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National business briefs for Aug. 16

Business briefs, Aug. 16
Modified: August 15, 2012 at 9:45 pm •  Published: August 16, 2012

Business briefs


Consumer prices hold steady

U.S. consumer prices were unchanged in July from June, as a small drop in energy costs offset slightly higher food prices. The consumer price index hasn't changed since March, evidence that the weak economy is keeping inflation in check. The Labor Department says core consumer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, ticked up 0.1 percent last month. More expensive medical costs, clothing and rents pushed up core prices. Prices increased 1.4 percent in the 12 months ending in July. That's down from 1.7 percent in June and is the smallest yearly increase in 20 months. Core prices have increased 2.1 percent in the past year, down from a 2.2 percent pace in June. Mild inflation gives the Federal Reserve more leeway to take steps to boost growth.

U.S. factories busier in July

U.S. factories made more cars, computers and airplanes last month, a hopeful sign that manufacturing is recovering after a weak spring. The Federal Reserve says U.S. industrial production increased 0.6 percent in July from June, the fourth straight monthly increase. Factory output, the most important component of industrial production, rose 0.5 percent, the second straight increase. Factory output has risen 21.9 percent since its recession low hit in June 2009 and is just 1.7 percent below the pre-recession peak for factory output reached in July 2007. Factory production slowed this spring and some feared it could weaken further in coming months Europe's financial crisis and slower global growth cut demand for U.S. exports.

Homebuilders report prospects

U.S. homebuilders grew more confident in the housing recovery in August, as many reported that prospects for sales are the best they've been since the home bubble burst five years ago. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Wednesday rose two points this month from July, to 37. That's the highest reading since March 2007. The index, which is based on responses from 478 builders, has been trending higher since October and only dipped once since January. That suggests a turnaround in housing is solidifying after years of stagnation.

Baby shampoo getting new recipe

Johnson & Johnson plans to remove trace amounts of potentially cancer-causing and other dangerous chemicals from nearly all its adult toiletries and cosmetic products worldwide within 3 1/2 years. The health care giant late last year pledged to remove “chemicals of concern” from its baby products sold around the world. That change came after a large coalition of health and environmental groups began pressing J&J more than three years ago to make its personal care products safer. The company told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that it remains on track to have baby products, including its Johnson's No More Tears baby shampoo, reformulated with safer ingredients by the end of 2013. Adult products will be reformulated by 2016.

Netflix coming to Nordic nations

Netflix's Internet video service will debut in four Nordic countries before the end of the year, the latest step in an international expansion that has been affecting the company's financial results and stock price. Wednesday's announcement that Netflix is coming to Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland answers a question left hanging since April, when the company said it would enter another European market. The new market includes the setting for one of Netflix's original online video series, “Lillyhammer,” about a New York mobster who moves to Norway.

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