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Wholesale prices up 0.4% in October

WASHINGTON -- Prices at the wholesale level climbed 0.4 percent in October and 2.8 percent over the past year, the biggest annual jump in more than five years and a sign for some that an improving economy may finally be reviving inflationary pressures.

The Labor Department said that last month's increase in the producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, matched the 0.4 percent rise in September. The uptick from October 2016 was the biggest since February 2012. The 12-month increase was driven by a 7.6 percent jump in energy prices.

But energy prices were unchanged from September to October. Food prices rose 0.5 percent in October, most since June. Excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, wholesale prices rose 0.3 percent in October from September.

Producer prices rose faster than economists had expected in October. Since the recession, inflation has come in consistently below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent annual target. But many economists expect price pressures to rise as the economy improves.

-- The Associated Press

Canada wields NAFTA in U.S. challenge

Canada is using a trade deal Donald Trump has threatened to scrap to formally challenge a U.S. decision to slap duties on softwood lumber.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Tuesday the request for a dispute panel review under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The challenge is being led by government as well as several provinces and lumber companies.

The U.S. confirmed tariffs on the lumber this month, though at levels lower than earlier indicated. Countervailing duties of 14.25 percent and anti-dumping duties of 6.58 percent will be levied on Canadian lumber, the Commerce Department said Nov. 2.

Canada gave formal notice of its challenge in a letter to the U.S. Section of the NAFTA Secretariat, dated Tuesday. The fifth round of NAFTA talks begins today in Mexico City, and the Trump administration has already proposed eliminating the Chapter 19 dispute panels being used in this challenge from the agreement.

Canada is the world's largest softwood lumber exporter and the U.S. is its biggest market.

-- Bloomberg News

Investigators cite Amtrak lapses in crash

PHILADELPHIA -- Federal investigators said Tuesday that they found major lapses in how Amtrak deals with safety, including more than two dozen hazardous conditions at the work zone near Philadelphia where a train slammed into a maintenance backhoe last year and killed two workers. About 40 passengers on the New York to Savannah, Ga., train were injured.

Chief among the lapses, investigators said, were a foreman's failure to make sure dispatchers were still rerouting trains from the area under repair near Philadelphia and the crew's failure to use a device that would have automatically blocked trains from accessing those tracks.

The April 2016 crash killed backhoe operator Joseph Carter Jr. and supervisor Peter Adamovich.

Amtrak workers told investigators that the government-owned railroad emphasized on-time performance over safety, yet plastered employee lounges with big, red signs reminding them to "think safety" and threatened to fire workers who broke certain rules.

-- The Associated Press

Element's dearth raises solar panel costs

Solar manufacturers are being battered by higher costs and smaller margins after an unexpected shortage of a critical raw material.

Prices of polysilicon, the main component of photovoltaic cells, spiked as much as 35 percent in the past four months after environmental regulators in China shut down several factories.

That's driving up production costs as panel prices continue to decline, and dragging down earnings for manufacturers in China, the world's biggest supplier.

"There's just not enough polysilicon in China," said Carter Driscoll, an analyst who covers solar companies for FBR & Co. "If prices don't come down, it will crush margins."

Prices in China went from from $14 to $19 a kilogram over the past four months, according to Canadian Solar in Ontario, which does most of its manufacturing in China.

-- Bloomberg News

Boeing inks $1.3B deal with Ethiopians

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Boeing Co. officials signed a $1.3 billion deal on Tuesday to sell four 777 freighters to Ethiopian Airlines.

Chicago-based Boeing and Ethiopian, Africa's largest cargo operator, made the announcement at the biennial Dubai Air Show, which continues through Thursday.

Boeing 777 freighters have a list price of $325.7 million. However, airlines and manufacturers typically negotiate discounts on such deals.

-- The Associated Press

In clean-fuel shift, BMW buys locally

BMW AG's plan to switch exclusively to green electricity finds it tapping some unusual power sources -- including a South African biomass plant that runs on cow dung and chicken droppings.

The arrangement is part of the carmaker's bid to shift all its external power purchases to renewables by 2020, up from 63 percent last year, head of procurement Markus Duesmann said in a speech at the United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Switzerland.

Meeting the target means the carmaker will buy local clean power for all its 31 production sites in 14 countries, said Duesmann. BMW is already getting power from diverse sources such as wind turbines at its plant in Leipzig, Germany. It's also getting methane gas from a landfill near its Spartanburg, S.C., operation in the U.S., he said.

BMW's effort to switch to renewable energy comes as the carmaker is spending billions on a suite of electric vehicles.

To meet its goal, BMW will need to find enough extra power from renewables to supply the equivalent of about 222,000 average homes, based on its annual electricity use of about 1 terrawatt, or about 1 trillion watts.

-- Bloomberg News

Business on 11/15/2017

Print Headline: Wholesale prices up 0.4% in October Canada wields NAFTA in U.S. challenge Investigators cite Amtrak lapses in crash Element's dearth raises solar panel costs Boeing inks $1.3B deal with Ethiopians...

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