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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

Drop in energy costs pushes April wholesale prices lower

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A big decline in gas and energy costs drove a measure of U.S. wholesale prices lower in April. Outside that drop, prices barely rose.

The Labor Department said Friday that the producer price index dropped 0.2 percent last month from the previous month. It was the first decline since December and the biggest one-month drop since October.

Wholesale gas prices fell 1.7 percent last month. That accounted for half the drop in energy costs, which was the only major category to decline.

The index measures price changes before they reach the consumer.

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EPA clears well water

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- Federal environmental regulators say testing of scores of drinking-water wells in a northeastern Pennsylvania village has failed to turn up unsafe levels of contamination, providing ammunition to a gas driller that denies it polluted the aquifer with hazardous chemicals while prompting accusations the government is distorting the data.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released test results for an additional 12 homes on Friday and said they "did not show levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action." It was the fourth and final release of data for homes in Dimock, a rural Susquehanna County community that's found itself in the middle of a passionate debate over the safety of drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

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Consumer outlook improves

WASHINGTON -- Consumer sentiment edged higher in May to the best reading since the recession, as declining gasoline prices appear to have offset slowing job-markets growth.

The preliminary reading of the University of Michigan-Thomson Reuters index rose to 77.8 from 76.4 in April. That's the best reading since January 2008 -- just one month after the recession started.

The current economic conditions index jumped to 87.3, the best reading since January 2008, from 82.9 in April.

That picture could be explained by the combination of falling gasoline prices, which impact the current situation, and April's report of slowing jobs growth, which could be weighing on expectations. -- MarketWatch

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Request for records denied

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court has turned down a Freedom of Information Act request to disclose National Security Agency records about the 2010 cyberattack on Google users in China.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, which focuses on privacy and civil liberties, sought communications between Google and the NSA. But the NSA refused to confirm or deny whether it had any relationship with Google. The NSA argued that doing so could make U.S. government information systems vulnerable to attack.

A federal district court judge sided with the NSA last year, and on Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the ruling.

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Sunscreen makers get break

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sunscreen confusion won't be over before summer after all. The government is bowing to industry requests for more time to make clear how much protection their brands really offer against skin cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration ordered changes last summer but gave sunscreen makers a year -- until this June -- to get revised bottles on the shelf. Among the changes: Sunscreens had to protect against both sunburn-causing ultraviolet B rays and the ultraviolet A linked to skin cancer -- or carry a special warning label. They also couldn't claim to be waterproof.

Friday, the FDA said it would give sunscreen makers who aren't ready another six months to make the changes but encouraged them to get newly labeled bottles on store shelves as soon as possible.