Business Briefs – October 5, 2018

U.S. Plans to Rewrite Rules That Impede Self-Driving Cars

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to revise safety rules that bar fully self-driving cars from the roads without equipment such as steering wheels, pedals and mirrors, according to a document made public on Thursday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “intends to reconsider the necessity and appropriateness of its current safety standards” as applied to automated vehicles, the U.S. Department of Transportation said in an 80-page update of its principles dubbed “Automated Vehicles 3.0.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao released the document at a department event. In the report, Chao said that self-driving cars have the potential to dramatically reduce traffic crashes and road deaths. But she added the “public has legitimate concerns about the safety, security and privacy of automated technology.”

Amazon’s $15 an Hour a Win? Not So, Some Veteran Workers Say

NEW YORK (AP) – Amazon’s announcement that it would raise its hourly minimum wage to $15 has been seen as a win for workers. But some longtime employees say they are losing out.

Those who already made $15 will get an extra dollar an hour when the change is made next month, but they will also lose two benefits they relied on: monthly bonuses that could top hundreds of dollars and a chance to own Amazon’s sky-rocketing stock, currently worth nearly $2,000 a share.

At least four longtime workers, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear they would be fired, said the $1 an hour raise would not make up for the lost benefits. The employees, all of whom work in different warehouses around the country, said the $15 minimum wage was great for new workers, but the math didn’t work out for those who have worked at Amazon’s warehouses for a few years.

“I feel hugely disrespected,” said a worker at a warehouse in North East, Maryland. “The ones who are loyal should be rewarded for loyalty, not smacked in the face.

Musk Takes Swipe at SEC on Heels of Fraud Settlement

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Tesla CEO Elon Musk is apparently taunting the government agency that accused him of duping investors just days after negotiating a settlement to keep his job.

Musk jabbed the Securities and Exchange Commission on his Twitter account, the same agency that went after him for an August 7 tweet in which he declared he had secured financing for a Tesla buyout. The SEC alleged that Musk hadn’t locked up the estimated $25 billion to $50 billion it would have required to pull off that deal.

In a Thursday tweet, Musk praised the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission” for “doing incredible work.”

Musk has long feuded with short sellers, a category of investors that have been betting on Tesla’s stock to fall.

Signs Emerge That Rising Rates Could Hinder Small Businesses

NEW YORK (AP) – Rising interest rates typically rank low on small-business owners’ list of problems, but some warning signs are starting to emerge.

Higher rates are already starting to bite into some businesses’ bottom lines, and the effect is likely to get stronger as the Federal Reserve continues to raise rates amid the strong economy. The Fed made its latest move last week, raising its benchmark rate by a quarter of a percentage point, and economists expect one more increase in December and at least a couple more next year.

“Most small businesses are saying, ’Rising rates won’t affect my business,’” said Nalanda Matia, senior director in the econometrics practice of Dun & Bradstreet, which tracks data on small businesses. “But I think it’s going to affect everybody.”

U.S. Mortgage Rates Edge Lower; 30-Year Rate at 4.71 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged slightly lower this week, taking a pause after five straight weeks of increases.

Costs for would-be homebuyers have been climbing, and the key 30-year rate has been running at its highest levels in more than seven years. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages ticked down to 4.71 percent this week from 4.72 percent last week. The average benchmark rate has risen from 3.85 percent a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans slipped to 4.15 percent this week from 4.16 percent last week.

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