- - Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Services sector growth slowest in 17 months

Service businesses such as restaurants, hotels and financial companies in July experienced their weakest growth in 17 months.

The report Wednesday from the Institute for Supply Management confirms other data that show the economy is struggling two years after the recession officially ended.

The trade group of purchasing executives said its index for services companies fell to 52.7, from 53.3 in June. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

A slumping service sector put Wall Street on track for another wild day of trading. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 150 points after the report was released. But a late-day rally erased all the earlier losses, and the Dow closed up 29 points to end an eight-day losing streak.

The ISM index covers 90 percent of the work force. It reached a five-year high of 59.7 in February, but has fallen since then. The July reading was the lowest since February 2010.

New orders to service companies, an indication of future business, increased but at the slowest pace since August 2009, according to the ISM report. Services firms are still hiring more workers, the report said. But employment growth dipped in July.


Budweiser can set for another redesign

ST. LOUIS — Budweiser is getting a new look as its parent company tries to revive weak sales in the U.S.

Anheuser Busch unveiled a bolder, sleeker design for its cans Wednesday that puts a heavy emphasis on the “bowtie” design it has made a focus in recent marketing.

It’s the 12th redesign since Anheuser-Busch began offering Budweiser in cans in 1936.

The new cans will appear in the U.S. in coming weeks and in other countries later this year as the brewer tries to build the iconic U.S. brand’s sales in emerging markets.


Chrysler: Better engines will help boost mpg

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Carmakers will squeeze more miles out gasoline and diesel engines to meet the tougher fuel-economy standards announced by the government last week, the CEO of Chrysler said Wednesday.

Sergio Marchionne, also head of Italy’s Fiat SpA, said changes to the internal-combustion engine, and not electric or hydrogen fuel-cell technology, will be the answer to meeting the new standards. The U.S. new car fleet must reach an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, double the current standard.

He also said electric vehicles have been over-hyped as the fuel-economy solution by some manufacturers.

His companies are behind General Motors, Nissan Motor Co. and others in rolling out rechargeable electric vehicles, although Fiat is planning an all-electric subcompact next year.


New Web service launched to organize friends

NEW YORK — A new crop of online services are trying to help organize your social-networking buddies into smaller groups so you don’t have to share everything with everyone. One such service, Katango, says it has figured out a way to automate the whole process.

Katango, which has been available as a free iPhone app since last month, launched a Web version Wednesday. The service sorts your Facebook friends into groups based on a formula developed by Stanford computer science professor Yoav Shoham and graduate students there.

Mr. Shoham, Katango’s co-founder and chairman, said the company wants to do for your social experience online what Google’s search formula did for Web pages — organize them based on a useful and accurate algorithm.

Katango works even if you haven’t filled out your profile with information such as where you went to school or where you work. Its friend-grouping formula takes into account details such as which of your friends are commonly tagged in the same photos, comment on one another’s posts, attend similar events and so on.

In addition to Facebook friends, Katango users can pull in their email contacts and add them to groups.


Cheese-maker to scale back milk hormone claims

MONTPELIER — The parent company of a Vermont cheese producer has agreed to scale back claims about whether its dairy farmers use an artificially produced hormone to help their cows produce more milk, Vermont’s attorney general said Wednesday.

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office said that in 2009 and 2010 the Cabot Creamery Cooperative overstated claims that none of its farmers used the artificial hormone known as rBST. The attorney general’s office said some of the products made by Cabot cannot be certified as free of rBST.

Under the settlement, the company agreed to pay $65,000 to the state, make $75,000 in donations to local food banks and take steps to avoid misrepresentations in the future.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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