SC business notebook, May 8

May 7, 2013 

Industrial vacancy rates above 11 percent; expected to drop

Industrial vacancy rates in the Columbia area are hovering just above 11 percent so far this year and are poised to decline in the coming months, commercial real estate firm NAI Avant said Tuesday. County governments and public utilities are anticipating stronger demand because of major industrial projects, such as tire manufacturers Continental, Bridgestone and Michelin, that are ramping up production. As a result, the public entities are undertaking speculative projects, including a 75,000-square-foot building in Fairfield County and a planned 50,000-square-foot building in Newberry County. Speculation in the private sector remains tentative, the report said.

Americans, reluctant to add debt, curb credit card use

Americans cut back on using their credit cards in March, suggesting many were reluctant to take on high-interest debt to make purchases. The Federal Reserve says consumer borrowing rose just $8 billion in March from February to a seasonally adjusted $2.81 trillion, the smallest increase in eight months. The gain was driven entirely by more loans to attend school and buy cars. The category that measures those loans increased $9.7 billion. A measure of credit card debt fell $1.7 billion and remains 17.2 percent below its peak set in June 2008. Since the recession, consumers have been more cautious about using credit cards.

Microsoft retooling latest Windows version after complaints and confusion

Microsoft is retooling the latest version of its Windows operating system to address complaints and confusion that have been blamed for deepening a slump in personal computer sales. The tune up announced Tuesday won’t be released to consumers and businesses until later this year. The changes, part of a software package given the codename “Blue,” are a tacit acknowledgment of the shortcomings in Windows 8, a radical overhaul of Microsoft Corp.’s ubiquitous operating system released last October.

On heels of drought, Midwestern farmers pray for sunshine to dry fields in time for planting

Farmers in the nation’s breadbasket who only recently were praying for an end to a withering drought are now pining for enough sunshine and heat to dry their muddy fields in time to plant their corn and other crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says only 12 percent of the nation’s cornfields have been planted. That’s about a quarter of the amount farmers had planted by this point in the season over the last five years.

Kristy Eppley Rupon and The Associated Press contributed.

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