Job Openings Continue to Rise as Quits Climb to 9-Year High
The US Labor Department reported Tuesday that job openings rose in December and more American workers left their jobs, belying trends that may finally drive wage growth in the coming months. According to the report, job openings surged 4.9 percent from November to 5.6 million, the biggest such number since July. At the same time, some 3.1 million Americans quit their jobs in 2015's final month. That total, up 6.9 percent from November quits, is the highest it's been in nine years, at the beginning of the Great Recession. Economists were largely buoyed by the news, as Americans usually quit their jobs for higher-paying positions, meaning overall wages could be on the rise. Employers are also having difficulty filling job positions, and will likely have to increase their salary offers to hire in the coming weeks. Tuesday's report comes on the heels of a mixed jobs report that dropped last week, showing a slowdown in hiring but solid wage growth and a jobless rate that dipped below 5 percent for the first time in more than eight years.
Blue Buffalo Pays $30 Million Over False All-Natural Ingredients Claims
Blue Buffalo agreed Thursday to pay $32 million to settle a class action filed by its customers over false advertising allegations. In a press release, the company denied any wrongdoing, instead blaming a former ingredient supplier and a broker for the use of non-natural ingredients. The issue of non-natural ingredients by Blue Buffalo was brought to light last year when Nestle Purina PetCare took the company to federal court. Purina alleged that testing from independent laboratories had revealed the use of non-natural ingredients in Blue Buffalo's food, contrary to the company's ads, which claim Blue Buffalo products are all natural. Purina also responded to this week's settlement, saying it is "pleased Blue Buffalo is beginning to accept responsibility for its false advertising and mislabeling." The statement also revealed that the company will continue with its separate false advertising claim against the company.
DuPont, Dow Chemical Stocks Surge as Merger Rumors Spread
Rumors began swirling Wednesday that Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont have begun discussing a merger that would create a $130 billion titan in the chemical industry, prompting both stocks to surge. Shares of Dow Chemical spiked 11.7 percent to a record high of $56.82 at one point during the trading day, while DuPont jumped as much as 13.7 percent at one point and was very much on pace to see its biggest one-day gain ever. The merger talks were first reported Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, who also said the combined company would then be split into three. The new companies would diversify the new company's agricultural, chemical and materials businesses. Neither company has been willing to speak publicly on the merger rumors, but multiple sources were reporting it by Wednesday afternoon.
World's Two Largest Brewers Agree to Merger
AB InBev revealed Wednesday it has agreed to pay $107 billion to acquire SABMiller in a deal that would merge the world's two largest beer makers. The combined company will produce nearly a third of the world's beer, causing antitrust concerns to regulators, especially in the US market. To ease those concerns, SABMiller has agreed to sell off its controlling stake in a venture with Molson Coors, including the rights to the Miller brand name. Molson Coors will pay $12 billion for the SABMiller stake, and will assume full control of daily operations of Miller Lite, Miller High Life, and other brands. A name for the combined company has not yet been determined.
US Home Prices Continue to Climb
US home prices continued to pick up in July, according to a national index of values released Tuesday. The Standard & Poor's / Case-Shiller 20-city home price index showed a 5 percent year-over-year jump, which was slightly higher than the previous month's 4.9 percent increase. The index showed rising prices in each of the 20 cities it tracks, led by a 10.4 percent surge in San Francisco and a 10.3 percent uptick in Denver. Improving wages and a steady economy have convinced more Americans to buy homes, prompting sales to reach an 8-year high in July.
US Housing Starts Surge to 8-Year High
The US Commerce Department reported Tuesday that housing starts surged to a near eight-year high in July as the world's largest economy continues to improve. According to the report, housing starts rose 0.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.21 million units. That's the fastest pace of groundbreaking on new homes since October 2007. That marks the fourth straight month in which starts were over the one million unit pace, and was the fastest pace for starts since October 2007. The pace also exceeded the consensus projection from a group of economists in a recent Bloomberg survey, which called for a pace of 1.19 million units. Combined with recent positive readings on jobs, retail sales and manufacturing, Tuesday's report helps paint a picture of a US economy that is finally approaching pre-recession health.
Military Personnel Accidentally Ship Live Anthrax
An anonymous US defense official reported Wednesday that military personnel had accidentally sent a live anthrax specimen to a private lab in the northeast. The official said that 8 other samples may have been sent out, but said he believes all the samples are now secure. The samples were believed to be inactive, rather than live samples when they were shipped to private facilities for research purposes. A spokesman for the Pentagon confirmed that there was an investigation into the incident, and insisted that there is no public health risk. The Centers for Disease Control also acknowledged the mishap, and is investigating, but echoed the Pentagon stance that there is no risk to the public.
Facebook Takes Another Stab at Google with New Search Engine
The world's largest social network rolled out a new feature this week that's designed to keep users from browsing over to Google something in order to share a story with friends. The feature has only been rolled out so far for a handful of iOS users, who are seeing an “Add-A-Link” option next to the buttons for adding photos or locations. When users type in a query, the feature shows a series of links related to the query. The user can then preview the pages or select one to add to your post. The results appear to be based on what users are most likely to share, as the links are mostly from publishers that have a lot of content shared over Facebook.
Astronomers Discover Oldest Observed Galaxy
Astronomers have discovered what they're calling the furthest observed galaxy from the Earth, and one of the oldest in existence. Called EGS-zs8-1, the baby blue galaxy is 13.1 billion light-years from Earth, and is believed to be among the universe's earliest galaxies, formed an estimated 670 million years after the Big Bang. EGS-zs8-1 was first spotted with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope in 2013, but astronomers took months to confirm its age and distance from our own galaxy using the ground-based Keck Observatory.
Google Under Fire for Blackmailing Websites
Internet giant Google is feeling pressure again after an FTC report leaked revealing the company has threatened a handful of websites with pulling them from its search results if they didn't make content available for Google. The report seems to show that evidence was found that Google was effectively blackmailing competing websites like Amazon and Yelp into allowing Google to use their data in Google search results. If they refused, their sites would no longer show up on Google results. The report recommended that charges be filed over the matter, but instead Google made some voluntary changes and the case was closed. Officials in the European Union are still looking into allegations of unfair practices by Google, but consumer advocacy groups now want the FTC to re-open its case against Google in light of the leaked report.