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Business News

Last Update on August 29, 2014 09:18 GMT


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Consumers are the focus of two reports scheduled for release today.

The Commerce Department will report on how much U.S. consumers spent and earned in July. In June, consumers stepped up spending at the fastest pace in three months, providing momentum for the economy going into the second half of the year.

Also, the University of Michigan will issue its index of consumer sentiment for August. For July, the index slipped but remained at levels signaling further gains in consumer spending.


TOKYO (AP) -- Japan reports its economy remained stalled in July, as wages fell further and household spending dropped, signaling continued weakness in the world's third-largest economy.

Data released Friday showed inflation remained flat, with the core consumer price index, excluding volatile fresh food prices, at 3.3 percent, same as a month earlier. Much of the increase stems from a 2 percentage point increase in the sales tax in April, which has since sapped much of the steam from Japan's recovery.

Real incomes fell 6.2 percent, as the unemployment rate edged higher, to 3.8 percent from 3.7 percent in June. Softness in the labor market would counter any moves toward higher wages that might help spur more consumer demand.

The government plans extra stimulus spending to counter lingering effects of the tax hike.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google's secretive research laboratory is trying to build a fleet of drones designed to bypass earthbound traffic so packages can be delivered to people more quickly.

The ambitious program announced Thursday escalates Google's technological arms race with rival, which also is experimenting with self-flying vehicles to carry merchandise bought by customers of its online store.

Google Inc. has dubbed its effort "Project Wing." Although Google expects it to take several more years before its fleet of drones is fully operational, the company says test flights in Australia recently delivered a first aid kit, candy bars, dog treats, and water to two farmers.

Project Wing is the latest venture to emerge from Google's "X" lab, which also been working on self-driving cars and several other innovations.


HONOLULU (AP) -- A federal judge in Hawaii says she won't consider approving $2.4 million in settlements for hundreds of Thai farm workers until the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission holds a press conference clarifying that the agreements are still subject to court approval.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi is ordering the agency to hold the press conference by Friday. She says the EEOC didn't follow rules when they filed the agreements. EEOC Regional Attorney Anna Park says it was a procedural oversight.

The agency announced in June that it had reached settlement agreements with four Hawaii farms over allegations that they exploited workers. Kobayashi says the EEOC should have waited to do so until she approved the settlements.

She says the EEOC gave the misleading impression the settlements were final.


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Shell is preserving its options to drill for oil in Arctic waters next year by filing a revised exploration plan with federal officials.

A subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC filed the revised plan Thursday with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in Anchorage.

Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith says in an email that the plan calls for two drilling vessels to operate in the Chukchi (chuk-CHEE') Sea.

Smith says the filing of the plan is not a final decision to drill in 2015 but it lets Shell keep its options open.

The last time Shell drilled in Arctic waters was in 2012.

Smith says drilling would require a successful resolution to federal supplemental environmental work. That's required after an appeals court concluded that an environmental review preceding the 2008 Chukchi lease sale was flawed.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will resume issuing oil and gas leases next year for federal lands in California after a new study found limited environmental impacts from fracking and other enhanced drilling techniques, the agency said Thursday.

The move lifts a halt that has stood since a federal judge ruled in 2013 that the federal agency failed to follow environmental law in allowing an oil extraction method known as fracking on public land in Monterey County.

The study released Thursday was conducted for the BLM by the state-created California Council on Science and Technology. It concluded the current level of fracking and other so-called well-stimulation techniques by drillers to get more oil out of rock formations did not seem to be poisoning water supplies or increasing earthquake risks in the state.

Researchers concluded in part that fracking and other methods used in California differ from those in some other states.


NEW YORK (AP) -- The Abercrombie & Fitch logo has lost the power it once wielded.

Shares of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. fell Thursday after the retailer reported weak sales as more teens shop elsewhere.

The company is trying to stock trendier clothing -- and it turns out that means stripping off the once-prized Abercrombie logo.

It is a major change for the retailer, whose sweatshirts and T-shirts emblazoned with its name long held major cachet with teenagers. Now, individuality is the name of the game.

A&F and other traditional teen stores have to adapt in an uphill battle to turn their businesses around as mall traffic drops and shoppers' tastes change.

A slowly recovering economy is making parents and teens to think twice about splurging on clothes. Expensive standbys like Abercrombie also have lost business to "fast fashion" chains like H&M, known for quickly churning out trendy $9 tops.

Teens are also spending less time at the mall and more time researching and buying on mobile devices. And when they do buy, they're more likely buying the latest gadget than filling their closets.

Washington Times