Grimmer economic reports top our roundup of the day's top business stories.
Look Ma, No Driver
The newest version of Google’s self-driving car will debut on public roads this summer, Google announced. The car is a two-seater that needs no gas pedal or steering wheel. The prototype is the first vehicle build from scratch for the purpose of self-driving, the Associated Press reports. It can drive, brake and recognize road hazards without human intervention. This incarnation lacks federally required safety features, such as air bags, and so cannot go more than 25 miles per hour. It is electric and must be recharged after 80 miles. The pod can only drive in areas that Google has thoroughly mapped.
Consumer Sentiment Plummets in May
The University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment dropped to 88.6, the lowest since October. The 7.3 decrease was the largest since December 2012, Bloomberg reports. Households still held relatively optimistic views on incomes, but they were shaken by news that the U.S. economy stalled in the first quarter. An increase in fuel costs added to the pessimistic perceptions.
Industrial Production Down for Fifth Consecutive Month
U.S. industrial output slipped 0.3 percent in April after a revised 0.3 percent drop the previous month, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. This is the fifth consecutive month that domestic industrial production did not grow. Mining production fell 0.8 percent as oil and gas well drilling plunged 1.5 percent. It was the fourth consecutive monthly decline in mining output, Reuters reports. Utilities production fell 1.3 percent.
Ag Department Debuts New GMO Label.
The Agriculture Department has developed a new government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), the Associated Press reports. The voluntary certification is the first of its kind and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a "USDA Process Verified" label along with a claim that they are free of GMOs. Companies can already put their own GMO-free labels on foods, but there are no government labels that only certify a food as GMO-free. Many companies use a private label developed by a nonprofit called the Non-GMO Project. The USDA organic label also certifies that foods are free of genetically modified ingredients, but many non-GMO foods aren't organic.
House Passes Congressional Review Bill
The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass legislation giving Congress the right to review, and possibly reject, an international nuclear agreement with Iran, the Associated Press reports. The bill gives Congress 30 days to review a final nuclear deal after international negotiators reach such an agreement, and during that time bars Obama from temporarily waiving any U.S. sanctions on Iran that were passed by Congress. The legislation passed 400-25 and will next go to the White House, where administration officials have said President Barack Obama will sign it into law. The Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015 passed the Senate last week after lawmakers reached a compromise removing some of its toughest provisions, and Obama dropped his threat to veto the measure as a threat to continuing negotiations between the United States and other world powers and Iran.
Chicago’s Debt Rating Takes Another Hit
Standard & Poor’s lowered Chicago’s debt rating by two notches from A+ to A-, three steps above the junk-level status assigned earlier this week by Moody’s Investments Services, the Chicago Tribune reports. Citing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to convert debt with fluctuating interest rates to fixed-rate bonds to help stabilize the city finances, S&P said that the junk status rating affected “the city’s ability to implement timely solutions to its structural budgetary problems.”