By The Associated Press
Huge window switch recall hampers Toyota comeback
DETROIT (AP) - The largest recall in Toyota's 75-year history could undermine the carmaker's comeback from natural disasters and embarrassing safety problems.
The company on Wednesday recalled 7.43 million cars, trucks and SUVs worldwide to fix faulty power window switches that can cause fires. The recall affects more than a dozen models produced from 2005 through 2010 around the world including the Camry, the top-selling car in the U.S. It's bigger than the 7 million vehicles recalled two years ago for floor mats that can trap accelerator pedals and cause unintended acceleration.
The problem centers on the power window switch, which is inside the driver's door and controls when a window is opened or closed. Toyota said grease wasn't applied evenly to the switch during production, causing friction and sometimes smoke and fire.
Heating costs to rise this winter as cold returns
NEW YORK (AP) - Americans will pay more to heat their homes this winter as they feel something they didn't feel much of last year: cold.
Prices for natural gas, heating oil and other fuels will be relatively stable. But customers will have to use more energy to keep warm than they did a year ago, according to the annual Winter Fuels Outlook from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration.
Last winter was the warmest on record. This year temperatures are expected to be close to normal.
Could pepperoni spoil presidential debate?
NEW YORK (AP) - During the next presidential debate, the candidates will be pondering the important questions of our time. But the most controversial may be "Sausage or pepperoni?"
Pizza Hut is offering a lifetime of free pizza - one large pie a week for 30 years - or a check for $15,600 to anyone who poses the question to either President Barack Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the live Town Hall-style debate next Tuesday.
The proposed stunt, which the pizza chain announced Tuesday, is unlikely to happen because of the strict rules that these types of debates typically follow. But if it does occur, it threatens to tick off millions of viewers who are expected to tune in to the debate to hear what the candidates have to say about the economy, health care and other serious concerns facing this country.
Fed: Housing lifts growth in most US regions
WASHINGTON (AP) - Stronger housing markets helped boost economic growth at the end of the summer in nearly every region of the United States, according to a Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday.
The Fed said growth improved in 10 of its 12 regional banking districts from mid-August through September, while leveling off in one region and slowing in another. Rising home sales helped lift home prices in most districts.
The report, known formally as the Beige Book, also cited an increase in auto sales in most parts of the country. Still, consumer spending was flat or up only slightly in most districts. Manufacturing activity was mixed, with half of the districts reporting slight improvement since the previous Fed report. And hiring was unchanged in most districts.
FedEx details major cost-cutting plan
NEW YORK (AP) - FedEx Corp., the world's second-largest package delivery company, on Wednesday detailed its plan to boost profit by $1.7 billion annually by shedding jobs, aircraft and underused assets.
FedEx aims to reach that goal within three years through cost cuts and efficiency improvements. The much anticipated restructuring is a response to a shift by customers to slower, less expensive means of delivery as the global economy struggles to grow.
Founder and CEO Fred Smith said most of the cost cuts will come in the company's Express and Services units, which have been hurt the most by the global economic conditions. Smith said a voluntary buyout program announced in August should reduce "fixed head count by several thousand people." A majority of those employees are in the U.S.
Political objections derail European defense deal
LONDON (AP) - A deal to create a European defense and aerospace giant to rival Boeing Co. collapsed Wednesday when BAE Systems and EADS NV called off merger talks in the face of government objections.
The companies said they had "decided to terminate their discussions" over the proposed $45 billion tie-up because of conflicting interests between the British, French and German governments.
The proposed merger between Britain's BAE and Franco-German EADS, the parent of Airbus, would have created a company with a market value just shy of Boeing's.
Pumpkin farmers have smashing crop despite drought
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Farmers in a stretch of Illinois where most of the nation's pumpkins are grown say their crop looks relatively smashing and is likely to be one of the few successes in a year when severe drought baked most of the nation's heartland.
The drought forced thousands of ranchers to sell off cattle because pastures were too dry to graze, and corn and soybean farmers watched their plants wither in the summer sun. But John Ackerman said most of the pumpkins he planted fared "fantastic" for a simple, single reason: Pumpkins dig dry weather.
Pathology may help explain why pumpkins coped better than most crops at beating the heat. A relative of squashes, cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloupe, pumpkins tend to thrive in warm, temperate climates that stave off fungus, mold and other rind-rotting diseases that spread in wet conditions, said Dan Egel, a plant pathologist with Purdue University's extension.
New book digs into Netflix's origins, evolution
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Netflix is probably hoping a new book about its early history never gets made into a movie.
The book, "Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America's Eyeballs," tries to debunk a widely told tale about the company's origins and paints a polarizing portrait of its star CEO Reed Hastings.
Set to go on sale Thursday, the book arrives at a pivotal time for Netflix Inc. The video subscription service is still recovering from a customer backlash triggered by Hastings' hasty decision to raise U.S. prices by as much as 60 percent last year. Investors remain leery of Netflix as its expenses for Internet video rights steadily climb. That's the main reason Netflix's stock remains about 75 percent below its peak of nearly $305 reached right around the time Hastings announced the price increases 15 months ago.
PC sales fall, 1 firm says Lenovo overtakes HP
NEW YORK (AP) - Worldwide sales of PCs fell sharply in the third quarter, two research firms said Wednesday, as consumers held off for the new version of Windows and spent their electronics dollars on smartphones and tablets instead.
Gartner and IDC said global PC sales fell 8.3 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively.
Gartner also estimates that China's Lenovo Group Ltd. outsold Hewlett-Packard Co. for the first time to become the world's largest seller of PCs, but IDC disagreed and kept HP in the No. 1 spot, though by a narrow margin.
By The Associated Press(equals)
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 128.56 points to close at 13,344.97, just shy of 1 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 8.92 points to 1,432.56. The Nasdaq lost 13.24 points to 3,051.78.
Benchmark crude finished down $1.14 to settle at $91.25 in New York. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 12 cents to $114.25 on the ICE Futures Exchange in London.
Heating oil rose 2 cents to $3.23 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline was flat at $2.96 a gallon. Natural gas rose 8 cents to $3.475 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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