Business Briefs – May 28, 2017

U.S Growth In Jan.-March Upgraded To Still-Slow 1.2 pct. Rate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of the economy — grew in the January-March quarter at a 1.2 percent annual rate, the government estimated Friday. That was better than an initial estimate of a 0.7 percent rate but well below President Donald Trump’s growth targets, which most economists consider unrealistic.

Off-Lease Used Cars Are Flooding Market, Pushing Prices Down

DETROIT (AP) — In 2014, Infiniti leased more than 28,000 Q50 luxury sedans for as little as $329 per month in a growing U. S. market. The leases accounted for more than three-quarters of Q50 sales. Now they’re coming back to haunt the automaker. Like other companies that juiced sales with sweet leases, Infiniti faces a flood of nice off-lease used cars. Already it’s lowering used car prices and raising the cost of leases.

White House Adviser Differs With Coal-Loving President

WASHINGTON (AP) — The president’s chief economic adviser is casting doubt on the future of U.S. coal, saying it “doesn’t really make that much sense anymore as a feedstock.” The comment by Gary Cohn directly contradicts President Donald Trump’s repeated promises to revive the struggling coal industry. Cohn says that by exporting more natural gas and investing in wind and solar energy, the U.S. “can be a manufacturing powerhouse and still be environmentally friendly.”

With New Law, Lyft, Uber Set To Return To Texas Capital City

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft, which left Texas’s tech-savvy capital city a year ago over local fingerprint requirements for drivers, are set to return after state lawmakers intervened.

Both companies say they’ll be rolling on Austin’s streets again Monday, when Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign into law a bill that puts the state — not local governments — in charge of regulating the ride-hailing industry.

Local leaders in Austin, the conservative state’s most liberal city, argued unsuccessfully that its tech-driven economy was uniquely positioned to launch capable alternatives that could fill the gap.

Uber and Lyft fled Austin after losing a bruising and expensive fight to replace the city’s ordinance that required fingerprint-based background checks of drivers, a variety of data reporting and other requirements.

Advocates for fingerprinting say it’s the best way to weed out drivers with criminal records. Uber and Lyft have argued their background checks suffice and that fingerprint databases can be out of date. Fingerprinting can also slow down the process of adding new drivers.

Company Sues Rival Over Beach Chair Design

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — It looks like the summer litigation season is underway.

A Pennsylvania beach chair manufacturer is suing a rival Connecticut company for alleged patent infringement.

Lawyers for Rio Brands, of West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, say GCI Outdoor, of Haddam, Connecticut, is selling so-called “backpack chairs” similar to Rio Brands’ chairs. Straps allow the chairs to be carried like backpacks.

GCI Outdoor owner Daniel Grace declined to comment.

Rio Brands seeks undisclosed damages and an order barring GCI Outdoor from selling the similar chairs.

Rio Brands says it’s been selling its patented backpack chairs for 13 years.

States Struggle With Oversight Of Online Charter Schools

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — As enrollment in online charter schools explodes, states are struggling to keep up and to put in place regulations ensuring students get a real education and cyber schools get the right amount of funding. The future of virtual schools is part of the larger school-choice debate, seeing renewed attention since the installation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She is an online charter investor and advocate who sees them as a valuable option for students. While some perform well, the sector has been plagued by accounts of low standards, mismanagement, and inflated participation counts at schools that are reimbursed based on the number of enrolled students.

Colorado Oil Tank Blast Kills Worker, Spurs Safety Questions

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s governor says state and federal agencies are investigating an oil tank explosion that killed a worker and burned three others. Gov. John Hickenlooper said Friday that the state will take action as needed to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Thursday’s fire has raised new questions about safety in one of Colorado’s largest industries — oil and gas extraction.