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Aug. 30, 2012 at 5:43 PM
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Stocks skid Thursday

NEW YORK, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes fell Thursday in New York despite the sharpest rise in consumer spending in five months in July.

The Commerce Department said consumer spending, which makes up about 70 percent of the country's gross domestic product, rose 0.4 percent in July after rising less than 0.1 percent in June.

The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment benefits came in a 374,000 in the week ending Saturday, unchanged from the previous week.

By close of trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average shed 106.77 points to 13,000.71, off 0.81 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index lost 32.48 points to 3,048.71, off 1.05 percent. The Standard and Poor's 500 gave up 11.01 points to 1,399.48, off 0.78 percent.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 853 stocks advanced and 2,110 declined on a volume of 2.3 billion shares traded.

The benchmark 10-year treasury rose 8/32, yielding 1.628 percent.

The euro fell to $1.2506 from Wednesday's $1.253. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 78.66 yen from 78.71 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 255 index lost 0.95 percent, 86.03 points, to 8,983.78.

In London, the FTSE 100 index lost 0.42 percent, 24.08, to 5,719.45.

Tennessee settles Risperdal marketing case

NASHVILLE, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Thirty-six U.S. states have reached a $181 million settlement with a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary regarding the illegal marketing of an anti-psychotic drugs.

The settlement, announced by the Tennessee attorney general's office, is the largest multistate consumer protection agreement ever with a drug company charged with illegal marketing practices.

The subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., allegedly marketed anti-psychotic drugs Risperdal, Risperdal Consta, Risperdal M-Tab and Invega for what are called "off-label" uses -- conditions for which these drugs were not approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

The company promoted the drugs for use to combat depression, anxiety, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, even though they did not have FDA approval for those uses, the attorneys general charged.

Besides the payment, the company agreed to a sizable list of marketing concessions including communicating clearly of the risks and rewards of using these drugs and a ban on using only selected symptoms in its promotional pitches.

In addition the company was ordered to use "scientifically trained personnel, rather than its sales and marketing personnel, to develop the medical content of scientific communications."

Any medical educators promoting the drugs must disclose their connection to the company and no financial incentives can be offered to sales staff for promoting the drugs for off-label uses.

"My office is pleased to resolve these allegations. We will continue our efforts to stop deceptive marketing," Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper said in a statement.

Expert: Costco caters to ultra-affluent

STEVENS, Pa., Aug. 30 (UPI) -- It's not surprising Mitt and Ann Romney enjoy shopping at Costco, because it is the only discount retailer that attracts the affluent, a U.S. expert says.

Pamela Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and luxury market expert, said Costco was the only discount chain that attracted more ultra-affluent -- consumers with more than $250,000 income a year -- than lower-income shoppers, with income ranging from $100,000 to $249,900 a year.

"The fact is the affluent customers that Costco attracts are about the only ones in this economy who can afford to invest in a six-month supply of paper towels or toilet paper," Danziger said in a statement. "Households on tight budgets can't afford to tie up so much cash in stockpiling supplies. In addition, Costco stocks many name brands and gourmet foods that appeal strongly to the wealthy."

Costco knows its affluent consumers are likely to be small business owners acutely aware of the mark-up that typically comes at high-end stores. The discounter consciously strips away the frills that mean extra expense to these consumers and offers a bare-bones environment that says "savings," Danziger said.

"The affluent consumers get excited by the hunt for name-brand bargains," Danziger said. "They will put up with long checkout lines and the big-box format in order to get access to such a wide variety of quality items at deeply discounted prices and they are absolutely addicted to the Costco experience."

Middle income students have more debt

MADISON, Wis., Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Middle income families are likely to rack up more high student loan debt than students from both lower and higher income backgrounds, U.S. researchers say.

"Many middle income families make too much money for their children to qualify for student aid packages," study author Jason N. Houle of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said in a statement. "While at the same time, they may not have the financial means to cover the high costs of college."

The study found nearly 41 percent of all students left college with some student loan debt, and the average debt among those students was more than $22,000.

The study involved 4,414 participants in the 1997 National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which contains data on a nationally representative sample of young men and women from 1997.

Houle found, on average, young adults from middle income backgrounds, whose families earned between $40,000 and $59,000 annually, left school with more than $6,000 more in student loan debt than their low income peers whose families made less than $40,000 per year.

Similarly, students whose families made between $60,000 and $99,000 annually, racked up nearly $4,000 more in student loan debt than young adults whose families earned less than $40,000 per year. More than 90 percent of all Pell Grant recipients come from families with annual incomes of less than $40,000.

The findings were presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Obama signs energy efficiency order

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama signed an executive order Thursday to set a target for future energy and heat capacity and improve energy efficiency in U.S. factories.

The order "establishes a new national goal of 40 gigawatts of new combined heat and power capacity by 2020," the White House said in a statement.

That would be a 50 percent increase above current capacity.

Furthermore, "meeting this goal would save energy users $10 billion per year, result in $40 (billion) to $80 billion in new capital investment in manufacturing and other facilities," the statement said.

The order for "40 gigawatts of new combined heat and power capacity" refers to specific systems that include on-site power generation and heat retrieval systems. The CHP or combined heat and power goal, the White House said, would result in a reduction of harmful greenhouse gas emissions equal to the amount produced by 25 million cars.

"This action will cut costs, increase efficiency, and help our businesses create strong, middle class jobs. We'll continue to do everything we can to put more people back to work and build an economy that lasts," the president said.

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