Gas Prices Down for Holidays
Average retail gasoline prices in Chattanooga have fallen 6.2 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.07/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 170 gas outlets in Chattanooga. This compares with the national average that has fallen 2.4 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.21/g, according to gasoline price website GasBuddy.com.
Including the change in gas prices in Chattanooga during the past week, prices yesterday were 7.3 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 4.3 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 0.7 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 3.8 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.
"Another downward trend in gasoline prices has emerged as motorists hit the roads in the last full week before Christmas," said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "Historically, this is about the time of year that gasoline prices hit their yearly lows, but this time around, I have more optimism that prices may move even lower in the next few weeks. As we finish our 2014 forecast at GasBuddy in the near future, we can say that 2014 does offer some relief compared to what we'll end up seeing in terms of average in 2013, but for the time being, the next week looks to see a continued drop in gasoline prices," DeHaan said.Monday, December 16 2013, 01:33 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, evidence that strong hiring should continue despite signs of slower economic growth at the start of 2015.
The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000. The decrease suggests that a recent slowdown in manufacturing, housing starts and retail sales have not trickled into the job market, a possible indication that economic growth will rebound after a harsh winter.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, tumbled 7,750 to 297,000. Over the past 12 months, the average has dipped roughly 7 percent.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The relatively low average shows that employers are holding onto workers and may increase hiring. Applications below 300,000 are generally consistent with solid monthly job gains.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week for a second straight week, edging closer to historically low levels at the start of the spring home-buying season.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the national average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.69 percent from 3.78 percent last week.
The average rate for a 15-year mortgage, popular with homeowners who refinance, eased to 2.97 percent from 3.06 percent last week.
A year ago, the average 30-year mortgage stood at 4.40 percent and the 15-year mortgage at 3.42 percent. Mortgage rates have remained low even though the Federal Reserve in October ended its monthly bond purchases, designed to hold down long-term rates.
COLOGNE, Germany (AP) -- The chief executive of Lufthansa says he is "stunned" by a French prosecutor's conclusion that the co-pilot of a Germanwings plane intentionally caused Tuesday's crash which killed 150 people.
Germanwings is Lufthansa's budget-price subsidiary.
Chief executive Carsten Spohr told a news conference in Cologne, Germany, that the airline choses its staff "very carefully" and has no indication of why co-pilot Andreas Lubitz would have crashed the plane. Spohr says pilots undergo yearly medical examination but that doesn't include psychological tests.
Germany's interior minister says that there are no indications the German co-pilot had "any kind of terrorist background." He says German authorities checked intelligence and police databases on the day of the crash, and Lufthansa told them that regular security checks also turned up nothing untoward on the co-pilot.
French prosecutors say Lubitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit. The Airbus A320 is designed with safeguards to allow emergency entry if a pilot inside is unresponsive. But the override code that is known to the crew does not go into effect -- and indeed goes into a lockdown -- if the person inside the cockpit specifically denies entry.
NORWEGIAN AIR-COCKPIT RULES
HELSINKI (AP) -- Europe's third largest budget airline, Norwegian Air Shuttle, says it plans to adopt new rules requiring two crew members to always be present in the cockpit of a flying aircraft.
A Norwegian spokeswoman says the new rules will be adopted "as soon as possible" on all commercial flights globally. She says the decision was taken after details emerged that the co-pilot of the Germanwings Flight 9525 that crashed in France on Tuesday had apparently locked himself in the cockpit.
She says the airline's security department had been thinking about the measure "for a while, and today decided on it."
Other airlines, including Finnish national carrier Finnair, stipulate that there must always be two crew members in the cockpit of a flying aircraft.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House has voted in unusual bipartisan unity to approve a $214 billion measure permanently blocking cuts in physicians' Medicare payments.
The 392-37 vote moved Congress a step closer to resolving a problem that has plagued lawmakers for years.
The package bore wins for both parties. Republicans won a long-term strengthening of Medicare's finances with cost increases for some high-income recipients. Democrats claimed victories with added money for health programs for children and poor families.
The measure would replace a 1997 law that has repeatedly threatened cuts in physicians' Medicare reimbursements. Doctors have warned that those threats could force them to stop treating the program's elderly patients.
The bill's Senate fate is unclear but improving. Democrats' complaints about its abortion curbs and other provisions have been softening.
GAS DRILLING-PUBLIC LANDS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House have found something in common. Many have issues with the Obama administration's new regulations requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.
Republicans say the new regulations, announced last week, will delay new drilling projects and take marginal lands out of production.
Democratic lawmakers say the regulations are so mild that they won't change current operating standards.
The lawmakers' complaints were aired Thursday during a House subcommittee hearing called to review the Bureau of Land Management's budget for the coming fiscal year.
Bureau Director Neil Kornze (KORN'-zee) says fracking is taking place in 32 states, and the new regulations were aimed primarily at those states with limited or no regulation of the practice.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek bank deposits dropped by more than 7.5 billion euros ($8.2 billion) in February, ramping up pressure on the country's teetering financial system as its government scrambles to reach a deal with creditors.
The central bank of Greece Thursday said private and business deposits dropped to 140.5 billion euros ($154.2 billion) by the end of February.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government has promised to submit a list of detailed reforms to bailout creditors by early next week at the latest. It has also said it would scrap any reforms that hurt economic growth.
Lenders need to approve the changes before releasing the remaining bailout funds that Greece needs to keep up with debt repayments before the summer.
SEAFOOD FROM SLAVES-REACTION
BANGKOK (AP) -- Lawmakers in Thailand have approved a measure creating tougher penalties for violating the country's laws against human trafficking.
The legislation had been under debate for several weeks. But its passage comes in the wake of an Associated Press investigation published this week. It found that fish caught by slaves has entered the supply chains of major supermarkets, restaurants and even pet stores in the United States. Seafood that was caught by hundreds of men trapped on a remote Indonesian island was tracked to exporters in Thailand who sell to America.
Thailand's deputy prime minister is denying that there are any slaves working on fishing boats carrying flags of Thailand. Instead, he says the problems are taking place in Indonesia.
But the U.S. State Department blacklisted Thailand last year for failing to meet minimum standards in fighting human trafficking.
U.S. retailers and the National Fisheries Institute have written to the ambassadors from Thailand and Indonesia, demanding to know what will be done to free the slaves described in AP's coverage. They say they've asked the government of Thailand in the past to address the issue of forced labor -- but didn't have any specific allegations until now.
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