A weak demand for motor vehicles caused August orders for durable, or long-lasting manufactured goods to dip 0.1 percent after a 4.1 percent increase in July, the Commerce Department said today. On the plus side, non-defense capital goods orders, not including aircraft, increased 1.1 percent last month after a 0.2 percent decrease in July. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.3 percent increase in this category, suggesting that businesses had not curtailed spending on capital goods amidst the recent market volatility. Orders for motor vehicles dropped by 8.5 percent, the largest decline since February 2010. Orders for civilian aircraft, however, took off with a 23.5 percent increase.
Lenders Inspecting Greece Austerity Plan
Greece's lenders are Athens-bound to inspect a government austerity plan they want implemented in exchange for aid, Reuters reported. Pressured by the team of inspectors who had threatened to cut off aid, Greece's Socialist government is accelerating its debt strategy to meet the terms of an International Monetary Fund and European Union rescue package so it can receive a new loan next month and avoid bankruptcy. The lenders are demanding budget cuts and tax increases, which has set off a new round of protests in the country. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that depending on what the inspectors determine, parts of its planned bailout for Greece would need to be renegotiated
Amazon to Start a Fire in Computer Tablet Market
(UPDATE) Amazon.com., the world's largest Internet retailer, unveiled its long-awaited tablet computer, Kindle Fire. The 7-inch tablet, while will allow users to read e-books, download digital music and video games, and stream movies and TV shows, will retail for $199, less than half the price of Apple's dominant iPad. Amazon also introduced the Kindle Touch ($99) and a standard Kindle now reduced to $79. The Kindle Fire can connect to the Internet via a Wi-Fi connection, but it will not have 3G connectivity or a camera, two features common to most tablets. it is scheduled to ship on Nov. 15.
Embargo Impedes Syria’s Oil Sales
Europe’s embargo on Syria’s oil sales are pinching off a vital source of income to the nation’s battle-torn economy, The New York Times reports. Europe typically imports about 100,000 barrels of crude daily from Syria, but sanctions are forcing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to find new markets for its oil while excess crude is filling the country’s storage capacity. The United Nations Security Council is also considering a resolution condemning the government’s repression of pro-democracy demonstrators, though the measure is not expected to contain additional sanctions.
Health Premium Costs Escalate
Health benefits for working Americans are shrinking at the same time premiums paid by employees are escalating, according to a survey released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and reported in the Chicago Tribune. The trend results from employers who are shifting the rising costs of health insurance onto their employees. In 2011 half the workers at small firms with individual policies faced annual deductibles of $1,000 or more - up from 16 percent in 2006, which the share for employees at large firms grew from 6 percent to 22 percent. Over the last year, premiums for family plans rose 9 percent.