The Federal Reserve announces no change in interest rates coming; gas prices could drop by 20 cents in the fall. Here is the news roundup for Sept. 18, 2014.
Jobless Claims Fall More Than Expected
The Labor Department Thursday reported that there were only 280,000 initial claims for state unemployment benefits for the week ending Sept. 13, a drop of 36,000 from the previous week. That is the lowest level of jobless claims since July. Economists had forecast claims falling but only to 305,000 last week. The four-week moving average of claims slipped 4,750 to 299,500. Claims fell 19,000 between the August and September period for non-farm payrolls.
Housing Starts Drop
The Commerce Department Thursday said groundbreaking on new homes fell 14.4 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted annual 956,000-unit rate. But July’s starts were revised upward to show a 1.12 million unit rate, which was the highest level since November 2007, so experts believe the housing market continues to improve gradually. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast starts slipping but not as far as they did. Groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest part of the market, fell 2.4 percent in August after a huge 11.1 percent increase in July.
Good News at the Pumps
According to Gasbuddy.com, retail gas prices could drop another 20 cents heading into the fall, and they could reach levels unseen since the fall of 2010. The national average price for a gallon of regular gas is already at $3.37 and could see a further drop to the point where as many as 30 states could pay less than $3 per gallon. Gasbuddy says the decline in prices could save consumers as much as $2.5 billion heading into the holiday shopping season. The price drop is a result of the seasonal change in gas blends, which are cheaper in cold weather, and a drop in demand as well with children back in school. Also, crude prices have dropped significantly over the last month. The Department of Energy says crude inventories for the week of Sept. 12 were up to 3.7 million barrels.
Federal Reserve is Going to Stand Pat
Following its two-day meeting this week, the Federal Reserve announced it will keep interest rates at record low levels, allaying fears that they might start raising the rates in light of improving economic conditions. Chair Janet Yellen said any moves in rates will be data-dependent and not based on any calendar projection coming from her office. The Feds did cut its bond-buying program down to $15 billion a month and said quantitative easing would end in October. Still, the Fed did not change its original language saying that interest rates would rise only after “a considerable time’’ had passed following the end of bond-buying.
Yelp Settles Data Collection Charges
Yelp and mobile app developer TinyCo have agreed to settle with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over charges it improperly collected children’s information online. Yelp will pay a $450,000 civil penalty while TinyCo will pay a $300,000 penalty, the FTC reported. The FTC says between 2009 and 2013 Yelp collected personal information from children through its app without first notifying parents and obtaining their consent. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requires that companies protect information gather from children under the age of 13. Reportedly, Yelp collected several thousand registrations for children under the age of 13, and had access to names, email addresses and locations as well as any other information those children posted. Yelp has agreed to delete that information.
Amazon Announces a Kindle Boom
Amazon says it is producing seven new Kindle devices, and pre-ordering started Wednesday night. The new gadgets, many of which are updates to the company’s Fire tablet and Kindle e-readers, will ship sometime in October. The new devices were shown to reporters at an event in New York Wednesday. The devices will sell from $79 for the low-end e-reader to a $379 Kindle Fire HDX tablet. The new HDX has an 8.9 inch screen and is thinner and faster than its predecessor. It also has a sharper screen, with 339 pixels per inch.