WITH NATURAL FLAVORINGS” with ink jet printing on the side of trays displaying the first 4 digits of 7268 and 7269.
      • 1.3-lb. White Styrofoam trays with clear plastic film covering packages containing ground turkey labeled “Publix ground turkey WITH NATURAL FLAVORINGS” with ink jet labeling on the side of trays displaying the first 4 digits of 7268 and 7269.
      • 1.2-lb. White Styrofoam trays with clear plastic film covering packages containing ground turkey labeled “Fit & Active Fresh Ground Turkey With Natural Flavoring” with ink jet labeling on the side of trays displaying the first 4 digits of 7268 and 7269.
      • 1.0-lb. White Styrofoam trays with clear plastic film covering packages containing ground turkey labeled “Weis Markets Fresh Ground Turkey Breast” with ink jet labeling on the side of trays displaying the first 4 digits of 7268 and 7269.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-22000” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to retail distribution centers in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

      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 Deborah Johnson at (910) 596-5833.

      Prestage Foods of St. Pauls, N.C., is recalling approximately 38,475 pounds of fresh ground turkey.The products may be contaminated with extraneous mat...

      Equifax ex-CEO to be well-paid in retirement

      Richard Smith will reportedly rake in millions as part of his retirement package

      Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who announced his immediate retirement last week in the wake of the company's data breach, will apparently be well-compensated in his golden years.

      Stephen Gandel, who writes Bloomberg News' "Gadfly" column, reports the departing chief executive will receive a stock bonus in early 2018 that is worth an estimated $7.6 million, in addition to other generous benefits in his retirement package. According to Gandel, the stock bonus is part of a long-term incentive plan.

      Gandel, who says Equifax has declined to comment on the issue, notes the 143 million consumers exposed in the data breach will likely have to spend their own money for the rest of their lives on measures to prevent identity theft.

      Two other top executives at Equifax, both with responsibilities for network security, also retired abruptly last month. The make-up of their retirement packages are unknown.

      Not unusual

      Equifax is not unusual in providing multi-million dollar bonuses and retirement packages for its top executives. Most major companies do the same, and it never becomes an issue until some negative news or scandal rocks the company.

      A year ago, Wells Fargo was in the news when the company revealed that employees had routinely opened new credit card and checking accounts for customers without their knowledge or permission, generating fees for the bank. The company fired 5,000 low-level employees, some of whom said they were pressured by their bosses to meet sales goals.

      In the aftermath, Wells Fargo paid $185 million in fines while its CEO and another top executive announced their retirements. Under pressure from Congress and regulators, Wells Fargo eventually "clawed back" as much as $136 million from its former executives' packages.

      Pushing for clawbacks

      Much of that pressure came from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who early on sought to hold top Wells Fargo executives financially accountable. In blistering questioning of the bank's then-CEO during a 2016 Senate Banking Committee hearing

      Warren repeatedly pressed John Stumpf to commit to "clawing back" compensation from top executives, something Stumpf, at the time, declined to do. You can view the exchange in the video below.

      "You haven’t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings," Warren said at the hearing. "You haven’t fired a single senior executive. Instead, your definition of ‘accountable’ is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves. It’s gutless leadership.”

      Though Wells Fargo eventually clawed back some compensation, Gandel says Equifax is unlikely to do so, unless it specifically finds the departing executives were at fault and reclassifies their retirements as "termination for cause."

      Warren, meanwhile, says her office is investigating the Equifax breach and whether the company violated any laws or regulations in its reporting of the incident. In a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, Warren noted that Equifax discovered the data breach on July 29 but did not reveal it to an investors' conference more than two weeks later.

      Warren says investors not told of the breach, and who bought Equifax stock, suffered enormous losses when shares plunged after the breach became public.

      Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who announced his immediate retirement last week in the wake of the company's data breach, will apparently be well-compen...

      Julia Louis-Dreyfus announces she has breast cancer

      ‘Veep’ star calls out limited health care, cancer awareness

      Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus recently revealed to fans on Twitter that she is battling breast cancer. In a tweet captioned, “Just when you thought,” the Emmy winner announced that she was among the 1 in 8 women to be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime.

      The post also thanked her “supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union.” She concluded by bringing up the national health care discussion.

      "The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let's fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality,” she said. 

      Louis-Dreyfus has received an outpouring of support on Twitter, from fans and celebrities alike. Real-life politicians Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to support the actress, whose depiction of fictional Vice President Selina Meyer on the HBO comedy “Veep” has won six consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards. 

      Second leading form of cancer 

      The news of the much-loved actress’ diagnosis comes just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs through October. 

      Nearly 300,000 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer this year, and 40,000 will die. Breast cancer kills one woman every 13 minutes, according to the American Cancer Society.

      Amid such sobering statistics, preventative measures and education about breast cancer are critical. While some risk factors -- such as a hereditary predisposition for breast cancer -- can’t be changed, several lifestyle changes can mitigate breast cancer risk and increase early intervention. 

      Preventative actions

      Here are a few steps to take to lower your risk of developing breast cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

      • Curb alcohol consumption. Since even small amounts of alcohol increase breast cancer risk, the Mayo Clinic recommends limiting yourself to less than one drink per day.
      • Don't smoke. A growing body of research suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. 
      • Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer, especially if obesity occurs later in life.
      • Be physically active. Healthy adults should aim to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week. 
      • Breast-feed. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the greater the protective effect against breast cancer. 
      Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus recently revealed to fans on Twitter that she is battling breast cancer. In a tweet captioned, “Just when you thought,” the Emm...

      How to pick a cash-back rewards credit card

      Choosing the right card all depends on how you'll use it

      Just about every credit card issuer offers a cash-back credit card, and choosing the one that’s right for you is largely decided by how you’ll use the card. However, there are some cards that stand out from the rest because they carry certain advantages.

      For example, it will pay to look for a card that does not charge an annual fee. If you have to pay $50 or so each year, just for using the card, it's going to cut into any cash-back rewards you might get.

      The objective is to earn as much cash on purchases as you can, and in that regard Daniel Ray, editor-in-chief at CreditCards.com, singles out the Citi Double Cash as his favorite. It pays one percent on every purchase, then rewards users with another one percent when they pay for the purchase.

      "Unheard of a couple of years ago"

      "A card giving two percent cash back was unheard of just a couple years ago," Ray said. "Now, cards are competing to be the best among this new, more generous class of cards. As a consumer, I love the arms race and hope it continues."

      There are cards that pay more on certain kinds of purchases -- three percent at gas stations, for example. Getting two percent on everything you buy, Ray says, is a big deal.

      Personal finance site NerdWallet also picks the Citi Double Cash as the best "flat rate" credit card. But it suggests there are a couple of drawbacks, including the fact that there is no cash sign-up bonus, and the minimum cash-back redemption is $25.

      If you want a cash-back reward, generous sign-up bonus, and no annual fee, NerdWallet suggests the Discover It Cashback Match. The bonus is based on your spending with the card the first year by doubling the cash you've earned, up to $150.

      Instead of paying two percent on everything, this credit card pays five percent on different categories you activate each month, on spending up to $1,500 per quarter. If you manage to spend $1,500 on one of those five percent categories, you could earn $75 cash-back during that three-month period.

      Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature

      John Ganotis, founder of Credit Card Insider, likes the features of the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature.

      "It has no annual fee, earns five percent back in Amazon credit for all Amazon purchases, and one to two percent back on other purchases," he tells ConsumerAffairs. "If you don't have Amazon Prime, you can get the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature, which earns 3% back in Amazon credit."

      Ganotis says consumers who shop on Amazon can profit from having one of these cards, even if it is only used to make Amazon purchases. Since there is no annual fee, it's free to use, as long as you pay your bill on time and in full each month.

      Just about every credit card issuer offers a cash-back credit card, and choosing the one that’s right for you is largely decided by how you’ll use the card...

      Manufacturing sector expansion continues in September

      Seventeen of 18 industries reported growth

      The overall U.S. economy grew for the 100th consecutive month, thanks to increased economic activity in the manufacturing sector through September.

      According to the Manufacturing Institute for Supply Management Report On Business, the September Purchasing Managers Index climbed two percentage points from August to 60.8 percent.

      A reading above 50 percent indicates growth, while anything below that mark suggests shrinking.

      Specifically, New Orders jumped 4.3 percentage points for a total of 64.6 percent, the Production Index climbed 1.2 percent and came in at 62.2 percent.

      The Employment Index inched up 0.4 percent to 60.3 percent, the Supplier Deliveries Index hit 64.4 percent, soaring 7.3 percentage points, while the Inventories Index dipped three percentage points to 52.5 percent.

      The Prices Index posted a 9.5 percentage point advance to 71.5 percent, indicating higher raw materials prices for the 19th consecutive month.

      This latest report reflects expanding business conditions, with new orders, production, employment, order backlogs and export orders all growing.

      Industry performance

      Of the 18 manufacturing industries, one industry -- Furniture & Related Products -- reported contraction. However, the following 17 expanded:

      • Textile Mills
      • Machinery
      • Nonmetallic Mineral Products
      • Transportation Equipment
      • Plastics & Rubber Products
      • Paper Products
      • Wood Products
      • Computer & Electronic Products
      • Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products
      • Chemical Products
      • Fabricated Metal Products
      • Miscellaneous Manufacturing
      • Petroleum & Coal Products
      • Apparel, Leather & Allied Products
      • Printing & Related Support Activities
      • Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components
      • Primary Metals
      The overall U.S. economy grew for the 100th consecutive month, thanks to increased economic activity in the manufacturing sector through September.Acco...

      Belmont Sausage recalls smoked turkey drumsticks

      The products contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label

      Belmont Sausage of Elk Grove Village, Ill., is recalling an undetermined amount of smoked turkey drumsticks.

      The products contain milk, an allergen not declared on the label.

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

      The following items, produced from September 27, 2015, through September 27, 2017, are being recalled:

      • 25- to 29-oz. plastic-lined, boxed packages containing 18 pieces of “Wolverine Packing Co. complete protein solutions Smoked Turkey Drumsticks” with lot code 20144.
      • 20- to 24-oz. plastic-lined, boxed packages containing 20 pieces of “Wolverine Packing Co. complete protein solutions Smoked Turkey Drumsticks” with lot code 20148.

      The recalled products, bearing establishment number “P-21309” inside the USDA mark of inspection, were shipped to an institutional location in Michigan for further distribution nationwide.

      What to do

      Consumers 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 Michael Mulica at (847) 302-8011 or by email at mike@belmontsausage.com.

      Belmont Sausage of Elk Grove Village, Ill., is recalling an undetermined amount of smoked turkey drumsticks.The products contain milk, an allergen not...

      Nissan recalls model year 2017 Infiniti Q50s and Q50 Hybrids

      The driver's front airbag inflator may may not have been welded properly

      Nissan North America is recalling 814 model year 2017 Infiniti Q50s and Q50 Hybrids.

      The driver's front airbag inflator may have been improperly welded.

      In the event of a crash necessitating airbag deployment, the inflator may crack and release the gas needed to deploy the air bag properly, increasing the risk of injury.

      What to do

      Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will replace the driver side air bag inflator, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 30, 2017.

      Owners may contact Infiniti customer service at 1-800-662-6200, option 7.

      Nissan North America is recalling 814 model year 2017 Infiniti Q50s and Q50 Hybrids.The driver's front airbag inflator may have been improperly welded....