Business Briefs – February 13, 2019

NY Fed: Auto Loan Delinquencies At Highest Point Since 2010

DETROIT (AP) — Borrowers are behind in their auto loan payments in numbers not seen since delinquencies peaked at the end of 2010, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

More than 7 million Americans were 90 or more days behind on their car loans at the end of last year, 1 million more than eight years ago. That’s may be a sign of trouble for the auto industry and perhaps the broader economy.

The New York Fed reported that delinquency rates have been worsening, even though borrowers with prime credit make up an increasing percentage of the loans. The 90-day delinquency rate at the end of 2018 was 2.4 percent, up from a low of 1.5 percent in 2012. Also, delinquencies by people under 30 are rising sharply.

IRS Watchdog: Shutdown Caused ‘Shocking’ Drop in Phone Help

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last month’s partial government shutdown caused a “shocking” deterioration in the IRS’ telephone help for taxpayers at the start of the filing season, the agency’s watchdog, the National Taxpayer Advocate, said in a report released Tuesday.

In the week of Jan. 28, the official start of tax season, IRS staffers answered only 48 percent of calls seeking help in filing returns, with an average wait time of 17 minutes. That compares with 86 percent of calls answered, and an average wait of four minutes, at the same time last year.

In addition, 93 percent of taxpayers who phoned during the last week in January to arrange installment tax payments were unable to speak with an assistant.

40 Countries Agree Cars Must Have Automatic Braking

GENEVA (AP) — Forty countries led by Japan and the EU — but not the U.S. or China — have agreed to require new cars and light commercial vehicles to be equipped with automated braking systems starting as soon as next year, a U.N. agency said Tuesday.

All vehicles sold will be required to come equipped with the technology by which sensors monitor how close a pedestrian or object is. The system can trigger the brakes automatically if a collision is deemed imminent and if the driver doesn’t seem set to respond in time.

The measure will apply to vehicles at “low speeds”: 42 mph (60 kph) or less, and only affects new cars sold in the markets of signatory countries — so vehicle owners won’t have to retrofit their autos already on the roads.

The U.S., China and India are members of the U.N. forum that adopted the new regulations. However, they did not take part in the negotiations because they want to ensure that their national regulations keep precedence over U.N. rules when it comes to the auto industry.

U.S. Job Openings Jump to Record High of 7.3 Million

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers posted the most open jobs in December in the nearly two decades that records have been kept, evidence that the job market is strong despite challenges facing the economy.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings jumped 2.4 percent in December to 7.3 million. That is the most since records began in December 2000. It is also far greater than the number of unemployed, 6.3 million that month.

Businesses have shrugged off many potential troubles in the past two months and kept on hiring. The 35-day partial government shutdown began Dec. 22, and growth in China, Europe and Japan has weakened, threatening U.S. exports. Still, employers added 304,000 jobs in January, the government said earlier this month, the most in nearly a year.