Fuel costs are taking a big bite out of household budgets, according to a report Monday from the Energy Department.
The Energy Department says U.S. households spent an average of $2,912 on gasoline in 2012, or almost 4 percent of their pretax income, the highest percentage in 30 years.
That’s despite the fact that Americans consumed less fuel in 2012 for a variety of reasons, including more efficient driving habits and higher-mileage vehicles.
“The effect of the higher prices in 2011 and 2012 outweighed the effect of reduced consumption,” the Energy Department said.
U.S. factory orders increase in December
WASHINGTON – U.S. factory orders increased in December even though companies trimmed their orders for goods that signal investment plans.
Factory orders rose 1.8 percent in December compared to November, when orders had fallen 0.3 percent, the Commerce Department said Monday.
But demand for core capital goods, a category considered a proxy for business investment plans, dipped 0.3 percent in December following strong gains of 3.3 percent in November and 3 percent in October.
For the year, total factory orders rose 3 percent to $5.66 trillion. This reflected a slowing in the manufacturing sector following an 11.8 percent rise in orders in 2011.
NEW YORK – Yum Brands warned Monday that it expects its profit for the year to decline as the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell continues to reel from a controversy over its chicken suppliers in China.
A drop in 2013 would snap an 11-year streak of profit growth of at least 13 percent.
The company, based in Louisville, Ky., gave the grim forecast after its profit in the fourth quarter fell 5 percent, with a key sales figure in China dropping. For January and February, the company expects sales at restaurants open at least a year in China to plummet 25 percent.
Since an investigation aired on national Chinese television on Dec. 18, Yum has been dealing with an “onslaught of negative media attention” over its chicken suppliers, spokesman Jonathan Blum said. The TV station had reported that Yum’s suppliers were ignoring regulations and giving chickens unapproved levels of antibiotics.
A government investigation into the issue was concluded on Jan. 25 and Yum has agreed to adopt measures to strengthen its oversight of suppliers.
Foxconn widening union elections’ scope
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan-owned Foxconn Technology Group, a leading maker of Apple’s iPhones and gadgets for other global brands, is widening the scope of union elections at its sprawling facilities in China.
The move, confirmed by the company Monday, follows a series of recommendations from an international panel requested by Apple to audit conditions for the 1.2 million workers in Foxconn’s mainland factories.
Foxconn said it will deepen employees’ involvement in union elections so the unions can more effectively represent their interests. It said it hopes this will impact labor standards throughout China.
Foxconn previously came under heavy scrutiny for labor policies that allegedly led a dozen workers to commit suicide. It has also faced increasing protests and strikes as Chinese workers become increasingly aware of labor rights.