UAW gets rival at Volkswagen plant

A second employee organization has been certified to represent workers at Volkswagen's assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., giving the UAW a fierce rival under the automaker's new labor policy. Volkswagen said an outside auditor has verified that the American Council of Employees has achieved support from at least 15 percent of the plant's hourly and salaried workers. That gives ACE the right to raise questions, ideas, or concerns directly to Volkswagen management at any time. ACE, which was formed to offer employees with an alternative to the UAW, also means that two rival labor groups will continue to face off at the plant.

European car sales up for 17th straight month

The European car market maintained its modest upward momentum in the first month of the year, industry data showed Tuesday, with sales gaining for a 17th straight month. But the market is still far below where it was before 2008. Registrations of new passenger cars in the European Union, a proxy for sales, rose 6.7 percent in January from a year earlier, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association reported.

BP sees U.S. shale oil output slowing

BP PLC said record growth in U.S. shale oil production will slow in the coming years as the pace at which wells are exhausted accelerates, helping to normalize the market after the recent price slump. "At some point, that starts to flatten off," Spencer Dale, BP's chief economist, told reporters in London as BP published its Energy Outlook 2035 report. BP anticipates a slowdown in U.S. shale oil allowing for the Middle East output to start regaining lost ground at the start of the next decade. OPEC members will expand output by 7 million barrels a day while non-OPEC supply will increase by 13 million barrels by 2035, the report said.

Americans struggle with auto, student debt

Americans increased their borrowing in the final three months last year and, in a worrisome note, are struggling more with auto and student loans, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Outstanding household debt rose a modest 1 percent, or $117 billion, from the third quarter as families became more comfortable with higher credit card balances. The report's findings are consistent with trends showing that the widespread reduction in household debt — the aftereffects of the Great Recession — has ended at more sustainable levels. Even with the uptick, household debt remains around 6.7 percent below its peak of $12.7 trillion in the third quarter of 2008.

Homebuilder confidence is at 4-month low

Confidence among homebuilders decreased in February to the lowest level in four months as winter weather prevented some prospective buyers from touring new developments. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo sentiment gauge fell to 55 this month from 57 in January, according to figures issued from the Washington-based group. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 58. The decline was led by a slump in customer traffic.

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