General Motors, Subaru Add Models to Takata Air Bag Recall

 

Chevrolet

DETROIT — General Motors (GM) and Subaru are adding vehicles to the growing list of models being recalled by 11 automakers due to potentially exploding air bags.

The U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the model information on Friday. The vehicles are equipped with air bag inflators made by Takata of Japan that can inflate with too much force, spewing shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

Six people have been killed and more than 100 injured due to the problem.

Last week NHTSA and the government agreed to double the number of inflators it recalled to 33.8 million. But the makes and models weren’t available. The increase made it the largest auto recall in U.S. history, according to the agency.

The best way to tell if your car or truck is being recalled is to key in the vehicle identification number at https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/. The number is stamped on the driver’s side of the dashboard near the windshield and also is on many state registration cards. Automakers are still posting recall information by number, and the task may take several days or even weeks. So it’s wise to keep checking periodically.

Here’s a breakdown of the vehicles added to the recall Friday:

  • General Motors: About 375,000 Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra HD trucks from the 2007 and 2008 model years to replace passenger air bags, mainly across North America. About 330,000 of the trucks were sold in the U.S. Dealers will replace the inflators at no cost to customers. GM says it knows of no crashes or injuries due to performance of the air bags in these vehicles.
  • Subaru: About 60,000 vehicles added to a previous recall along the Gulf Coast for passenger air bag inflators. Recall now expanded nationally. Brings total Subaru vehicles recalled to about 81,000. Additional models include 2004-2005 Impreza and the 2005 Saab 9-2X, which was manufactured by Subaru.

On Thursday, Honda, Fiat Chrysler, BMW, Ford and Mitsubishi released their models added to the recall. Eleven automakers have vehicles included in the Takata recall expansion. Other companies include Daimler Trucks, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota. Nissan said it wouldn’t add U.S. vehicles in the latest recall expansion. Vehicles from other automakers will be announced later.

For more details on the recall, go to www.safercar.gov/rs/takata/index.html

Why Billionaires May Not Be Able to Buy the 2016 Election

Billionaire Politics

NEW YORK — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has one; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has one; even former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, considered a longshot for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has a billionaire in his corner. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has two.

Campaign finance watchdog groups fear heavy spending by these ultra-rich Americans will warp the election — already expected to be the most money-soaked in history. The idea that billionaires can buy elections has taken root in the public imagination.

Those billionaires are now seeing small, early signs of a pushback. Whether these are the beginning of a new trend is far too soon to say, but polls show there is wider discontent about the perceived influence of big money in U.S. politics and a growing gulf between the country’s very rich and very poor.

These nascent rumblings — along with evidence that the super-rich are inefficient political spenders — raise questions about how effective billionaires will be in the 2016 elections.

There’s growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult.

Some voters in Philadelphia, for example, were turned off by the billionaires backing a top candidate in the city’s May 19 mayoral race. And a Silicon Valley startup, Crowdpac, is hoping to bank on public ire against big political spenders to attract small donations to its new for-profit election campaign crowdfunding platform.

“There’s growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult,” said Darrell West, the author of “Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust” and the director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution think tank.

Potential big donors dispute the notion they are trying to buy elections and say they are simply using their positions to try to influence the future of the country in a positive way.

“I do believe — and I’ve told my kids this — that I can do more for them by giving money to the right presidential candidate in 2016 than by leaving them double that amount in my will,” said David Walsh, a retired investor living in Jackson, Wyoming, who wouldn’t disclose his net worth but has given several multimillion dollar gifts to charitable causes and said he planned to donate heavily to candidates in 2016.

Miami car dealership mogul Norman Braman has been outspoken about backing his longtime protege Rubio; financial investor Foster Friess was in the audience cheering Santorum on when he announced his presidential bid two weeks ago; and Bob Mercer, the founder of a New York hedge fund, has been identified as supporting Cruz. The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have publicly vowed to spend nearly $900 million influencing races in 2016.

The Democrats have billionaire supporters too — most prominent among them is former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. The billionaires George Soros, Alice Walton and Marc Benioff made small donations in 2014 to an outside spending group, Ready for Hillary PAC, backing Hillary Clinton, now the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary contest.

Philadelphia Story

Amid the populist outcry against CEO pay and income inequality there may be some risks in candidates being so publicly linked to the extremely rich.

In Philadelphia, Anthony Hardy Williams was considered the favorite for the city’s next mayor. He won support from three billionaires, Joel Greenberg, Jeff Yass and Arthur Dantchik, founders of the Susquehanna International Group, a global financial firm headquartered in a Philadelphia suburb. The three backed Williams, encouraging voters to support his views on a hot-button education policy issue.

They spent nearly $7 million on television ads promoting Williams. In response, unions and other community groups, who opposed Williams’s education platform, coalesced around another candidate, Jim Kenney. One of the groups, Action United, organized a march in front of SIG’s offices with placards that said, “Stop billionaires from buying our next mayor!”

“I would have looked seriously at Williams if not for the money,” said JoAnn Seaver, 85, a retired teacher who voted for Kenney. She was one of several Philadelphia voters Reuters interviewed on election day who said Williams’ billionaire backers were a turnoff. “You don’t think that money should govern people who are elected, but what do you do, just let the billionaires take over?”

A spokesman for Williams declined to comment. Through a spokesman, the three billionaires declined to comment.

Fighting Back

Crowdpac, an online political fundraising platform that works like Kickstarter — an online tool that lets entrepreneurs gather funding for new projects through small donations — sees fighting billionaires as part of its business model. Mason Harrison, the site’s political director, says Crowdpac wants to get more middle-class people involved in politics by hosting smaller donation drives for candidates.

“We have a lack of money from small donors in American politics, and if we have more people involved in the political process we can make great strides in terms of diluting the influence from special interests,” he said.

A veteran of Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, Harrison is not the typical liberal voice decrying money in politics. But Crowdpac’s Twitter tagline sounds very similar to the calls from non-profit watchdog groups to level the political playing field. It reads: “Together we can beat the big donors.”

Big Money, Not Smart Money

Inefficiency could also dampen the effects of billionaires’ political spending.


“When you have political amateurs or novices with a strong issue or ideological position in which they have intense belief and are willing to put their money behind it, the money itself is no guarantee of victory,” said Michael Traugott, a political science professor at the University of Michigan who studies the influence of money on political races.

Studies of the 2012 and 2014 elections by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit that tracks political spending, show most groups backed by billionaires had less success swaying election outcomes than groups controlled by trade organizations or professional political strategists. The Sunlight study does not offer any explanation for this difference.

Steyer, who backed Democrats through his Nextgen Climate Action Committee, spent $79 million in the 2014 congressional elections, $17.9 million of which was directed toward influencing specific races. Sunlight found Steyer had a 32 percent success rate on the $17.9 million spent.

For some, failure was total. Evidence from news reports shows that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spent more than $100 million in 2012 in donations to trade groups, political action committees and candidates, only to watch virtually all his chosen candidates — including presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Romney — lose.

Other groups have seen more success. The Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity saw a 95 percent success rate in 2014.

But its string of victories isn’t flawless. It ran negative TV ads against Ethan Berkowitz, a candidate in this year’s mayoral race in Anchorage, Alaska. Local strategists said the ads only increased Berkowitz’s name recognition.

Jeremy Price, the state director for Americans for Prosperity in Alaska, said the ads were meant to show Berkowitz’s record on spending, highlighting an issue rather than a candidate.

Berkowitz won the race.

Fiat Chrysler Recalling 4 Million Cars With Takata Air Bags

Massive Airbag Recall Prompts Safety Concerns
DETROIT — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) on Thursday became the first automaker to expand its U.S. recall of vehicles with faulty Takata air bag inflators since federal safety regulators announced a massive recall campaign last week.

The company said it would recall 4,066,732 vehicles from the 2004 to 2011 model years “equipped with a dual-stage driver frontal air bag that may be susceptible to moisture intrusion which, over time, could cause the inflator to rupture,” according to a filing by Fiat Chrysler with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Last week, Japanese air bag maker Takata said it would double the recall of potentially deadly air bags to nearly 34 million in the United States, boosting the number of vehicles affected globally since 2008 to more than 53 million.

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Takata officials and safety regulators have said that air bag inflators exposed to moisture over time can explode with too much force, shooting shrapnel into the vehicles. Regulators have linked this to six deaths worldwide.

Thursday’s filing by Fiat Chrysler highlights that automakers and regulators are still seeking to pinpoint the root cause of the problem. This means that even with replacement parts, consumers have no guarantee that the safety issue has been solved.

Some of the more than 4 million vehicles involved in Thursday’s move have been covered by previous Fiat Chrysler recalls involving Takata air bag inflators.

One injury has been reported among the Fiat Chrysler vehicles recalled. The car involved in that incident, a 2006 Dodge Charger, was part of a previous recall.

Honda Motor (HMC) also expanded its recall Thursday of vehicles with Takata air bag inflators by 350,000 in the United States and 340,000 in Japan. As with the new Fiat Chrysler recall, some of the vehicles involved have been part of previous recall campaigns, Honda said.

Can Toasting Buns, Searing Burgers Boost McDonald’s Sales?

 

Multiple McDonald's "Golden Arches" fast food restaurant signs.

NEW YORK — McDonald’s is tweaking how it cooks it burgers in hopes of winning back customers.

To improve the taste of its food, the chain is toasting its buns longer so sandwiches will be warmer, said McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook at the Bernstein’s Strategic Decisions Conference in New York. He also said the company is changing the way it sears and grills its beef so that the patties are juicier.

“It’s these little things that add up to big differences for our customers,” he said.

Easterbrook, who stepped into his role March 1, said the changes are part of the company’s recommitment to “tastier food across the menu.” The remarks come after Easterbrook laid out the initial steps for turning around the company’s performance earlier this month. Those plans include a restructuring of the company intended to strip away layers of bureaucracy, and an acceleration of refranchising restaurants around the world.

During the presentation, Easterbrook also said the company will stop reporting monthly sales results.

McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), based in Oak Brook, Illinois, said June will be the last month for which it reports sales at established locations. Those results will be reported with its second-quarter earnings results. Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, said the company started reporting monthly sales results in 2003.

Other major restaurant chains, including Burger King’s parent company Restaurant Brands International (QSR), and Yum Brands (YUM), which owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, don’t report sales figures on a monthly basis.

Ford Recalls Nearly 423,000 Cars for Power Steering Problem

 

Ford Investigation

DETROIT — Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Ford is recalling nearly 423,000 cars and SUVs in North America because the power-assisted steering can fail while they’re being driven.

The recall covers certain Ford Flex and Taurus vehicles, as well as the Lincoln MKS and MKT from the 2011 through 2013 model years. Also covered are the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ from 2011 through 2012 and some 2011 Mercury Milans.

Ford says an intermittent electrical connection can cause the power steering to stop. That sends the steering into manual mode, making the vehicles harder to control. The company says it knows of four crashes due to the problem but no injuries.

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Dealers will either update power steering control software or replace the steering gear depending on the problem with individual vehicles. A new steering gear eliminates the electrical issue.

In October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating complaints of power-steering failures on three Ford Motor Co. (F) midsize car models. The probe covered 938,000 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ cars from the 2010 through 2012 model years, as well as the 2010 and 2011 Mercury Milan.

According to a class-action lawsuit filed in June about the matter, the problem could affect more Ford models, including the compact Focus.

NHTSA said at the time that it received 508 complaints alleging that the cars lost power-assisted steering, causing increased steering effort.

Ford said it was unsure if the agency would close its investigation because of the recall. A message was left Wednesday for a NHTSA spokeswoman.

The company also is recalling 19,500 2015 Mustangs with 2.3-Liter engines due to high underbody temperatures that could degrade the fuel tank and fuel vapor lines, increasing the risk of a fire. No fires have been reported. The heat also can damage the parking brake cable. Dealers will replace a heat shield and add insulation.

What You Need to Know About Statutes of Limitation for Debt

If you have old unpaid debts, it can be helpful to know the statute of limitation that applies to those debts. If the statute of limitation has expired, a debt is said to be “time-barred,” and a creditor or debt collector isn’t supposed to sue you to collect. Here are the seven most common questions we’ve received from readers about this topic.

1. How Long Is the Statute of Limitation for My Debt?

The time period typically either starts when you fall behind on a debt, or from the date of your last payment, and the length of time depends on state law for that type of debt. This chart is a guide to state statutes of limitation. Unfortunately, it is not always clear-cut. So it’s a good idea to check with your state attorney general’s office, a consumer law attorney or legal aid, especially if you are being threatened with legal action.

2. Does the Statute of Limitation Stop Debt Collectors?

In many cases, no. However if you tell the debt collector not to contact you again, they must stop. It’s a good idea to put your request in writing. Once they’ve received it, they can contact you only to confirm that they have received your request or to notify you of legal action they are taking to collect. In some states, however, trying to collect a time-barred debt is illegal and a creditor who attempts to do so is breaking the law.

3. If the Statute of Limitation Has Expired, Can I Still Be Sued?

It isn’t uncommon at all for consumers to be sued for time-barred debts. If you are sued for an old debt and the statute of limitation has expired, you can raise the expired statute of limitation as a defense against the lawsuit (here are some other debt collection defenses you can use, too). However, many consumers do not appear in court and therefore the creditor or collector gets a judgment against them. That is why you should not ignore a legal notice about a debt, even if you think the debt is too old. A consumer law attorney or bankruptcy attorney can help you figure out how to respond.

4. Should I Pay an Old Debt?

That’s something only you can decide. However, keep in mind that if you pay anything — even a small amount — on an old debt, you may restart the statute of limitation. That’s why it can be risky to pay an old debt if you can’t afford to pay it in full. You could open yourself up to collection efforts, or even a lawsuit, for the entire amount the collector says you owe.

5. Will That Old Debt Still Appear on My Credit Reports?

In many cases, the answer is yes. The length of time that negative information may be reported is governed by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Most negative information can be reported for seven years. The statutes of limitation for most consumer debts, on the other hand, is four to six years. So you could have a situation, for example, where the statute of limitation expired on a debt in four years but the related collection account still appears on your credit reports for another three years after that. Collection accounts can do serious damage to your credit scores. You can get a free credit report summary on Credit.com to see if an old debt is affecting you.

6. I Took Out a Debt and Then Moved. Which State’s Rule Applies?

That can be difficult to answer. Consumers can generally be sued in the state where they took out the loan or the state where they currently live. Sometimes the statute of limitation will be based on the laws of the state described in the contract (in the case of credit cards, that will be spelled out in the credit card agreement).

When it’s not clear which state’s statute of limitation applies, it is often up to the court to decide. In a number of court cases, the statute of limitation that was shortest was applied. But that’s not true in all cases. That’s why it is helpful, if you are being sued for a debt, to consult with a consumer law attorney who can help you understand whether the statute of limitation has likely expired.

7. What Is the Statute of Limitation​ for Court Judgments?

If a creditor or collector has obtained a court judgment there is often a separate statute of limitation that applies to judgments. If you have unresolved debts, be sure to at least get your free annual credit reports to see if any judgments are listed. In many states, that time period is 10 years or longer, and judgments may be renewed. Learn more about how about judgments work here.

Gerri Detweiler is Credit.com’s director of consumer education.

Game of Drones? Postal Service to Follow Amazon in Drone Push

Collecting the usual junk mail from your postbox, this man checks through his mail.

 

Amazon.com (AMZN) wants to deliver your next package by air, with the help of drones. That’s no longer news — but here’s something that is: The U.S. Postal Service is looking into drone delivery as well.

Package for You, Miss!

USPS reported its second-quarter financial results earlier this month. And as you may expect, the news was pretty poor — $1.5 billion in losses for the quarter, continuing struggles to pay “retiree health benefit prefunding” and an antiquated infrastructure that’s in sore need of upgrades.

One bright note in an otherwise bleak report: “Package Volume increased 14.4 percent over same quarter last year.” Turns out, this single segment of USPS’s business, package delivery, is now “a key business driver” in the Post Office’s efforts to raise revenue to offset continuing declines in the amount of plain-vanilla (manila?) letter volume.

And that could be a problem.

Trouble in Paradise

According to USPS CFO Joseph Corbett, the Post Office’s shifting role away from carrying letters, and toward carrying packages, is rapidly wearing out its truck fleet. Not long ago, Corbett admitted that USPS needs to spend about $10 billion over the next few years to “replace our aging vehicle fleet, purchase additional package sorting equipment and make necessary upgrades to our infrastructure.”

What he didn’t say is that he wants to replace the vehicles with drones.

Duck and Cover!

Not replace them entirely with drones, of course. But according to multiplemedia reports, drones may form a part of Corbett’s plan to remake USPS’s vehicle fleet for the 21st century.

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Most of the 15 manufacturers bidding to rebuild the USPS truck fleet fall under the “usual suspects” label: AM General, Fiat Chrysler (FCAU), Ford (F), and Nissan among them. These trucks are expected to cost anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000 apiece, and should be drivable for 20 years — with the ability to incorporate upgrades over that lifespan. USPS plans to buy 180,000 of them, so the trucks alone could cost USPS as much as $6.3 billion.

Adding to that cost, though, USPS has admitted one quirky company to its competition, which features the addition of “drone” technology to its truck. The company in question: tiny startup Workhorse Group, whose electric “Workhorse” truck carries a “HorseFly” drone on its roof to aid in package delivery.

HorseFly is said to weigh 15 pounds, and to be able to dart out and deliver 10-pound packages at speeds of up to 50 mph before returning to base. The idea is that upon entering a neighborhood, a mail carrier would deliver most packages by the usual procedure, tooling around the neighborhood at 15 mph, making dropoffs in each mailbox.

But for outlying locations — say, a lone farmhouse off the beaten track, but just a few miles from a well-populated neighborhood — the mail carrier would save himself a trip. He’d load a package onto HorseFly and send it off on its own while he finished the neighborhood route. Package delivered, HorseFly would fly back, intercept the mail truck, land on the truck roof, recharge, and get ready to be reloaded for another dropoff.

The Future of Package Delivery

As you can see, this isn’t a revolutionary solution to USPS’s difficulties. One drone per truck, and that drone only carrying one package at a time on miles-long round trips, won’t make a huge dent in the average postal carrier’s workload. But it could save driving time, save on fuel costs, and save on wear-and-tear on the truck — all big contributors to USPS’s ongoing fiscal deficit.

These benefits might intrigue USPS enough to at least give Workhorse a trial run, even if the big contract goes to one of Detroit’s more established automakers. Crazy as drone delivery might sound for USPS, they’ve come up with crazier ideas before.

Maybe this one will even work.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith wonders: If the package requires a signature, does the drone hover while it waits for you to sign, or does it perch? He has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com and Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. And click here to check out our free report for one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

5 Simple Rules for Choosing the Right Money-Saving LED Bulbs

 

There’s nothing but good news these days about LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. The prices have come down (they still cost more to buy than incandescent bulbs, but they’ll save you wads of money in the long run.) You can choose warmer colors of light instead of the harsh, too-white light from older LEDs. And you’ll find more bulbs that work with your home’s dimmer switches.

The benefits of LED lights are clear. MIT Technology Review sums them up:

For the consumer, the main benefits of LED fixtures are clear: they’re energy efficient, can last for more than 20 years and, in many cases, give off good light. The prices have gone down steadily as well as the LED components have dropped in price and lighting companies introduce better designs.

Consumers have suffered from confusion when selecting bulbs, however. It’s not surprising. LEDs come in different shapes and colors of light, and it’s hard to know at a glance how they compare in brightness to our favorite incandescent bulbs.

To simplify the experience of buying and using LED bulbs, here’s what you need to know, boiled down into five rules:

1. Install LEDs where you’ll use them most. LED bulbs are still expensive and so, unless you have the budget to replace all the bulbs in your home at once, you’ll have to replace bulbs as they burn out. In the long run, your investment will pay you back in energy savings.

But, as Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has learned, it matters where you use your LED bulbs if you hope your investment will repay you soon. Put an LED in your closet, for example, or another place where the bulb is seldom used, and it may be years and years before the bulb’s cost is repaid in energy savings. It’s best to use your LEDs where the payoff will be fastest, in the light fixtures that get most use in the high-traffic parts of your home.

2. Shop for lumens, not watts. Watts are a measure of how much energy the bulb draws, not its brightness. Nevertheless, we are accustomed to shopping for incandescent light bulbs by their watts, and we know how much light to expect from a 60-, 100- or 150-watt bulb.

LED bulbs also are rated by watts. But that’s no help because there’s no easy way to compare LED watts with incandescent watts. “[T]here isn’t a uniform way to covert incandescent watts to LED watts,” says CNET.

Now, instead of watts, use lumens as the yardstick for brightness. Packaging on LED bulbs rates brightness in lumens (and in watts). To replace a 150-watt incandescent bulb, look for an LED rated at 2600 lumens (25 to 28 LED watts), CNET says. Here’s CNET’s handy comparison chart:

Incandescent LED Lumens
25 watts 3-4 watts 250
40 4-5 450
60 6-8 800
75 9-13 1,100
100 16-20 1,600
120 21-23 2,000
150 25-28 2,600

3. Get the light color you want. If you were turned off by the harsh white quality of light from older LEDs you’ll be glad to know there are more options now. LED bulbs offer a range of colors, from a warmer yellow-white, akin to the color of incandescent bulbs, to a whiter white or blueish white.

Check a bulb’s package for its light color, shown by its temperature on the Kelvin Scale (learn more from Khan Academy). Lower Kelvin numbers mean warmer-colored light. The higher the Kelvin number, the bluer the light. EarthEnergy, a retailer, offers this guide to shopping for LED bulbs:

  • Yellow light: 2700-3000 K
  • White: 3500-4100 K
  • Blue: 5000-6500 K

4. Match the bulb shape to your fixture. LED bulbs come in a number of unfamiliar shapes. You’ll find spiral bulbs, different types of globes, spotlights, floodlights and some shaped like candle flames. One useful shape is the MR16, a smallish, cone-shaped bulb.

Which bulb will work in your can lights? Which is best for the ceiling-fan light? For a table lamp? This brief, illustrated Energy Star guide and EarthEnergy’s bulb guide show which shapes work best in various types of fixtures.

5. Choose the right bulb for dimmers. Another problem with LEDs used to be finding bulbs that were compatible with the dimmer switches in your home. Some buzz, flicker or just fail to respond to a dimmer switch.

Those still can be problems, but CNET tested 6 bulbs and has a recommendation. The Philips 60-watt LED performed best. It’s easily found in stores, but don’t confuse it with the less-expensive Philips SlimStyle LED, which buzzed badly in a dimmer (although it may be good for other uses). The Philips bulb isn’t the only solution. Read bulbs’ packaging to find the ones recommended for use with dimmer switches.

Or take another route: Replace your dimmer switches. Popular Mechanics says:

The solution is to buy a dimmer switch rated for both CFL and LED bulbs. Two reputable manufacturers of CFL/LED dimmers are Leviton and Lutron; both provide lists of bulbs they’ve verified will work with their dimmers.

Count the Savings

Still wondering if LED bulbs are worth the trouble? A look at the cost savings may persuade you. Here’s a chart at Energy.gov comparing the cost of operating a 60-watt incandescent bulb and an equivalent 12-watt LED.

The LED:

  • Costs $1 a year to run vs. $4.80 for the incandescent bulb.
  • Cuts your spending on electricity by 75 percent to 80 percent.
  • Burns for about 25,000 hours vs. 1,000 hours for the incandescent bulb.

An online search shows the cost of a 12-watt LEDs is roughly $10 to $30 each vs. about $1 for a plain 60-watt incandescent bulb. Start planning now for what you’ll do with all the money you’ll save from converting to LEDs.

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Market Wrap: S&P Sets New High but Traders Eye Weak Volume

Financial Markets Wall Street

NEW YORK — The S&P 500 closed at a record high Thursday after disappointing economic data bolstered expectations that an interest rate hike is likely to come only later in the year.

Traders warned that below-average volume in recent sessions suggests that not all of Wall Street may be confident in the market’s gains.

It doesn’t matter if we’re at an all-time high if there are just two guys trading a stock back and forth.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re at an all-time high if there are just two guys trading a stock back and forth,” said Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners in Chicago. “It’s something to be aware of.”

As the quarterly earnings reporting season draws to a close, volume on U.S. stock markets has been below the month-to-date average for several sessions.

On Thursday, about 5.6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.3 billion average this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

Data showed that jobless claims rose more than expected last week, although the underlying trend continued to point to a rapidly tightening labor market.

Another report showed a surprise decline in home resales in April and persistent weakness in manufacturing in May.

Federal Reserve officials have all but ruled out a rate hike next month. Investors now await Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s speech Friday for new clues about when the central bank will begin raising interest rates for the first time since 2006.

Small Gains

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index (^GSPC) gained 4.97 points, or 0.2 percent, to end at 2,130.82 points, barely beating its previous record close of 2,129.2 from Monday.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) was essentially flat, rising 0.34 point at 18,285.74, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 19.05 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,090.79, just short of its record close of 5,092.08 on April 24.

Recent highs set by stock indexes have won little enthusiasm on trading floors, said Gordon Charlop, a managing director at Rosenblatt Securities in New York.

“There is not an underlying sense of ‘Hey we’re ready to bust out,’ ” Charlop said. “It’s not as if people are jumping up and down saying there’s a robust economy that’s generating tremendous employment.”

Seven of the 10 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, with the energy index rising 0.84 percent as oil prices rose for a second day.

Salesforce.com (CRM), the subject of takeover speculation for the past few weeks, rose 3.92 percent to $72.91 after posting a profit for the first time in seven quarters.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,684 to 1,355, for a 1.24-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,384 issues rose and 1,369 fell for a 1.01-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 20 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 75 new highs and 48 new lows.

What to watch Friday:

  • The Labor Department releases Consumer Price Index for April at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen delivers a speech on the economic outlook in Providence, Rhode Island at 1 p.m.

Earning Calendar
These selected companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results:

  • Ann Inc. (ANN)
  • Campbell Soup Co. (CPB)
  • Deere & Co. (DE)
  • Foot Locker (FL)