U.S. sees low gas prices through summer
Drivers who have seen a steady rise in the price of gasoline can relax: They will almost certainly be paying far less for gas this summer than they have in at least six years. The Energy Department said that it expects the price of gasoline to average $2.55 between April and September, which would be the lowest since 2009. Over the course of the year, a typical U.S. household could save $675 in gasoline prices compared to last year. The coming summer of cheap gas was set up by a collapse in oil prices that began last June at $107 a barrel and ended in mid-March at $43. That took gasoline prices down to $2.03 a gallon, a level the nation hadn't seen since it was deep in recession in March 2009.
Verizon, Sprint to pay millions over billing
Verizon Wireless will pay $90 million and Sprint $68 million to settle charges that the mobile giants allowed phony charges on their customers' monthly bills so they could keep a cut of the profit, federal regulators announced. The two mobile providers had partnered with third-party vendors that sell premium text messaging services, such as daily horoscopes, trivia and sports scores. But consumers who hadn't signed up for the services were being billed anyway, typically about $9.99 a month, according to the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission and several state attorneys general. Both companies said they had stopped allowing premium text messaging before the government investigation began. Sprint spokesman Jeffrey Silva said the company had already returned "tens of millions of dollars" to its customers.
Chase to issue microchipped debit cards
Chase said it plans to reissue all its debit cards to include embedded microchips aimed at helping to reduce fraud. Such technology is prevalent in many other countries and is expected to become the standard for payments in the U.S. The reason for the change: Cards in the U.S., which rely on magnetic strips that store personal information, can be more easily counterfeited or copied. A chip transaction adds another layer of security because each time the card is used it produces a single-use code validating the transaction, making account information more difficult to steal.
A $77M award in suit against Wells Fargo
A Missouri jury has awarded a woman $77 million in damages in a lawsuit alleging Wells Fargo Bank mismanaged her family trusts, costing her tens of millions of dollars. The St. Louis County jury, after a trial of more than two weeks, sided with 78-year-old Barbara Burton Morriss of the St. Louis suburb of Olivette, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Morriss sued Wells Fargo in early 2012, alleging the bank breached its fiduciary duty by failing to fully disclose financial transactions in two family trusts that lost millions of dollars. Wells Fargo spokeswoman Vince Scanlon said the bank was "disappointed" by the verdict and was considering its legal options, including whether to appeal.
Household debt held steady in first quarter
U.S. household debt levels were mostly unchanged in the first three months of this year, held back by tight mortgage credit standards and consumer reluctance to borrow heavily. Total household debt ticked up 0.2 percent to $11.85 trillion in the first quarter, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said. That's a nearly flat reading after two quarters of increases. Household debt, which includes mortgages, student and auto loans, and credit cards, is still 6.5 percent below its 2008 peak of $12.7 trillion. The figures suggest that lenders' high credit standards and reluctance among consumers to run up debt continue to weigh on the economy.
Patriot Coal files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Patriot Coal Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time in three years and said it is involved in active negotiations for the sale of the company. The company made the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. It had emerged from an earlier bankruptcy case in December 2013 in Missouri. Patriot, based in Scott Depot, W.Va., said it will continue shipping and mining operations and it has received a commitment for $100 million in debt financing from secured debt holders that it did not identify. The bankruptcy filing lists both the company's estimated assets and liabilities at more than $1 billion.