Business Highlights

March 29, 2014 2:31AM (UTC)


AP IMPACT: Gov't safety agency missed Cobalt clues

DETROIT (AP) — The federal government said for years that it didn't have enough information about stalling in some General Motors cars to establish a trend or open an investigation. But the data tell a different story.


An Associated Press review shows that over a nine-year period, 164 drivers reported to regulators that their 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts stalled without warning. It was a sign of the ignition switch failure that led GM to recall 1.6 million Cobalts and other cars and is linked to at least 12 deaths and dozens of crashes.

GM recently acknowledged it knew the switch was defective at least a decade ago, and the government started receiving complaints just months after the 2005 Cobalt went on sale. Lawmakers have asked GM and regulators to testify about why it took so long to inform owners.



GM adding 824,000 vehicles to ignition recall

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors is adding 824,000 small cars to its ongoing recall tied to defective ignition switches.

The company will add vehicles from the 2008-2011 model years to a recall that initially covered cars only through the 2007 model year. The Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky are all involved in the recall.


The defect is linked to 12 deaths but GM says it's not aware of any fatalities connected to the defect in the 2008-2011 models.

The ignition switches can move out of the "run" position and cause the engine to stall.


US consumer spending up modest 0.3 percent


WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans barely increased their spending in February following a weak January performance, strong evidence that the severe winter will hold back the economy in the first quarter.

Consumer spending rose 0.3 percent in February following an even weaker 0.2 percent rise in January, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

Spending on autos and other durable goods actually fell for February and much of the small gain reflected higher utility payments to pay heating costs.


Analysts said consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, has slowed significantly in the January-March quarter and will hold back overall economic growth. But they are looking for a rebound in the spring as the weather improves.


Investigation far from over in Houston oil spill


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The barge operator that spilled nearly 170,000 gallons of tar-like oil into the Houston Ship Channel, closing one of the nation's busiest seaports for several days, will be fined by Texas regulators regardless of the outcome of state and federal investigations.

Investigators are still trying to pinpoint the cause of last weekend's accident involving a barge owned by Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine Corp., but Texas law considers the company carrying the oil a responsible party, said Greg Pollock, deputy director for the Texas General Land Office's oil spill response division.

It won't be the first fine for the company, which has paid more than $51,000 for at least 77 spills since 2008, most of which were minor incidents.



BlackBerry revenue falls below a $1 billion

TORONTO (AP) — BlackBerry reported a steep drop in profit and revenue Friday as it transitions from a smartphone company to a software business under its new chief executive.

The Canadian company lost $423 million, or 80 cents per share. Adjusted for one-time items, it lost 8 cents per share, much better that the losses of 56 cents per share that analysts expected, according to FactSet. Revenue fell to $976 million from $2.7 billion, the first time the company has seen revenue fall below $1 billion since late 2007. That was short of the $1.1 billion analysts had projected.

It is the second quarterly results under CEO John Chen, who is deemphasizing the hardware business after last year's launch of the BlackBerry 10 failed to spark a turnaround.



Feds close investigation of Tesla battery fires

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government's auto safety watchdog has closed an investigation into Tesla electric car battery fires after the company said it would install more shields beneath the cars.

The shields, an aluminum bar, a titanium plate and another piece of aluminum, will supplement a quarter-inch-thick aluminum plate now on the Model S, the only model that Tesla now sells. They're designed to stop road debris from penetrating the car's battery pack.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating the Model S last year after two battery fires that were caused by road debris. In each case, one near Nashville, Tennessee, and another near Seattle, debris punctured the aluminum shield and the battery, touching off fires. Drivers were able to safely pull off the road and escape without injury, but the cars were destroyed.


Acid tank explosion injures 9 at Indiana plant

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Nine workers at a Rolls-Royce plant near the Indianapolis International Airport were injured Friday when a tank of nitric acid exploded and filled the building with a cloud of corrosive vapor, officials said.

None of the workers suffered life-threatening injuries when a 250-gallon tank of nitric acid exploded. The explosion released a vapor cloud that left the workers with burns and breathing problems.

The cause of the explosion — and how much acid was released — remains under investigation by Rolls-Royce and fire officials.


H&M withdraws vest over anti-Semitism controversy

PARIS (AP) — Fashion retailer H&M has pulled a vest from its shelves worldwide after accusations its design, which featured a menacing skull in the center of a Star of David, was anti-Semitic.

The Swedish company said in a statement Friday that it is sorry if the print offended anyone and that it was not its intention to provoke such a reaction.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor welcomed the garment's withdrawal, calling it a "thoughtless and insensitive design."

The menswear item was also on sale in stores worldwide, including in Israel, where the retailer has 14 stores.


Million jars of peanut butter dumped in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Nearly a million jars of peanut butter are being dumped at a New Mexico landfill to expedite the sale of a bankrupt peanut-processing plant at the heart of a 2012 salmonella outbreak.

The move comes after Costco Wholesale refused the product and declined requests to let it be donated to food banks or repackaged or sold. The peanut butter was made with $2.8 million worth of Valencia peanuts owned by Costco and had been sitting in the warehouse since the company shut down and filed for bankruptcy last fall, according to court documents.

Costco had previously agreed to take the peanut butter, but rejected it after getting eight loads saying it is "not merchantable" because of leaky peanut oil.


McDonald's offers free coffee for breakfasters

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's is offering free coffee to its customers for a limited time as competition for the breakfast crowd intensifies.

The world's biggest hamburger chain announced Friday that participating U.S. locations will offer small cups of McCafe coffee at no charge during breakfast hours from March 31 through April 13.

McDonald's said that this is the first time it's ever had a free coffee event nationwide. The Oak Brook, Ill., company is hoping that the coffee giveaway will bring in new customers and get existing customers to come in more frequently.


By The Associated Press=

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 58.83 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 16,323.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 8.58 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,857.62. The Nasdaq composite, which includes a number of large biotech companies, rose just 4.53 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,155.76.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for May delivery gained 39 cents to $101.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline slipped 1 cent to $2.94 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1 cent to $2.96 a gallon. Natural gas dropped 5 cents to $4.49 per 1,000 cubic feet. In other markets, Brent crude, a benchmark for international varieties of oil, was up 24 cents to $108.07 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

From The Wires

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •