After the vote, Amazon’s CEO promises to do better
NEW YORK – After a failed union fight at a warehouse at Amazon, billionaire founder Jeff Bezos admitted the company needed to better serve its workers and promised to make it a safer place to work.
Bezos made the promise on April 15 in his annual letter to shareholders. He said he was not comforted by the result of the recent union elections in Bessemer, Ala., Even though workers there overwhelmingly opposed a union.
“I think we need to do a better job for our people,” said Bezos, who will step down as CEO later this year and become chairman of the online shopping giant.
Amazon’s treatment of workers was a focus during the pandemic. While the coronavirus raged, warehouse workers had to pack orders as Amazon sales soared.
The New York attorney general is suing Amazon for failing to do enough to protect workers from the virus at two facilities in the city. Earlier this month, the company pledged to improve working conditions after acknowledging that some delivery workers may have had to urinate in bottles to deliver packages on time, a claim the company had previously denied.
Mortgage rates are falling again; 30-year loan at 3.04%
WASHINGTON – Mortgage rates fell for a second straight week on signs of economic improvement.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the prime rate on 30-year home loans fell from 3.13 percent to 3.04 percent. At that time, the long-term rate last year was 3.31 percent.
The interest rate on a 15-year loan, which is popular with those interested in refinancing, fell from 2.42 percent to 2.35 percent.
Last week’s decline was the first in more than two months.
Experts predict home loan rates will rise slightly for the remainder of the year, while remaining low given the Federal Reserve’s stated intention to keep its base rate near zero until the economy recovers from the pandemic .
Factory production in the US is warming up with the weather
WASHINGTON – American industry rebounded last month as the US recovered from an unusually cold February.
Industrial output – including production in factories, mines, and utilities – rose 1.4 percent in March and returned 2.6 percent in February, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. The increase was roughly half the increase economists expected when federal aid poured into the economy and the introduction of vaccines encourages the return to normal business. Production has been limited by interruptions in the supply of key components.
“Obviously there’s a lot of demand out there,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, in a research note. “It’s up to the manufacturers to pull up their socks and meet the demand.”
Production in the factories rose by 2.7 percent. Auto production rose 2.8 percent last month after falling 10 percent in February. Automakers have been constrained by a shortage of computer chips for the past two months. Production in mines rose by 5.7 percent, which was due to a jump in production by oil and gas producers.
Utility production fell 11.4 percent, the largest record decline since 1972, when the weather warmed in March and Americans turned the heat down.
Toyota remembers Venzas about airbag cables
DETROIT – Toyota is recalling nearly 280,000 Venza SUVs in the US because a wiring problem can prevent side airbags from inflating in an accident.
The recall concerns Venzas from model years 2009-15. Documents released Thursday by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration state that cables to the airbag sensor in the driver’s door can be damaged with regular use. This could prevent the side and curtain airbags from deploying if necessary.
Toyota said in documents that it received 31 testimonials and 56 warranty claims in the United States because of the problem.
Toyota will check the cables and, if necessary, replace them free of charge for owners. The recall is expected to begin on May 31st.
Walmart invests in GM’s self-driving unit
DETROIT – Walmart and several institutional investors have joined the recent investment in Cruise, increasing the inflow of capital into General Motors’ autonomous vehicle subsidiary from over $ 2 billion to $ 2.75 billion.
Walmart and Cruise announced a partnership last fall to launch a self-driving delivery test in Phoenix.
“The investment will support our work in developing a last mile delivery ecosystem that is fast, affordable and scalable,” said John Furner, CEO of Walmart US.
Honda and Microsoft are among others investors who have stakes in Cruise. Furner said Cruise’s fleet of all-electric vehicles will help Walmart achieve a zero-emission goal by 2040.
San Francisco-based Cruise said the investment is valued at over $ 30 billion. Some investment analysts have encouraged GM to spin off the majority subsidiary as a separate public company.
Oracle brings 8,500 jobs to Nashville
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Oracle Corp. plans to add 8,500 jobs and a $ 1.2 billion investment to fast-growing Nashville over the next decade.
Cooper’s office said the Austin, Texas-based computer technology company has requested a public hearing from the Metro Industrial Development Board on its economic impact plan. That board and the Metro Council would need to close the deal. According to Cooper’s office, the project would create 2,500 jobs in Nashville by the end of 2027 and reach the full 8,500 by the end of 2031, with an average salary of $ 110,000.
Oracle’s plans for a 1.2 million square foot campus on the east bank of the Cumberland River would surpass Amazon’s. In 2018, the company announced it would create 5,000 jobs through a $ 230 million investment in a new operations center in Nashville.
In a statement, Oracle said it is meeting demand for its cloud product by “building new digital hubs in cities with a well-educated workforce and vibrant cultures that attract high-profile talent.”
The German growth prospects have diminished amid the virus wave
FRANKFURT, Germany – Leading German economic institutes have cut their growth forecast for 2021 as the introduction of slow vaccinations and a more contagious variant of the coronavirus have sustained business restrictions in Germany, one of South Carolina’s key trading partners.
The institutes have lowered their joint forecast for this year by a full percentage point to 3.7 percent, compared to an earlier forecast published in the fall.
Germany has seen a difficult third wave of the pandemic, with the number of infections rising and more COVID-19 patients in need of intensive care. In the meantime, vaccinations against the virus have lagged behind those in the US and Great Britain, although the pace in Germany has accelerated somewhat in the past week.
Torsten Schmidt, head of forecasting at the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research in Essen, said on Thursday that the institute expected the pandemic-related restrictions to be relaxed from the middle of the second quarter and largely withdrawn by the end of the third quarter.
The German economy is recovering from a production decline of 4.9 percent in 2020. Exports and industrial activity have adapted better to virus restrictions, but service and retail companies that rely on face-to-face contact have lost much of their business .
Mercedes is rolling out EV to take on Tesla
FRANKFURT, Germany – Daimler AG unveiled a battery-powered counterpart to its top luxury sedan from Mercedes-Benz on Thursday as German automakers pushed their challenge to electric upstart Tesla.
The EQS is the first Mercedes vehicle to be built on a frame designed from the start as an electric car rather than using components from an internal combustion vehicle.
Mercedes highlighted the technological features of the vehicle by replacing the traditional dashboard with a curved touchscreen that spans the entire front of the vehicle interior. Tesla and other automakers are also adding large screens to their interiors.
The EQS is the sibling of the company’s large S-Class combustion sedan, the luxury brand’s flagship, which sells for $ 110,000 and up. The two cars target the same upper end of the market, although the EQS distinguishes itself by building on the company’s electric vehicle (EVA) architecture. Mercedes isn’t saying how much the EQS will cost when it hits customers later this year.
Daimler said the vehicle will get 478 miles on a full charge according to the test standard used in the European Union. The company offers one year of free charging through Ionity, a network of highway charging stations built by a group of major automakers.