Current Events in February 2019

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2019

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    Amazon’s earnings suggest the consumer is doing just fine

    The online retailer posted fourth quarter profits of $3 billion

    The consumer appears to be doing well if earnings from online retailer Amazon are any indication. The company reported fourth quarter earnings of $3 billion, or $6.04 a share, on revenue of $72.4 billion.

    That’s up from a profit of $3.75 a share on sales of $60.5 billion in the holiday shopping season of 2017, and better than analysts expected.

    An Amazon earnings beat suggests consumers remained confident throughout the fourth quarter of 2018, spending heavily during the holiday season. Since Amazon is one of the nation’s major retailers its strong sales suggest consumers were spending freely during the last three months of the year.

    Amazon said its net sales increased 20 percent to $72.4 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with $60.5 billion in fourth quarter 2017. Excluding the $801 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 21 percent compared with fourth quarter 2017.

    The company reported an increase in operating income of $3.8 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with operating income of $2.1 billion in fourth quarter 2017.

    Favorable economic position

    While that’s pretty good news for Amazon shareholders, it is also another indicator that consumers remain in a pretty favorable economic position, even as corporations temper their outlook for 2019. Consumers are still spending and they’re spending a sizable portion of their disposable income with Amazon.

    “Alexa was very busy during her holiday season,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “Echo Dot was the best-selling item across all products on Amazon globally, and customers purchased millions more devices from the Echo family compared to last year.”

    Amazon points out its profits rose despite the fact that it implemented an across-the-board minimum wage of $15 an hour during the quarter. The company says the new Amazon minimum wage benefited more than 250,000 employees in the U.S. and 17,000 employees in the U.K., as well as over 200,000 seasonal employees who were hired during the holiday period.

    Using Amazon as a consumer barometer, the first half of 2019 might not live up to the last quarter of 2018. In a conference call following its earnings release, Amazon executives lowered their sales expectations for the current quarter.

    The consumer appears to be doing well if earnings from online retailer Amazon are any indication. The company reported fourth quarter earnings of $3 billio...

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      Despite government shutdown, economy produced 304,000 jobs in January

      But December’s strong job growth numbers were revised downward

      January was another good month if you were looking for a job, as employers increased their payrolls by 304,000 positions, according to the monthly report from the Labor Department.

      At the same time, the government revised December’s very strong hiring report sharply downward, from 312,000 jobs to 222,000. The unemployment rate edged up to 4 percent, mainly for technical reasons.

      Unemployed people who reported they were temporarily laid off rose by 175,000, largely due to furloughed federal workers who were idled by the government shutdown for most of January.

      “Our evaluation of the establishment survey data indicates that there were no discernible impacts of the partial federal government shutdown on the January estimates of employment, hours, or earnings,” said William Wiatrowski, acting commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

      Wiatrowski said the economy has produced an average of 240,000 new jobs over the last three months, even with December’s downward revision in new jobs.

      Big increase in part-time workers

      While the numbers suggest a still-strong job market, there was one troublesome statistic. There was a significant increase -- 500,000 -- in the number of people who are working part-time but are seeking full-time employment.

      The leisure and hospitality industry did the most hiring in January, increasing the number of jobs by 74,000. Most of the hiring came at restaurants and bars. The health care industry added 42,000 jobs during the month. The biggest job gains occurred in ambulatory health services and hospitals.

      The construction industry also ramped up to start the new year, adding 52,000 jobs. Specialty trade contractors were especially busy during the month, hiring for both commercial and residential projects.

      Wages continued to slowly grow last month. Average hourly earnings for all non-farm employees rose three cents to $27.56 after rising 10 cents in December. Over the last 12 months, the Labor Department says workers have seen their pay rise an average of 85 cents an hour, a rate of 3.2 percent.

      January was another good month if you were looking for a job, as employers increased their payrolls by 304,000 positions, according to the monthly report f...

      Gas prices dip slightly this week

      But a spike in demand may send them higher in the days ahead

      Maybe it’s all those motorists in the Midwest and Northeast driving south to escape the polar vortex, but something has caused a huge spike in gasoline demand.

      The increase in demand to summer levels will likely lead to higher gas prices by next week, but this week prices have actually fallen. The AAA Fuel Gauge Survey shows the national average price of regular gasoline is $2.26 a gallon, down one cent from last Friday.

      The average price of premium is $2.84 a gallon, a penny less than last week. The average price of diesel fuel is $2.92 a gallon, the same as the last two Fridays. But the price stability might not last.

      The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports consumers increased their demand for gasoline last week to 9.6 barrels a day. Consumers are using 700,000 barrels a day more than the previous week, putting demand at what AAA calls normal for an average week at the height of summer.

      “One reason for the jump could be the weather caused motorists to fill-up and stock-pile ahead of the storms,” AAA said in its latest market update. “Despite the increase in demand, high levels of gasoline stocks may keep average pump prices in check.”

      Gasoline prices normally rise in late winter as refineries curtail operations for annual maintenance and begin the switch-over to summer grade fuel. Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, reports on Twitter that several refineries slowed operations this week because of extreme cold.

      The states with the most expensive regular gas

      These states currently have the highest prices for regular gas, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Survey:

      • Hawaii ($3.26)

      • California ($3.22)

      • Washington ($2.90)

      • Alaska ($2.88)

      • Nevada ($2.86)

      • Oregon ($2.78)

      • Arizona ($2.49)

      • Connecticut ($2.49)

      • New York ($2.49)

      • Pennsylvania ($2.47)

      The states with the cheapest regular gas

      The survey found these states currently have the lowest prices for regular gas:

      • Missouri ($1.90)

      • Oklahoma ($1.93)

      • Mississippi ($1.96)

      • Kansas ($1.96)

      • Texas ($1.97)

      • Alabama ($1.98)

      • South Carolina ($1.99)

      • Louisiana ($2.01)

      • Tennessee ($2.04)

      • Virginia ($2.06)

      Maybe it’s all those motorists in the Midwest and Northeast driving south to escape the polar vortex, but something has caused a huge spike in gasoline dem...

      Hill’s Pet Nutrition recalls canned dog food

      The products may contain excessive levels of vitamin D

      Hill’s Pet Nutrition is recalling canned dog food products that may have elevated levels of vitamin D.

      Ingestion of elevated levels of vitamin D can lead to potential health issues with dogs exhibiting symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling, and weight loss.

      In most cases, complete recovery is expected after discontinuation of feeding.

      The following products, distributed through retail pet stores and veterinary clinics nationwide, are being recalled:

      Product NameSKU NumberLot Code/Date Code
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® c/d® Multicare Canine Chicken & Vegetable Stew 12.5oz3384102020T10
      102020T25
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® i/d® Canine Chicken & Vegetable Stew 12.5oz3389102020T04
      102020T10
      102020T19
      102020T20
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® i/d® Canine Chicken & Vegetable Stew 5.5oz3390102020T11
      112020T23
      122020T07
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® z/d® Canine 5.5oz5403102020T17
      112020T22
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® g/d® Canine 13oz7006112020T19
      112020T20
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® i/d® Canine 13oz7008092020T30
      102020T07
      102020T11
      112020T22
      112020T23
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® j/d® Canine 13oz7009112020T20
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® k/d® Canine 13oz7010102020T10
      102020T11
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® w/d® Canine 13oz7017092020T30
      102020T11
      102020T12
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® z/d® Canine 13oz7018102020T04
      112020T22
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® Metabolic + Mobility Canine Vegetable & Tuna Stew 12.5oz10086102020T05
      102020T26
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® w/d® Canine Vegetable & Chicken Stew 12.5oz10129102020T04
      102020T21
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® i/d® Low Fat Canine Rice, Vegetable & Chicken Stew 12.5oz10423102020T17
      102020T19
      112020T04
      Hill's® Prescription Diet® Derm Defense® Canine Chicken & Vegetable Stew 12.5oz10509102020T05
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult 7+ Small & Toy Breed Chicken & Barley Entrée Dog Food 5.8oz4969102020T18
      Hill's® Science Diet® Puppy Chicken & Barley Entrée 13oz7036102020T12
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult Chicken & Barley Entrée Dog Food 13oz7037102020T13
      102020T14
      112020T23
      112020T24
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult Turkey & Barley Dog Food 13oz7038102020T06
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult Chicken & Beef Entrée Dog Food 13oz7040102020T13
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult Light with Liver Dog Food 13oz7048112020T19
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult 7+ Chicken & Barley Entrée Dog Food 13oz7055092020T31
      102020T13
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult 7+ Beef & Barley Entrée Dog Food 13oz7056092020T31
      112020T20
      112020T24
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult 7+ Turkey & Barley Entrée 13oz7057112020T19
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult 7+ Healthy Cuisine Braised Beef, Carrots & Peas Stew dog food 12.5oz10452102020T14
      102020T21
      Hill's® Science Diet® Adult 7+ Youthful Vitality Chicken & Vegetable Stew dog food 12.5oz10763102020T04
      102020T05
      112020T11

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled products should discontinue feeding and dispose of them or return the unopened products to the place of purchase for a refund.

      Consumers with questions may contact Hill’s at (800) 445-5777 Monday-Friday from 9am – 5pm (CST), by email at contactus@hillspet.com or online at www.hillspet.com/productlist.

      Hill’s Pet Nutrition is recalling canned dog food products that may have elevated levels of vitamin D.Ingestion of elevated levels of vitamin D can lea...