SC business notebook, July 6

July 5, 2013 

Duke Energy now pushing smaller rate hike

Duke Energy has taken a step toward compromise in its third rate hike request in South Carolina since 2010, but it’s too early to say how much regulators will allow power bills to go up. The Charlotte-based power company has agreed to reduce one of the drivers in its request to raise rates an average of more than 15 percent for 540,000 customers in South Carolina. It initially asked state regulators for a return on common equity of 11.25 percent instead of the 10.5 percent it is currently allowed to collect. But now Duke says it’s willing to settle for a 10.2 percent return on equity, provided that’s part of a wider agreement with other parties in its rate-hike case before the state Public Service Commission. The concession suggests Duke is following a familiar pattern, with its initial request to raise rates higher than what it ends up settling for. The final decision will be made by the PSC, which hasn’t ruled yet.

Stocks rally on hiring report

The U.S. stock market closed higher after a bumpy start, with investors encouraged by a big uptick in hiring. The government says that the U.S. economy added a stronger-than-expected 195,000 jobs last month. That helped investors shake off worries about the Federal Reserve scaling back its economic stimulus, which spooked markets early. The Dow Jones industrial average finished up 147 points, or nearly 1 percent, to 15,135. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 16 points, or 1 percent, to 1,631. The Nasdaq composite was up 35 points, or 1 percent, to 3,479. After jumping early, stock gains tapered off. All the major indexes dipped briefly into the red, but by late afternoon, they were marching steadily higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to 2.73 percent.

Women better at haggling down car repair bills

Women are more likely than men to be taken for a ride, so to speak, when calling around for car repairs. A new study out of Northwestern University found auto shops quoted higher prices to women who appeared uninformed about work needed to be done. But women were also more successful in negotiating the price down. Researchers Meghan Busse and Florian Zettelmeyer at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management ran field experiments to gauge the differences in treatment between men and women. Both sexes made calls to repair shops, appearing to be either well-informed on the market price on a radiator replacement for a 2003 Toyota Camry; misinformed with a higher-than-average price ($510 instead of $365); or completely clueless about the expected cost. Men in the experiment were quoted the same price whether they pretended to know the average price or had no informed expectation, but women who appeared uninformed were consistently told higher-than-average prices. Both sexes were quoted higher-than-average prices when they told repair shops they thought the price was higher than the actual market price. When haggling for a lower price, though, 35 percent of the study’s female participants were able to get their requested price, compared with just 25 percent of men.

The Greenville News, The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times contributed.

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