- - Sunday, January 15, 2012

ENERGY

Natural gas prices plunge from oversupply

NEW YORK | The price of natural gas is plummeting at a pace that has caught even the experts off guard.

A 35 percent collapse in the futures price during the past year has been a boon to homeowners who use natural gas for heat and appliances and to manufacturers who power their factories and make chemicals and materials with it.

The country is flush with natural gas as a result of new drilling techniques that have enabled energy companies to tap vast supplies that were out of reach not so long ago. This winter’s warm weather slowed the growth in demand, however, and created a glut; winter supplies are 17 percent above the five-year average.

The natural gas futures price fell 13 percent last week, to $2.67 per 1,000 cubic feet. That’s the lowest wintertime level in a decade.

“The market has been overwhelmed with gas,” said Anthony Yuen, a commodities analyst at Citibank.

TECHNOLOGY

Apple discloses list of suppliers for the first time

NEW YORK | Apple has disclosed a list of its suppliers for the iPhone, iPad and other popular gadgets for the first time amid growing criticism about labor and environmental practices, especially in China.

The list for years had been fervently protected. Even a glimpse of an Apple iPhone or its components before a public release became a source of intrigue. Investors played a guessing game about which contractors would become Apple’s next supplier, or who was being snubbed.

Apple disclosed its list of suppliers responsible for 97 percent of its procurement expenditures worldwide. Some examples are Intel Corp., Broadcom Corp., Amphenol Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co.

The 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, released Friday, documents Apple Inc.’s 229 audits throughout its supply chain last year. That’s up 80 percent from 127 audits in 2010.

The audits found labor, health, health and environmental violations, including instances of underage labor and discrimination based on pregnancy. Apple also outlined its response to each of the violations that were uncovered, which included ending its relationship with repeat offenders.

AUTOS

Cooling woes prompt Mini Cooper recall

German automaker BMW is recalling nearly 89,000 Mini Coopers, the U.S. traffic safety agency announced Sunday, citing the threat of a smoldering circuit board that could set the cars on fire.

“The electric auxiliary water pump that cools the turbocharger has an electronic circuit board that can malfunction and overheat,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its website.

The recall affects various models of Mini roadsters built from November 2006 to January 2011, including the Cooper S, Cooper S Countryman, and Cooper JCW convertible. BMW said that beginning in February, dealers will replace the water pumps free of charge.

The price of natural gas is plummeting at a pace that has caught even the experts off guard.

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