Toyota issues another recall, while the Commerce Department reports positive retail sales numbers and the Treasury Department says the federal deficit will be its lowest since 2008. Here are the big news stories of the day for September 12, 2014.
Retail Sales Soar
The Commerce Department Friday said retail sales in the United States rose 0.6 percent in August after an upwardly revised gain of 0.3 percent in July. The retail sales report covers one third of consumer spending. In August, auto sales jumped 1.5 percent after advancing 0.6 percent in July. Garden equipment supply sales jumped 1.4 percent, sporting goods reported a 0.9 percent increase and electronics and appliance sales rose 0.7 percent. Core sales, which takes out automobile gasoline and building materials, rose 0.4 percent in August. Sales at automobile service stations fell 0.8 percent, but that reflects a decline in gasoline prices.
Federal Deficit Running Lower
The federal government remains on track to record the lowest deficit for an entire year since 2008, the Associated Press reports. The August deficit was $128.7 billion, down 13 percent from the $147.9 billion deficit recorded in August 2013, the Treasury Department said Thursday in its monthly budget report. With just one month left in the budget year, the deficit totals $589.2 billion, 22 percent below last year's 11-month total. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting the government will run a sizable surplus in September that will allow the government to close out the budget year with a deficit of $506 billion, the lowest in six years. The improvement is attributed to a 7.7 percent increase in tax revenues that offset a smaller 0.8 percent increase in spending. Revenues have been boosted by an improving economy and a tax increase that started taking effect in January 2013. It raised taxes on upper income individuals and eliminated a tax break workers had been getting on their Social Security taxes in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the AP reports.
EU, America Impose More Sanctions on Russia
Despite resistance from some of its members, the European Union announced Thursday it has slapped more sanctions on Russia for helping separatists destabilize Ukraine, the Associated Press reports. The sanctions will limit Russia's access to its financial market, hit the country's vital oil industry, curb high-tech exports and target more officials with travel bans and asset freezes. Under a compromise agreement among EU leaders, the sanctions could be reversed within weeks if the Ukraine cease-fire holds. In Washington, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. is also moving ahead with tougher economic sanctions on Russia that will affect the country's financial, energy and defense sectors. Obama likewise said the sanctions could be rolled back if Russia follows through with its commitments to help end the crisis in Ukraine. Otherwise, both the U.S. and the EU said the sanctions would be increased further.
Year of the Recall Rolls On
Toyota Motor Sales has issued a recall for 130,000 of its 2014 Tundra CrewMax cab and Double Cab trucks, according to the Los Angeles Times. The vehicles may be equipped with an improperly installed "center pillar garnish," a plastic interior panel, that could impede the deployment or proper function of a side impact airbag. The company is contacting owners of the affected vehicles directly, and will inspect or replace the improperly installed parts. Manufacturers have recalled about 46 million vehicles this year, more than at any other time in U.S. history, and well above the annual recall record of 30.8 million vehicles set in 2004. The bulk of those recalls have come from General Motors, as part of an ongoing problem with defective ignition switches. Toyota said it is unaware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities caused by the defect.
Diabetes Drug Gets Recommendation
A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisors says the diabetes drug Victoza should be approved for the use of treating obesity as well. The drug, produced by Novo Nordisk of Denmark, has already been approved as a daily injection to control type 2 diabetes. Now federal health experts voted 14-1 to allow patients to use it to treat obesity. The drug is part of a new class of medicines called GLP-1 agonists, which cause the pancreas to create extra insulin after meals. Diabetics have difficulty breaking down food into energy due to problems producing or using insulin in their bodies.
Pistorius Guilty of Culpable Homicide
After avoiding a more serious charge Thursday, Oscar Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide Friday for killing his girlfriend in 2013. Pistorius could face a lengthy prison sentence as a result of the conviction. The Olympic and Paralympic track star was cleared of two unrelated firearms charges. Judge Thokozila Masipa said Pistorius had acted unreasonably and negligently when he fired four shots into a bathroom door in his Pretoria home, killing his girlfriend who stood behind the door. Culpable homicide comes with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Sentencing will occur Oct. 13.