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Washington Times
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Business News

Last Update on August 01, 2014 17:27 GMT

ECONOMY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. employers extended this year's hiring surge into July by adding a solid 209,000 jobs. It was the sixth straight month of job growth above 200,000, evidence that businesses are shedding the caution that had marked the 5-year-old economic recovery.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent as more Americans started looking for work. Not all found jobs, but the increase suggests that they are more optimistic about their prospects. The jobless aren't counted as unemployed unless they are actively seeking employment.

Average job gains over the past six months reached 244,000 in July, the best such average in eight years.

Still, the employment growth may raise alarms for investors, some of whom fear the Federal Reserve might increase short-term interest rates sooner than expected.

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending rose at the fastest pace in three months in June, providing momentum for the economy going into the second half of the year.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending increased 0.4 percent in June following slower increases of 0.3 percent in May and 0.1 percent in April. It was the best showing since a 0.8 percent surge in spending in March, which reflected a rebound after a harsh winter had kept consumers from the malls and auto showrooms. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for two-thirds of economic activity.

Americans saw earnings rise 0.4 percent in June, matching the May increase. Income growth has lagged in this recovery but has shown recent signs of some acceleration.

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. construction spending fell in June by the largest amount in more than three years as housing, non-residential construction and government spending all weakened.

The Commerce Department says construction spending dropped 1.8 percent in June on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising by a revised 0.8 percent in May. It was the biggest setback since a 2.8 percent fall in January 2011.

The weakness was widespread with spending on housing down for a second straight month, falling 0.3 percent, while non-residential building activity fell 1.6 percent, the biggest decrease since January. Spending on government projects dropped 4 percent, the biggest decline in more than a decade.

The June performance represented a setback to hopes stronger construction activity will help support overall economic growth.

ECONOMY-MANUFACTURING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- US manufacturing expanded for the 14th straight month in July.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, reports that its manufacturing index rose to 57.1, up from 55.3 in June.

Anything above 50 signals that manufacturing is growing.

New orders, production and employment at factories rose. Exports declined last month.

The U.S. economy has been showing renewed strength. Economic growth clocked in an impressive 4 percent annual pace from April through June after getting off to a bad start the first three months of the year. And employers added more than 200,000 jobs in July for the sixth straight month.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A measure of U.S. consumer confidence slipped in July although it remained at levels signaling further gains in consumer spending.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment edged down to 81.8 in July from 82.3 in June. The index of consumers' assessment of current conditions rose but the index for expectations dipped slightly from the June reading.

Survey director Richard Curtin says that consumers have yet to interpret the recent gains in jobs and wages as a sign of more robust hiring and economic growth in the future.

The final reading for the sentiment gauge for July was a slight improvement over a preliminary reading of 81.3.

AUTO SALES

DETROIT (AP) -- Big discounts are putting some sizzle in summer auto sales.

Analysts say it could be the best July for the industry since 2006.

General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Nissan and Chrysler area all reporting big gains over last July. Honda and Volkswagen saw declines.

Generous summer discounts helped boost sales. Automakers typically offer deals in the summer to clear out inventory before cars from the new model year arrive in the fall. But July's discounts were unusually high.

HYUNDAI-RECALLS

DETROIT (AP) -- Hyundai is recalling more than 419,000 cars and SUVs to fix suspension, brake and oil leak problems.

The biggest of three recalls postToyota, Ford, Nissan and Chrysler all saw double-digit sales gains and General Motors' sales were up 9 percent over last July. Honda and Volkswagen saw declines.

ed Friday on a U.S. government website is of 225,000 Santa Fe SUVs from 2001-2006 to replace front coil springs that can rust and crack in cold-weather states.

The Korean automaker also is recalling 133,075 Sonata midsize cars from 2011 because brake fluid can leak and cause increased stopping distances.

And it's recalling 61,122 Veracruz SUVs because oil can leak onto the alternator, causing it to fail. That could cause the engine to stall.

Hyundai says the problems haven't caused any crashes or injuries. The recalls are expected to start by the end of September.

HARLEY-IGNITION SWITCH RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Ignition switch problems that have plagued General Motors and Chrysler have now turned up in the motorcycle business.

Harley-Davidson is recalling more than 3,300 FXDL Dyna Low Rider bikes because engine vibration can turn the switches from "run" to "accessory."

The recall covers motorcycles from the 2014 1/2 model year. If the motorcycles have been modified to rev higher than 5,600 RPMs, an engine mount bracket can vibrate excessively, causing the problem.

If the switch goes to "accessory," the engine can shut off while being driven and potentially cause a crash. The company says there have been no crashes or injuries reported from the problem.

Dealers will replace the bracket assembly and ignition switch knob for free. Harley began notifying owners in late July.

CITIGROUP-SEC-MORTGAGE SECURITIES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Citigroup Inc. says it's been told by the Securities and Exchange Commission that the agency has completed its investigation of the bank's conduct regarding mortgage bonds and won't bring further enforcement action.

Citigroup said in a regulatory filing Friday that it received the information from the SEC this week.

The SEC has filed a series of cases against Citigroup and other big Wall Street banks in recent years over their sales of securities backed by risky mortgages ahead of the 2008 financial crisis. The banks have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle the SEC charges. The five-year statute of limitations for filing such civil cases has imposed a deadline on the agency for bringing enforcement actions.

SEC spokesman John Nester declined to comment.

HEWLETT-PACKARD-POSTAL SERVICE

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hewlett-Packard Co. has agreed to pay $32.5 million to settle allegations it overcharged the U.S. Postal Service for products over more than eight years.

In the dispute, the United States alleged that HP failed to comply with pricing terms of its contract with the Postal Service. It also alleged the company misrepresented its pricing during contract negotiations and its plans to ensure it would bill at the required most-favored-customer rate.

The overcharging allegedly occurred between October 2001 and December 2010.

The Justice Department said Friday that the claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only. There's been no determination of liability.

HP is based in Palo Alto, California. Its stock fell 45 cents to $35.16 in morning trading.

COAL ASH SPILL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The nation's largest public utility has agreed to pay more than $27 million to settle claims from Tennessee property owners who suffered damages from a huge spill of toxin-laden coal ash sludge.

The 2008 spill happened when a containment dike burst at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant, releasing more than 5 million cubic yards of ash from a storage pond. The sludge flowed into a river and spoiled hundreds of acres in a riverside community 35 miles west of Knoxville.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Varlan ruled in 2012 that TVA was liable for the spill. He wrote that if TVA had followed its own policies, the problems that led to the dike failure would have been investigated and addressed.

The settlement with more than 800 property owners was announced on Friday.

USDA-CHICKEN-INSPECTORS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is attempting to cut down on thousands of foodborne illnesses linked to chicken and turkey each year with an overhaul of poultry plant inspection rules that are more than 50 years old.

Final rules announced Thursday would reduce the number of government poultry inspectors. Those who remain will focus more on food safety than on quality, requiring them to pull more birds off the line for closer inspections and encouraging more testing for pathogens. More inspectors would check facilities to make sure they are clean.

The Agriculture Department says the move could cut down on 5,000 foodborne illnesses annually. The changes would be voluntary, but many of the country's largest poultry companies are expected to opt in. The chicken and turkey industries swiftly praised the new rules.

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