Toyota's U.S. manufacturing arm is preparing its 13 plants in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to prepare for a possible shutdown because of parts shortages from Japan, CNN.com is reporting. "We expect some kind of interruptions," a Toyota spokesperson is quoted. Toyota's plans signal that the parts issue could be the beginning of an industry-wide problem. Meanwhile, Nissan, Honda and Ford are making no plans to shut down their plants, while U.S. automaker General Motors has already had to cease production at a Shreveport, La. Truck plant.
Fears about dangerous amounts of radiation have sparked a run on bottled water in Tokyo, Reuters reports. Many shops in Tokyo ran out of bottled water on Thursday after radiation from a damaged nuclear plant made tap water unsafe for babies. Meanwhile, Singapore, Australia, The United States, Hong Kong, and Canada have imposed curbs and tighter screening on imports of Japanese food. It is the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl. Radiation particles have been detected as far away as Iceland, although Japan insists levels are not dangerous to adults.
In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi remains defiant in the face of a fifth night of aerial attacks by Western warplanes, Reuters is also reporting. Gaddafi's tanks continue to shell rebel-held towns. With no signs of the fighting abating, NATO again has failed to agree to take over command of the military operations from the United States, which wants to cede its lead role in Libya in "a matter of days”. Washington, London and Paris agreed on Tuesday that the alliance should play a key operational role, but the assent of all 28 NATO states is needed. Turkey is the most outspoken dissenter.
Starbucks is taking an unconventional (for them) approach to growth and expansion, USA Today reports. At the company's 20th annual shareholders meeting, talk was not about adding on to the chain's 11,000 locations, but about caffeinating its presence in grocery stores, international growth, particularly in China, and heightening its digital presence. "Fasten your seat belts, CEO Howard Schultz is quoted, "we are just getting started”.
Oil prices hovered above $105 a barrel Thursday in Asia near a two-year high as traders closely watch the unprecedented wave of increasingly violent protests and uprisings in the crude-rich Arab world, the Associated Press reports. Oil has jumped 24 percent since Feb. 15 as the Middle East and North Africa have become embroiled in conflict. Signs U.S. consumers aren't letting rising fuel costs crimp demand also supported crude prices.
The US Federal Reserve has rejected Bank of America's plan to raise its dividend in the second half, according to Financial Times, dealing the lender and its shareholders an unexpected blow just as rivals prepare to increase quarterly payouts. This setback threatens to stall any momentum BofA executives enjoyed after the bank’s all-day meeting with investors earlier this month and stands in stark contrast to the triumphant tone struck by JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo as they unveiled plans to return more capital to shareholders.
There may be a cure for the summertime employment blues. CNN is reporting that not only will there be more hourly positions available this year, they will pay better, according to a survey released today from hourly job site SnagAJob.com. More than half of hiring managers said they play to hire seasonal workers this summer. That is the highest percentage since the website started the survey four years ago.
Calling all entrepreneurs. The Wall Street Journal reports that Silicon Valley venture capitalists are betting on a new generation of companies vying for a piece of social networking behemoth Facebook Inc., by shifting social networking from personal computers and shifting it to the cellphone. Color Labs, a phone-based social network founded by veteran entrepreneur Bill Nguyen, is opening its doors today.
U.S. shoppers' disinterest in newer technologies such as 3D and Internet-based televisions has led to Best Buy Co., Inc.'s third straight quarter of same-store sales declines on weak demand for televisions and entertainment software, Reuters reports. Best Buy, seen as a bellwether in consumer electronics, promoted pricier televisions during the holiday season. Bargain-savvy shoppers went to online retailer Amazon.com as well as mass merchants such as Target Corp and Wal-Mart.
Finally, Aflac cried fowl when comedian Gilbert Gottfried, for 11 years the distinctive voice of the company's iconic spokes-duck, tweeted insensitive jokes about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The company is now accepting submissions for someone to replace Gottfried. Rather than look for another celebrity voice, the company is taking an "American Idol" approach to finding undiscovered talent. An ad produced in 2006 featuring the duck in a silent movie parody, was re-edited to promote the talent search. It began airing Wednesday.