Gasoline sends consumer prices tumbling

A plunge in gas prices last month lowered consumer prices by the most in six years. But excluding the volatile food and energy costs, prices rose. The consumer price index fell 0.7 percent in January, the sharpest drop since December 2008, the Labor Department said. Tumbling prices at the pump drove nearly all of the decline. Core prices, which exclude food and energy, rose 0.2 percent. Despite the sharp drop in the overall index, economists see signs that many prices are moving higher. The cost of services, such as hotels, restaurant food and rents, all rose last month, lifting core prices. Overall consumer prices have slipped 0.1 percent over the past 12 months. It is the first year-over-year drop in five years.

Apple expected to unveil watch next month

Apple Inc. has sent out invitations to an event on March 9 in San Francisco, where it will unveil details for the release of the Apple Watch, Bloomberg News reported. Chief Executive Tim Cook said last month that the smartwatch will ship in April. The device is the first new gadget line to debut under Cook since he took over at Apple, as he seeks to push the company into new segments. Apple hasn't given much information about the gadget's battery life or how much models will cost, other than $349 for the basic version. "Spring forward," reads the invitation to the event. The headline refers to daylight-saving time, which begins the day before Apple's event.

Swipe-fee dissenters seeking documents

Opponents of Visa Inc.'s and MasterCard Inc.'s $5.7 billion settlement with merchants over fees want access to documents that may have been disclosed to a lawyer facing federal charges in a fraud scheme unrelated to the credit-card litigation. Lawyers for Home Depot Inc., Target Corp. and other major retailers, who have argued against the accord, said the disclosure of materials by Gary Friedman, the plaintiffs' attorney, raises questions about the fairness of the negotiations. Keila Ravelo, the lawyer who got the documents and represented MasterCard, was charged in December by federal prosecutors in New Jersey.

Average 30-year mortgage rate climbs again

Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates have edged up for a third straight week while remaining near their historically low levels reached in May 2013. Mortgage company Freddie Mac said the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage rose to 3.80 percent from 3.76 percent last week. The rate for the 15-year loan, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, ticked up to 3.07 percent from 3.05 percent last week. A year ago, the average 30-year mortgage stood at 4.37 percent and the 15-year mortgage at 3.39 percent.

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