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Sept. 1, 2012 at 12:49 PM   |   Comments

Gas prices at record for holiday weekend

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- AAA said the national average price of gasoline was $3.83 per gallon Saturday, a decline from Friday, but still a record high for a Labor Day weekend.

The record Labor Day weekend pump price is a sharp increase from the previous high for the holiday, which was $3.67 per gallon in 2008, the year crude oil prices set a record high in July above $147 per barrel.

CNN reported Saturday that the average price of gasoline jumped 9.4 percent in August, the largest monthly climb in more than three years.

Consumers can blame a raft of supply-related problems.

"It's been the summer of troubles for refineries," said industry analyst Tom Kloza, at the Oil Price Information Service in New Jersey, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Supply concerns range from a fire at a refinery in Richmond, Calif., on Aug. 6, and Hurricane Isaac that threatened refineries in the Gulf Coast and inland last week.

In Norway, oil industry service workers went on strike in August. And the United States has managed to coordinate a large-scale embargo of doing business with Iran to pressure the country to abandon a nuclear program.

Although causing less damage than expected, refineries in the path of Isaac were shut down as a cautionary measure.

Severe storm damage could have been a lot worse, but the shutdowns are disruptive. "You can shut down a refinery pretty quickly, but restarting them will take time. These are sophisticated, billion-dollar assets. It's a little more complicated than flipping the 'on' switch," said Kloza.


Germany opposes ECB regulatory plan

FRANKFURT, Germany, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has warned that a plan to include 6,000 European banks under authority of one regulator is impractical.

The European Commission is scheduled to review the merits of a proposal to put have 6,000 eurozone banks regulated by the European Central Banks. The commission will review the proposal Sept. 12, a spokesman for the office said.

Schaeuble said "common sense," dictates that the plan be rejected.

Instead of overseeing all the banks in the eurozone, the ECB should regulate only banks so large they carry a risk of causing "systemic" damage to the financial system, Schaeuble said.

The EUobserver reported Saturday that commission spokesman Stefaan De Rynck outlined a plan in which the ECB would be given "supervisory powers on all matters about financial stability, but national supervisors will continue to play a role, for instance to prepare and implement such decisions."

Individual nations "will also remain in charge of supervisory task on matters not related to financial stability matters, such as consumer protection or overseeing payment services," De Rynck said.


GM cuts back on Vauxhall production

ELLESMERE PORT, England, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- General Motors said the economic downturn in Europe had forced it to close two Vauxhall production plants in Britain for a week.

"As a major exporter and following the downturn in mainland Europe, Vauxhall manufacturing operations in Ellesmere Port and in Luton are implementing a down week (beginning) 24 September. This is to avoid building up stock by balancing inventory with customer orders," GM said in a statement.

The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday that the Ellesmere Port plant was recently saved from a total shutdown by a decision for the factory to produce the next generation Astra.

There are 2,100 workers at the Ellesmere Port plant and about 1,000 at the Luton plant.

Temporary shutdowns of automobile factories are becoming more common in Europe, where many countries have fallen into a recession.

At Renault, the Douai factory is scheduled for a four-day shutdown. In Italy, Fiat has closed a plant in Naples for two weeks due to over production.

GM is also stopping production for 20 days at its Russelheim plant in Germany.

In contrast, Jaguar Land Rover recently went to 24 hour per day production at its Halewood factory in Britain, a move that included 1,000 new jobs.


Walmart tests mobile checkout system

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Sept. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. retail giant Walmart said it was testing a checkout system in which customers use their phones to scan items and then pay at self-serve kiosks.

The motivation behind the new system, Walmart said, is the $12 million per second that the company pays cashiers, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The company already said in March that it would add self-checkout lanes to many stores to cut back on lines and reduce its labor costs.

The mobile check out system is being tested in one Walmart super center store near its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

It is not being tested by the public, but by Walmart employees, the Journal said.

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