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G-Fin™: U.S.A.: Economic Brief – 04.17.15

The Gilmer Free Press

Real Earnings

Real average hourly earnings increased by 0.1% in March, seasonally adjusted.

Average hourly earnings increased by 0.3% and the CPI-U increased by 0.2%.

Real average weekly earnings decreased by 0.2% over the month.


Consumer Price Index

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers rose 0.2% in March, the same increase as in February.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2% in March, also the same increase as in February.


Producer Price Index

The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.2% in March.

Final demand prices moved down 0.5% in February and 0.8% in January.

In March, the index for final demand goods advanced 0.3% and prices for final demand services rose 0.1%.

GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES - 04.20.15

The Gilmer Free Press

State Farm/Youth Advisory Board

State Farm and the Youth Advisory Board are offering grants to help for service-learning projects that include K-12 students at public schools and focus on closing the achievement gap, arts and culture, or improving financial literacy.

Maximum award: $100,000.

Eligibility: public schools and districts, non-profits, colleges and universities, and governmental organizations.

Deadline: May 01, 2015.


AAPT: Frederick and Florence Bauder Endowment for the Support of Physics Teaching

The American Association of Physics Teachers Frederick and Florence Bauder Endowment for the Support of Physics Teaching was established to support special activities in the area of physics teaching.

Activities can include but are not limited to the development and distribution of innovative apparatuses for physics teaching; traveling exhibits of apparatuses; and local workshops.

Maximum award: $500.

Eligibility: AAPT members.

Deadline: July 01, 2015.

Recalls This Week: Blowers, Bike Hooks, Mattresses, Toys

The Gilmer Free Press

A line of bike hooks that can unexpectedly detach from their mounting are among this week’s recalled consumer products. Other recalls include mattresses that failed flammability standards and truck and motorcycle toys with excessive amounts of lead.

Here’s a more detailed look:


BIKE HOOKS

DETAILS: Husky Securelock vertical bike hooks used with a Husky Trackwall garage storage system. The 3 inch by 3.5 inch black metal plate is mounted to the grooves in the Trackwall and the bike’s tire is attached to a hook protruding from the plate. There are no markings on the hook. The Trackwall has “Husky” printed on the lower left corner. The hook holds up to a 35 pound bike. They were sold at Home Depot stores nationwide from April 2011 to March.

WHY: The mounted bike hooks can unexpectedly detach, allowing the bike to fall and posing an injury risk to bystanders.

INCIDENTS: 22 reports of the bike hooks falling from the mounted Trackwall, including 12 reports of property damage to bicycles and/or nearby vehicles. No injuries have been reported.

HOW MANY: About 105,000 in the U.S. and 15,000 in Canada.

FOR MORE: Call Waterloo Industries at 800.833.8851 from 8 AM to 5 PM ET Monday through Friday, or visit www.homedepot.com and click on “product recalls.”


WOMEN’S SCARVES

DETAILS: Gena Accessories women’s silk scarves that measure 64 inches long by 18 inches wide. They were sold in black, brown, burgundy, camel, fuchsia, green, grey, lavender, light blue, light green, light pink, orange, red, turquoise, white and yellow at boutiques in New York City and online at Amazon.com, GenaAccessories.com and Scarfand.com from January 2007 through February for about $12.

WHY: The scarves don’t meet the federal flammability standard.

INCIDENTS: None reported.

HOW MANY: About 9,400.

FOR MORE: Contact Gena Accessories Inc. at 866.974.4362 from 9 AM to 6 PM EDT Monday through Friday or email .


BABY BLANKETS

DETAILS: The Sensory Grab Garb blanket is a 6-inch square of soft fabric with crinkle paper inside and ribbon tags in the middle of each of the four sides. One side of the blanket contains a white satin ribbon tag with the words “Goochie Goo Garbs” on it. The polka-dot ribbon tags are black, blue, green, pink or red ribbons with white polka-dots. The blankets come in a variety of child themed patterns including shapes, animals and superhero themes. Only the 6-inch square Sensory Grab Garb blankets with colored polka-dot ribbon tags attached to the side of the blanket are included in the recall. They were sold in children’s stores in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Pennsylvania from July 2014 through March for about $10.

WHY: A wire-edged ribbon can become exposed, which may cut children.

INCIDENTS: One report of a child that was scratched by the wire that came out of the ribbon.

HOW MANY: About 125.

FOR MORE: Call Goochie Goo Garbs collect at 480.773.1808 from 10 AM to 4 PM MT Monday through Friday, email at or go online at www.goochiegoo.com and click on “Recall Notice” tab.


BLOWER VACCUUMS

DETAILS: Homelite 12 amp electric blower vacuums with model numbers UT42120, UT42120A and UT42121. Model numbers are located on a label on the left side of the red motor housing. The blower vacuums are red and black. “Homelite BlowerVac 2 Speed Powerful 220 MPH” is printed on the side of the motor housing and on the black plastic blower tube. They were sold at Home Depot and Direct Tools Factory Outlets stores nationwide and online at www.homedepot.com from January 2010 through March.

WHY: The blower vacuum can overheat, spark and catch on fire posing fire and burn hazards.

INCIDENTS: 1,369 reports of blower vacuums sparking, smoking or burning, including one report of a minor injury.

HOW MANY: About 823,000 in the U.S. and 41,000 in Canada.

FOR MORE: Call Homelite Consumer Products at 800.597.9624 from 8 AM to 5 PM EDT Monday through Friday, or visit www.homelite.com and click on “Safety Notices” for more information.


BLOWERS

DETAILS: Expert Gardener 12 amp electric blower vacuums with model numbers 20254EG, 20254EGA, 20254EGB, 20254EGBC, 20254EGC and 21254EG. Model numbers are located on a label on the left side of the motor housing. The blower vacuums are green and black. “Expert Gardener” and “Blower Vac 2 Speed Quiet 150 MPH Powerful 220 MPH” are printed on the side of the green motor housing and on the black plastic blower tube. They were sold at Walmart stores nationwide and online at www.walmart.com from January 2012 through March 2015.

WHY: The blower vacuum can overheat, spark and catch on fire posing fire and burn hazards.

INCIDENTS: 16 reports of blower vacuums sparking, smoking or burning. No injuries have been reported.

HOW MANY: About 225,000 in the U.S.

FOR MORE: Call OWT Industries at 800.597.9624 from 8 AM to 5 PM EDT Monday through Friday, or visit www.expertgardenertools.com and click on “Safety Notices.”


BIKE FENDERS

DETAILS: This recall includes all Civia aluminum bicycle fenders sold separately and for all Civia Hyland bicycles sold with the fenders as original equipment. The recalled fenders are round, designed for use with 700c wheels and tires and have the Civia logo on the front and rear sides of each fender. Fender sets came in black, blue, green, olive, red and silver. Hyland bicycles came in blue, green, olive and red. The bikes have “Hyland” on the top tube, “Civia” on the down tube and the Civia logo on the seat tube. They were sold bicycle retailers nationwide and online from April 2008 through March 2013 for about $60 per Civia fender set and between $1,200 and $4,500 for Civia Hyland bicycles.

WHY: The fender mounting bracket can break or bend, posing a fall hazard to the rider.

INCIDENTS: One report in which a customer said a bracket broke and suffered a spine injury and nerve damage.

HOW MANY: About 1,000.

FOR MORE: Call Civia Cycles at 877.311.7686 from 8 AM to 6 PM CT Monday through Friday or online at www.civiacycles.com and click on “Safety Recall.”


MOWERS

DETAILS: Toro’s 2015 22-inch walk-behind power mower has a red base on four wheels, a black motor and handle, and a white bag attached for catching the clippings. A black plate on the front of the mower says “Toro Recycler 22.” Model number 20337 and a serial number are located on a decal affixed to the rear of the machine. Recalled mowers have serial numbers ranging from 315000101 to 315000983. They were sold at hardware, lawn and garden stores nationwide in February and March.

WHY: Mowers were assembled with an incorrect blade driver and blade combination, which can cause the blade to break, resulting in an injury hazard.

INCIDENTS: None reported.

HOW MANY: About 800 in the U.S. and 100 in Canada.

FOR MORE: Call Toro at 844.521.2384 between 8 AM and 5 PM CT Monday through Friday or visit www.toro.com and click on “Product Recall” at the bottom right-hand side of the page.


MATTRESSES

DETAILS: The rebuilt mattresses and mattresses with foundations made by San Pedro Manufacturing. They come in twin, full, queen and king sizes and have a white federal tag and yellow state tag with “San Pedro Manufacturing Company, 1041 La Grange Blvd, Atlanta, Georgia 30336″ sewn at the foot of the mattress. All mattresses sold separately and all mattress and foundation sets are being recalled. They were sold at A1 Mattress and Furniture, Affordable Furniture, Beds Beds Beds, Bruce Furniture and Thrift, Checkouts, Christian Outreach, Fowlers Furniture, Greenbrier Furniture, Larry Rhodes, Mattress and Furniture Outlet, Mattress and Furniture Warehouse, Mattress Barn, Save Big Mattress and Unclaimed Freight from May 2013 through January 2014.

WHY: The mattresses and foundations fail to meet the mandatory federal open flame standard, posing a fire hazard.

INCIDENTS: None reported.

HOW MANY: About 4,800.

FOR MORE: Call San Pedro Manufacturing at 855.997.0300 from 10 AM to 4 PM ET Monday through Friday.


UTILITY VEHICLES

DETAILS: Yamaha Viking utility vehicles. This recall involves 2015 model YXC700DF (Viking VI), YXC700DHFH (Viking VI Hunter), YXC700PF (Viking VI EPS) and YXC700PHFH (Viking VI EPS Hunter) side x side vehicles. Model numbers can be found on the owner’s manual. The letter F in the 10th position of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) indicates that the vehicle is 2015 model. The VIN is stamped on the frame behind the left rear wheel. The “Viking VI” model name is printed on the left side of the front hood. The vehicles come in Realtree (multicolor), hunter green, red and steel blue.

WHY: The rear wheels can loosen and cause the rear end of the vehicle to wobble or the rear wheels to come off and cause the vehicle to crash.

INCIDENTS: None reported.

HOW MANY: About 3,500.

FOR MORE: Call Yamaha at 800.962.7926 anytime or go to www.yamaha-motor.com , click on “Outdoors” tab, and then click on “Recalls” in the Corporate Links menus.


TRUCK AND MOTORCYCLE TOYS

DETAILS: Plastic Wheelies semi-truck with six motorcycles toy and Wheelies push-along motorcycle toys. The semi-truck has a dual-level trailer that carries six motorcycles and comes in red and purple with multi-colored motorcycles. The truck has the item number Item # TAG66767 and SKU# 752249 printed on the packaging. The Wheelies push-along motorcycle is red with a rider in black with silver accents. The product has item # TBG04323 and SKU# 752251 printed on the package. They were sold at Cycle Gear stores and online at www.cyclegear.com from November 2014 through December 2014.

WHY: The toys contain excessive levels of lead, which is a violation of the federal standard for lead content.

INCIDENTS: None reported.

HOW MANY: About 155.

FOR MORE: Call Cycle Gear at 800.292.5343 from 8 AM to 5 PM ET Monday through Friday or visit www.cyclegear.com and click on “Recall Notices” at the bottom for more recall information.

U.S. Home Construction Off to Weak March Start

The Gilmer Free Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. homebuilders opened the spring buying season in March at a slower pace than last year, a warning that recent hiring gains have failed to translate into a stronger real estate market.

Construction firms broke ground at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 926,000 homes last month, a 2.5% decline from the pace in March 2014, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Steady job growth, low mortgage rates and cheaper gasoline have given consumers more flexibility. But the improved economy has yet to significantly boost sales and construction, even as economists say that the gains should soon flow into housing.

“There would ideally be more momentum than what we’re seeing, but housing activity should continue to improve in the months ahead,“ said Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Still, the warmer weather helped after a brutal winter. March housing starts rebounded 2% from this past February’s rate of 908,000 homes. Builders broke ground on more homes in the Northeast and Midwest, two areas hammered by snow storms and freezing temperatures in previous months. But the pace of construction slipped last month for the South and West.

March traditionally marks the start of the spring home buying season, when more people flood into the market and sales increase. But the relatively modest pace of new construction and few homes being listed for sale have kept inventories tight, limiting the potential for sales to rise. Homebuilders have increasingly focused on two key markets: wealthier buyers and apartment complexes, because increasingly expensive houses have priced many out of the market and led them to rent.

Approved building permits fell from February, sliding 2.9% in March to an annual rate of 1.04 million. The entire decline came from the volatile multi-family category that includes apartment construction.

Still, builders have increasingly favored constructing rental properties. They broke ground on 341,700 multi-family structures last year, a 16% increase compared with 2013, according to the Commerce Department.

This shift toward apartment buildings reflects both the fragile six-year recovery and the growing preference among college-educated millennials for city living, according to Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“When economic times are tough, people tend to downsize and move closer to work in order to minimize travel expenses,“ Meyer said in a recent client note. “There is also a greater tendency to rent given the financial burden of owning and challenges accessing credit.“

But many economists expect strong job growth and relatively low mortgage rates to bolster the housing sector this year.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Wednesday rose four points to 56 this month, the highest level since January. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.

Over the past 12 months, employers have hired an additional 3.1 million workers, sending the unemployment rate tumbling from 6.6% to 5.5%, according to the Labor Department. That has increased the number of potential homebuyers and renters.

At the same time, average 30-year, fixed mortgage rates have stayed near recent lows at 3.66%, according to the mortgage firm Freddie Mac. That is down from a 52-week high of 4.33%. Cheaper borrowing costs make easier for homebuyers to afford their monthly housing payments.

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