Business Highlights

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 7, 2014 at 5:10 pm •  Published: October 7, 2014
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US predicts lower heating bills this winter

NEW YORK (AP) — Heating bills should be lower this winter because the deep freeze that chilled much of the nation last year is unlikely to return.

Last year, persistently low temperatures across the Midwest, South and East forced people to crank up the heat. The high demand jacked up the price of some fuels, especially propane. Heating bills soared.

This year, milder temperatures should reduce homeowners' fuel use, according to the Energy Department's annual prediction of winter heating costs. The price of propane and heating oil should be lower, helping those customers save even more.

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Mobile revolution shakes up Silicon Valley

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Smartphones, tablets and other gadgets aren't just changing the way we live and work. They are shaking up Silicon Valley's balance of power and splitting up businesses. Long-established companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and eBay Inc. are scrambling to regain their footing to better compete against mobile-savvy trendsetters like Apple and Google, as well as rising technology stars that have built businesses around "cloud computing."

That term covers a swath of Internet-driven services that shifted technology from the days software users paid a one-time fee to buy and install programs on individual machines where they also stored all their data on hard drives. But with the advent of the "cloud," people can now rent software to use over the Internet. This enables customers to access documents, pictures and other vital information from any kind of Internet-connected device, a convenience that's become a necessity during the past few years as people increasingly rely on smartphones and tablets instead of laptop and desktop computers.

The rise in mobile popularity has taken a big bite out of personal computer sales. That's slammed Silicon Valley pioneer HP, once the world's biggest seller of PCs.

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Wal-Mart cuts health benefits for some part-timers

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to eliminate health insurance coverage for some of its part-time U.S. employees in a move aimed at controlling rising health care costs of the nation's largest private employer.

Wal-Mart told The Associated Press that starting Jan. 1, it will no longer offer health insurance to employees who work less than an average of 30 hours a week. The move affects 30,000 employees, or about 5 percent of Wal-Mart's total part-time workforce, but comes after the company already had scaled back the number of part-time workers who were eligible for health insurance coverage since 2011.

The announcement follows similar decisions by Target, Home Depot and others to completely eliminate health insurance benefits for part-time employees. It also comes a day after Wal-Mart said it is teaming up with an online health insurance agency called DirectHealth.com to help customers shop for health insurance plans.

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EU broadens corporate tax crackdown to Amazon

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is broadening its crackdown on multinationals' tax avoidance schemes, opening Tuesday an investigation into Amazon's practices on suspicion the online retailer is not paying its dues on profits made across the 28-nation bloc.

The probe adds another high-profile name to the list of companies targeted by the EU, which is already investigating Apple Inc., coffee chain Starbucks and the financial arm of carmaker Fiat.

The EU's executive Commission is trying to curb companies' ability to avoid taxes by shifting profits made across the bloc to a subsidiary in one particular country where the company enjoys a very low tax rate.

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As EU discusses jobs, frustration among unemployed

MILAN (AP) — Protesters who tried to scale the walls of the royal palace in Naples where the European Central Bank was meeting last week embodied the frustration of 26 million jobless Europeans.

With the policymakers literally behind fortified walls, symbolically isolated from the stark realities of the economy, the 3,000 demonstrators outside expressed their anger at leaders' inability to create jobs.

European Union leaders will try to show some solidarity when they meet Wednesday in Milan for a one-day summit on how to create jobs.

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Lew calls for more efforts to boost global growth

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