Small businesses helping workers buy health plans
NEW YORK (AP) — When Monty Hagler learned his employee insurance premiums could rise as much as 38 percent, the small business owner decided he couldn't afford coverage that complies with the health care overhaul.
He considered a variety of plans from different carriers, but they were too expensive or bare-bones.
So Hagler told his 12 staffers he would give them money starting in May to buy their own insurance, coverage likely to be better than what he could offer. He joined a growing number of small business owners who are forgoing coverage and paying staffers more to compensate for the lost benefits. Health insurer Wellpoint said last month its roster of small businesses has shrunk by 12 percent so far this year. Nearly 3 percent of 1,600 small businesses surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management plan to give employees subsidies next year so they can buy their own coverage on private insurance exchanges.
Sales of US new homes soar in August
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. sales of new homes surged in August, led by a wave of buying in the West and Northeast.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new-home sales climbed 18 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 504,000. The report also revised up the July sales rate to 427,000 from 412,000.
Newly constructed homes sold at the fastest clip since May 2008. It's a clear sign of improvement for a real estate market that has been muddled in recent months, as the rebound in sales following the housing bust began to slow.
Sales of new homes are up 33 percent over the past 12 months. Median prices for new homes have risen nearly 8 percent during the same period to $275,600.
Report: Treasury OKs big pay raises for GM, Ally
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department continued to approve "excessive" pay raises for top executives at General Motors and its former consumer finance arm, both of which received taxpayer-funded bailouts during the financial crisis, a new government report says.
The government watchdog that oversees the $475 billion bailout said Treasury approved cash salaries exceeding $500,000 last year for 16 of the 47 top executives at General Motors Corp. and Ally Financial Inc. Treasury allowed total pay packages, including company stock, of at least $1 million for every top executive at the two companies, according to the report released Wednesday by the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Businesses won't have to return BP spill payouts
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — BP wants its money back — hundreds of millions of dollars of it — but a federal judge said Wednesday that the oil giant must keep its promises to the companies it compensated for losses they blamed on the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
BP argued that a flawed funding formula enabled many businesses to overestimate spill-related claims, and some "weren't warranted at all."
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier agreed several weeks ago to change the compensation formula for any future payments, but he ruled Wednesday that a deal is a deal when it comes to money BP has already paid out.
Under that deal, claimants agreed to drop their lawsuits, and BP agreed that no future court action could change their payments.
The ruling thwarts BP's latest attempt to control its soaring liability from the spill, which may be nearing $50 billion.
By The Associated Press=
The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 154.19 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,210.06. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 15.53 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,998.30. The Nasdaq composite rose 46.53 points, or 1 percent, to 4,555.22.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.24 to close at $92.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 10 cents to close at $96.95 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 3.5 cents to close at $2.664 a gallon. Heating oil rose 0.6 cent to close at $2.689 a gallon. Natural gas rose 9.5 cents to close at $3.911 per 1,000 cubic feet.