Retail sales down in June; drop in auto sales cited

Retail sales fell in June for the second straight month.

Retail spending dropped 0.5 percent in June, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That followed a 1.1 percent fall in May. Excluding autos, spending was down 0.1 percent in June.

Much of the weakness last month came from a drop in auto sales and a decline in gasoline prices. Excluding autos and gasoline, sales would have risen 0.1 percent in June after having plunged 1 percent in May.

 

Mixed finish as stocks have 7th straight advance

Stocks closed mixed Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising almost 4 points for its seventh straight advance. The other major market indexes also had single-digit moves. Bond prices rose as investors, again uneasy about the strength of the economic recovery, went in search of safe investments.

Investors initially sold on the Fed’s economic forecast, which was only slightly more downbeat than the outlook issued in April. A strong start to second-quarter earnings reports, including upbeat forecasts from Intel Corp. and Alcoa Inc., helped temper their disappointment.

 

Report: Consumers hurt as airlines add hidden fees

Finding the best deal on a flight has become a lot more difficult, thanks to hefty baggage and service fees that consumers often don’t know about until they show up at the airline counter, congressional investigators say.

Those fees are not part of the ticket price, meaning they can easily go unseen until it’s too late for the consumer to shop around. Amounting to billions of dollars for the airlines, the fees also are exempt from an excise tax, and some lawmakers want to reclaim that money for the treasury.

Airlines, travel agents, online travel services and other ticket distribution channels should be required to disclose fees for checked baggage, changed reservations and other services in a clear and consistent manner, the Government Accountability Office said in a report out Wednesday.

 

No conclusions on blame for accelerating Toyotas

The government said Wednesday it had not reached any conclusions about whether Toyota drivers may be to blame for their vehicles suddenly accelerating, a problem that has led to millions of recalled cars and trucks since last year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement that its engineers were continuing to investigate the possible causes of sudden acceleration in Toyotas along with scientists and researchers with the National Academy of Scientists and NASA.

 

Oil prices fall as forecast is lowered for U.S. growth

Oil prices drifted lower Wednesday after the Federal Reserve lowered its forecast for U.S. economic growth this year.

Gas prices were unchanged.

The Fed said U.S. gross domestic product will grow by 3 to 3.5 percent this year. That compares with an April forecast of 3.2 to 3.7 percent growth. The central bank also said unemployment will stay above 9 percent.

 

Diabetes drug should stay on market, experts say

A majority of federal health experts voted Wednesday to keep the controversial diabetes pill Avandia on the market despite evidence that it increases the risk of heart attack.

A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers voted 20-12 against withdrawing GlaxoSmithKline’s once-blockbuster drug.

The vote marks a win for British drugmaker Glaxo, which has been battered in the press and on Capitol Hill for its the handling of the drug.