Consumer confidence hits 5-month low
WASHINGTON Confidence among U.S. consumers has sunk to its lowest point since July, according to a monthly index. The University of Michigan says its consumer sentiment index for December fell to 72.9, a sharp drop from November’s reading of 82.7, a five-year high.
Peter Newland, an economist at Barclays, says consumer confidence has dropped because of uncertainty over whether Congress and the Obama administration will reach a budget deal to avert sharp tax increases and government spending cuts, set to take effect in January.
Company asks court to block morning-after pill rule
OKLAHOMA CITY Hobby Lobby Stores is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block part of the federal health-care law that requires it to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency contraception pills.
The arts-and-crafts company is owned by a conservative Christian family. They argue the drugs are tantamount to abortion because they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s womb.
Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby asked the high court for an injunction Friday, a day after a federal appeals court rejected the company’s request.
Hobby Lobby is the largest private employer suing over the mandate. Not providing the drugs will subject the company to fines of as much as $1.3 million a day.
EPA finalizes boiler rule to cut pollution
WASHINGTON The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized rules aimed at reducing toxic air pollution from industrial boilers and incinerators, offering industry more flexibility and reduced costs.
The rules have been the subject of intense interest to many S.C. businesses.
Obama administration officials say most of the 1.5 million boilers nationwide are not covered by the regulation since they are too small or emit too little pollution to warrant controls.
The changes will require pollution controls at about 2,300 of the largest and most polluting boilers nationwide, including those found at refineries and chemical plants. Another 197,000 smaller boilers would be able to meet the rule through routine tune-ups.
Hostess expects to split up snack cakes in sale
NEW YORK Twinkies, Wonder Bread and Devil Dogs are likely to return to shelves in coming months, but probably not under the same owners.
Hostess Brands said in bankruptcy court Friday that it’s narrowing down the bids it received for its brands and expects to sell off its snack cakes and bread to separate buyers.
A likely suitor has emerged for the namesake Hostess brand, which includes Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos. Additional bids have been submitted for the company’s bread brands. Sales could be completed by as early as mid-March.
Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, has said potential buyers include major packaged food companies and national retailers. The company has stressed it needs to move quickly in the sale process to capitalize on the outpouring of nostalgia sparked by its bankruptcy.
The company’s demise came after years of management turmoil and turnover. Hostess filed for its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in less than a decade in January, citing steep costs associated with its unionized workforce.
The Associated Press