Business Digest: Austin-area gas prices rise 4 cents this week


FUEL

Austin-area gas prices rise 4 cents this week

Austin-area gas prices continued their climb this week, according to auto club AAA Texas.

The average local price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose 4 cents to $2.20, according to AAA Texas. That comes after the average price per gallon rose 7 cents the previous week.

The price this week is 37 cents more than the same week last year, when the average price per gallon was $1.83, according to AAA Texas data.

The recent price increases are driven in part by the industry’s annual switch over to more expensive summer-blend gasoline and increased driving demand.

For Texas as a whole, the average price rose 6 cents to $2.25 per gallon this week, according to AAA Texas. The national average rose by 3 cents to $2.40 per gallon, according to AAA data.

RETAIL

J.C. Penney delays closing of 138 stores

J.C. Penney says it is delaying the closure of 138 stores by several weeks to take advantage of better-than-expected sales at those locations.

The company said Friday that more shoppers have visited the stores after it announced last month which locations were closing. J.C. Penney spokesman Joey Thomas says that’s common, and cited reasons including “curiosity, nostalgia and the lure of lower prices.”

The stores will now shut down on July 31 instead of in mid-June. Liquidation sales will start at those stores on May 22 instead of April 17.

The closures are part of Penney’s plan to focus on its best-performing stores. J.C. Penney Co., based in the Dallas suburb of Plano, will still have about 900 stores after the closures.

ECONOMY

Consumer prices down 0.3 percent in March

WASHINGTON — Consumer prices fell in March by the largest amount in more than two years, pushed lower by another sharp decline in the price of gasoline and other energy products.

Consumer prices dropped 0.3 percent in March following a tiny 0.1 percent rise in February, the Labor Department reported Friday. It was the first monthly decline in 13 months and the biggest drop since prices fell 0.6 percent in January 2015. In addition to a big 6.2 percent fall in gasoline prices, the cost of cell phone plans, new and used cars and clothing were all lower last month.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, dropped 0.1 percent last month. Over the past 12 months, inflation is up a moderate 2.4 percent while core prices have risen 2 percent. The Federal Reserve seeks to manage the economy to produce annual increases in inflation around 2 percent.

For March, energy prices dropped 3.2 percent, led by the big 6.2 percent plunge in gasoline prices. Even with the decline, gasoline prices are 19.9 percent higher than a year ago.

Food costs edged up 0.3 percent last month but remain only 0.5 percent higher than a year ago.

Outside of energy and food, the prices of car insurance, medical care and airline fares were all up in March.

PRODUCT RECALL

Teething tablets recalled over levels of toxic herb

Hyland’s teething tablets are being recalled nationwide due to inconsistent levels of toxic belladonna, which U.S. regulators say makes them a serious health hazard to young children.

The manufacturer, Standard Homeopathic Co., said that it stopped making and shipping the tablets last October. The recall covers Hyland’s Baby Teething Tablets and Hyland’s Baby Nighttime Teething Tablets, meant to relieve gum discomfort from emerging teeth.

Belladonna, also called nightshade, is a poisonous herb that nonetheless has been used as a homeopathic medicine for centuries.

The Food and Drug Administration said that Standard Homeopathic of Los Angeles agreed to the recall. An FDA investigation found some tablets had much higher belladonna levels than listed on the products.



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