Financial
U.S. consumer borrowing up $12.3 billion in November PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer   
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 16:31

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans increased their borrowing in November, led by continued gains in auto and student loans.

The Federal Reserve said consumers increased their borrowing by $12.3 billion in November to a seasonally adjusted $3.09 trillion. That is a record level and follows an October increase of $17.9 billion.

Almost all of the November increase came from an $11.9 billion rise in borrowing for auto loans and student loans. Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards ticked up only $457.8 million after surging in October.

Credit card borrowing plunged after the Great Recession and consumers remain cautious about taking on high-interest debt. It has gradually increased to its highest level in more than three years, but it's still 16 percent below its peak of more than $1 trillion reached in 2008.

The combination of weak hiring and meager wage gains has left many Americans reluctant to charge their purchases.

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Natural gas exports: Slow walk or 'danger zone'? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 07:32

WASHINGTON (AP) — The debate over exporting liquefied natural gas is intensifying as the Energy Department considers an array of applications to ship the fuel to Japan, India and other countries where prices are far higher than in the United States.

Some large manufacturers that use natural gas say the department is moving too quickly to approve gas exports, pushing the United States into a "danger zone" that could raise prices and harm the economy. Environmental groups worry that tentative approval of several large export projects may accelerate a fracking boom they say could harm public health and the environment.

Industry groups, meanwhile, say the administration is moving too slowly, with just one of nearly two dozen proposed LNG export terminals given final approval in the past two years. Four other projects have received conditional backing.

"The Department of Energy's slow-walk of LNG export licenses violates our trade obligations" and could cause the U.S. to lose billions of dollars in the global gas market, said Margo Thorning, director of the Act on LNG campaign, an advocacy group that supports gas exports.

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Unemployment aid: What's at stake for U.S. economy PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer   
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 07:34

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than a million Americans lost their unemployment benefits late last month, when a temporary federal program expired. Congress is debating whether to restore the aid for three more months.

A bill to do so cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday. But final passage remains unclear. Democrats say extending the aid would boost hiring and economic growth. But many Republicans say the benefits discourage the unemployed from seeking work and would widen the federal budget gap.

Some questions and answers about what's at stake for the U.S. economy:

Q. Who's affected?

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California judge ups lead paint verdict to $1.15B PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 07:14

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A California judge has increased by $50 million the amount that paint makers will have to pay into a fund to remove lead paint from homes across the state.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg on Tuesday issued a final verdict ordering Sherwin Williams, National Lead and ConAgra to pay $1.15 billion after finding that the companies knew the paint was harmful to children.

A tentative ruling issued in December after a five-week nonjury trial had said the companies would have to pay $1.1 billion.

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