- - Wednesday, October 10, 2012

LABOR

U.S. employers advertised slightly fewer jobs in August than in July, while they filled the most positions in three months, offering a mixed signal on the job market.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that job openings dropped by 32,000 to 3.56 million in August. July’s openings also were revised lower.

The job market remains very competitive. With 12.5 million people unemployed in August, there were 3.5 unemployed people, on average, competing for each open job. In a healthy economy, that ratio is 2-1.

FUEL

Heating costs to rise this winter as cold returns

NEW YORK — Americans will pay more to heat their homes this winter as they feel something they didn’t feel much last year: cold.

Fuel prices will be relatively stable, but customers will have to use more energy to keep warm than they did a year ago, according to the annual Winter Fuels Outlook from the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration.

Last winter was the warmest on record. This year temperatures are expected to be close to normal.

Heating bills will rise 20 percent for heating oil customers, 15 percent for natural gas customers, 13 percent for propane customers and 5 percent for electricity customers, the EIA announced Wednesday.

AUTO

Counterfeit air bags called ‘extreme safety risk’

Thousands of motorists may be driving cars and trucks with dangerous counterfeit bags installed, and they should have the bags replaced at their own expense, the Obama administration warned Wednesday.

Most at risk are motorists who have had their air bags replaced over the past three years by a repair shop other than a new-car dealership, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials said.

Only 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet — about 250,000 cars on the road — are makes and models for which counterfeit air bags are known to be available, NHTSA said. Auto industry officials briefed by the agency said they were told tens of thousands of car owners may be driving vehicles with counterfeit air bags.

ECONOMY

Fed: Housing lifts growth in most U.S. regions

Stronger housing markets helped boost economic growth at the end of the summer in nearly every region of the United States, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday.

The Fed said growth improved in 10 of its 12 regional banking districts from mid-August through September while leveling off in one region and slowing in another. Rising home sales helped lift home prices in most districts.

The report, known formally as the Beige Book, also cited an increase in auto sales in most parts of the country. Still, consumer spending was flat or up only slightly in most districts. Manufacturing activity was mixed, with half of the districts reporting slight improvement since the previous Fed report. Hiring was unchanged in most districts.

SPAIN

S&P cuts rating to lowest investment grade

NEW YORK — Standard & Poor’s is downgrading Spain’s credit rating two notches to the agency’s lowest investment-grade level.

S&P says it is lowering its rating on debt issued by Spain from BBB+ to BBB-. It also assigned a negative outlook to the rating, meaning it could be downgraded further.

S&P cited Spain’s economic recession, high unemployment and social unrest. It said those factors are limiting the government’s policy options.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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