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U.S. natural gas futures rise on east coast heat wave

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© Reuters. U.S. natural gas futures gain as east coast heat wave boosts demand

Investing.com – U.S. natural gas prices extended gains from the previous session on Tuesday, as investors bet a heat wave making its way across the eastern U.S. will prompt households to ramp up their air conditioning.

for delivery in September on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 3.3 cents, or 1.17%, to trade at $2.821 per million British thermal units during U.S. morning hours. A day earlier, natural gas tacked on 1.3 cents, or 0.47%, to end at $2.788.

Updated weather forecasting models called for hotter than normal temperatures across most parts of the Midwest and East Coast over the next five days.

Demand for natural gas tends to rise in the summer months as warmer temperatures increase the need for gas-fired electricity to power air conditioning. Natural gas accounts for about a quarter of U.S. electricity generation.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas storage in the U.S. rose by 68 billion cubic feet last week. Analysts had expected an increase of 70 billion cubic feet last week.

Supplies rose by 92 billion cubic feet in the same week last year, while the five-year average change is an increase of 53 billion cubic feet.

Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 2.828 trillion cubic feet as of last week, 28.2% higher than during the same week a year earlier and 2.9% above the five-year average for this time of year.

Last spring, supplies were 55% below the five-year average, indicating producers have made up for all of last winter’s unusually strong demand.

The EIA’s next storage report slated for release on Thursday, July 30 is expected to show a build of approximately 55 billion cubic feet for the week ending July 24.

Supplies rose by 88 billion cubic feet in the same week last year, while the five-year average change is an increase of 48 billion cubic feet.

Elsewhere on the Nymex, for delivery in September shed 3 cents, or 0.06%, to trade at $47.36 a barrel, while for August delivery inched up 0.24% to trade at $1.599 per gallon.

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CES 2020: Toyota to Build Prototype City of the Future

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Woven City
Toyota reveals plans to build a prototype “city” of the future called Woven City, a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells (Photo: PR Newswire)

Today at CES, Toyota revealed plans to build a prototype “city” of the future on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan.

Called the Woven City, it will be a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Toyota reveals plans to build a prototype “city” of the future called Woven City, a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Toyota reveals plans to build a prototype “city” of the future called Woven City, a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Envisioned as a “living laboratory,” the Woven City will serve as a home to full- time residents and researchers who will be able to test and develop technologies such as autonomy, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment.

“Building a complete city from the ground up, even on a small scale like this, is a unique opportunity to develop future technologies, including a digital operating system for the city’s infrastructure. With people, buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology… in both the virtual and the physical realms … maximizing its potential,” said Akio Toyoda, president, Toyota Motor Corporation.

Toyota will extend an open invitation to collaborate with other commercial and academic partners and invite interested scientists and researchers from around the world to come work on their own projects in this one-of-a-kind, real-world incubator.

“We welcome all those inspired to improve the way we live in the future, to take advantage of this unique research ecosystem and join us in our quest to create an ever-better way of life and mobility for all,” said Akio Toyoda, president, Toyota Motor Corporation.

For the design of Woven City, Toyota has commissioned Danish architect, Bjarke Ingels, CEO, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). His team at BIG have designed many high-profile projects: from 2 World Trade Center in New York and Lego House in Denmark, to Google’s Mountain View and London headquarters.

“A swarm of different technologies are beginning to radically change how we inhabit and navigate our cities. Connected, autonomous, emission-free and shared mobility solutions are bound to unleash a world of opportunities for new forms of urban life. With the breadth of technologies and industries that we have been able to access and collaborate with from the Toyota ecosystem of companies, we believe we have a unique opportunity to explore new forms of urbanity with the Woven City that could pave new paths for other cities to explore,” said Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director, BIG.

Design of the City

The masterplan of the city includes the designations for street usage into three types: for faster vehicles only, for a mix of lower speed, personal mobility and pedestrians, and for a park-like promenade for pedestrians only. These three street types weave together to form an organic grid pattern to help accelerate the testing of autonomy.

The city is planned to be fully sustainable, with buildings made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint, using traditional Japanese wood joinery, combined with robotic production methods. The rooftops will be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota plans to weave in the outdoors throughout the city, with native vegetation and hydroponics.

Residences will be equipped with the latest in human support technologies, such as in-home robotics to assist with daily living. The homes will use sensor-based AI to check occupants’ health, take care of basic needs and enhance daily life, creating an opportunity to deploy connected technology with integrity and trust, securely and positively.

To move residents through the city, only fully-autonomous, zero-emission vehicles will be allowed on the main thoroughfares. In and throughout Woven City, autonomous Toyota e-Palettes will be used for transportation and deliveries, as well as for changeable mobile retail.

Both neighborhood parks and a large central park for recreation, as well as a central plaza for social gatherings, are designed to bring the community together. Toyota believes that encouraging human connection will be an equally important aspect of this experience.

Toyota plans to populate Woven City with Toyota Motor Corporation employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, visiting scientists, and industry partners. The plan is for 2,000 people to start, adding more as the project evolves.

The groundbreaking for the site is planned for early 2021.

Interested in partnering with Toyota on the development of Woven City? Visit: woven-city.global

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STUDY: Nearly 50% of Consumers Have Holiday Gift-Giving Guilt

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Nearly 50% of Consumers Have Holiday Gift-Giving Guilt

The holiday spirit spurred a record number of American shoppers to open their wallets this holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, and spending was up 16% compared to the same time period in 2018. Yet, despite their generosity, almost half of shoppers felt some kind of guilt about their gift-giving, according to a new report from CompareCards.

Key Findings

  • Nearly half of holiday shoppers carry some sort of gift-giving guilt.
  • Millennials have the most gift-giving guilt, with 50% reporting they feel remorse over spending either too much or not enough on presents.
  • 70% of consumers have at least one holiday shopping money regret.
  • 69% of respondents made at least one impulse purchase this holiday season. The top five impulse buys were clothing, shoes, electronics, food/beverage and home decor.
  • 17% of Americans regretted at least one of their Black Friday/Cyber Monday purchases, especially men (23%) and millennials (also 23%).
  • 23% of all shoppers surveyed made holiday purchases while drunk, including 31% of men and the same number of millennials.
  • 28% of cardholders used a credit card with a 0% intro APR promotion for their holiday shopping purchases. That number jumps to 37% for male cardholders and 41% for Gen X cardholders.

Nearly half of holiday shoppers carry some sort of gift-giving guilt

47% of respondents received at least one unexpected gift and felt bad that they didn’t have a gift to give in return, and 46% of respondents felt guilty that someone gave them a more expensive present than they gave in return.

Millennials report having the most gift guilt

62% of consumers surveyed this holiday season said they were satisfied with the amount of money they spent on gifts. However, among those who did feel remorse, millennials took the lead. Some felt bad about spending too much on gifts (about 24%) and some felt regret over not spending as much on gifts as they would have liked (about 26%). Given the financial burdens facing this generation, not having enough to spend on gifts could be a contributing factor.

70% of consumers have at least one holiday shopping money regret

Nearly 70% of consumers reported having at least one holiday shopping money regret, ranging from not being able to spend enough on gifts to succumbing to impulse shopping or overspending. Other regrets include consumers spending too much on themselves and not being able to spend as much as they wanted on gifts for their friends or coworkers.

Almost 1 in 4 shoppers made holiday purchases while drunk

If you drink and shop, your head might not be the only thing hurting the next day. Out of all survey respondents, 23% said they had made a purchase this holiday season while drunk either “once or twice” or “many times.” Shoppers in the Gen X and millennial age groups were the most likely to make purchases while intoxicated, with about 32% of the first group and 31% of the latter group admitting to having done so.

How to cope with post-holiday shopping guilt

If you’ve taken on credit card debt or spent too much, helpful steps include:

  • Make a debt-repayment budget that you can realistically commit to.
  • Identify how much you can pay beyond the monthly minimum and how long it will take you to pay off the full amount.
  • For those trying to rebuild savings after overspending, identify areas in your budget where you can cut back, at least temporarily, until your safety net has been built back up.
  • Make plans now for 2020 holiday spending

Planning ahead, sticking to a budget and talking with family members to set expectations are all important parts of making your holiday shopping a successful experience. One way to try to get family and friends on board is to establish a tradition which can be both fun and cost-efficient.

If you’re using a credit card for holiday shopping, you might be able to save money by opening a card with a 0% intro APR offer, which will give you anywhere from six months to a year or more to pay off your balance before the intro APR expires. About 28% of respondents said they had used a card offering a 0% intro APR for their holiday shopping.

To view the full report and for more information, visit https://www.comparecards.com/blog/holiday-gift-giving-guilt-survey/.

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Washington State OKs Some of the Nation’s Toughest OT Rules

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SEATTLE — Washington state is adopting some of the nation’s most aggressive overtime rules, restoring protections for hundreds of thousands of salaried workers and taking what supporters say is a crucial step toward rebuilding the middle class.

The Department of Labor and Industries finalized the rules Wednesday and will phase them in by 2028. By that time, salaried workers making up to about $83,400 a year will be entitled to time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours per week.

Workers making more than that could also get overtime unless they are certain types of professionals — such as those with higher degrees — or unless they are truly managers or executives, as demonstrated by their ability to  and fire, direct other people’s work or make significant business decisions.

Many job categories will be affected, including shift managers at restaurants and retail establishments, office managers, some medical workers and other white-collar staff, officials said.

“We need to make sure the middle class shares in our state’s prosperity,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release. “Overtime protections ensure workers are fairly compensated when they work more than 40 hours in a given week — time that would otherwise be spent with their families and in their communities.”

Employees who are paid hourly have long been entitled to overtime. But salaried workers have generally been entitled to it only if they make less than a certain amount: about $23,660 under federal law, or more where state laws are more generous.

Those thresholds may have worked decades ago, when they meant that nearly two-thirds of salaried workers nationally were covered by overtime protections. But after a recession in the 1970s, lawmakers largely stopped updating them. Washington’s has been stuck at $13,000 since 1976.

As people’s salaries rose with inflation, they found themselves no longer eligible for overtime. Businesses have also been able to convert hourly workers into salaried ones who make just more than the threshold as a way to avoid  additional staff or paying overtime.

In other cases, workers have been classified as managers when their actual duties more closely resemble those of hourly workers, officials said.

By some estimates, as few as 7% of salaried workers across the country are now entitled to overtime.

The federal government and several states, including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan and Massachusetts, have recently updated or started to update their overtime rules, but none have adopted a target threshold as high as Washington’s, said Paul Sonn, state policy program director with the National Employment Law Project.

The rules adopted by the Trump administration will raise the threshold to cover workers making up to $35,308 a year — a significant cut from the $47,000 limit proposed by the Obama administration.

“The overtime threshold is to the middle class as the minimum wage is to low-wage work,” said Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist whose think-tank , Civic Ventures, advocates for progressive economic policies. “It is the indispensable labour protection for middle class people.”

Business groups in Washington have agreed that the state’s rules needed to be updated, but they criticized the plans as drastic. The Association of Washington Business, warned when the proposed rules came out in June that they would be a shock to many businesses and that they could particularly hurt nonprofits.

The organization warned that many businesses might convert salaried workers to hourly ones, reducing scheduling flexibility.

After hearing extensive public comment, the department added two years to the phase-in period. The threshold will increase incrementally until it reaches 2.5 times the minimum wage — about $83,400 — by 2028. The rules will phase in more slowly for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

The department estimates that by the time they are fully implemented, the new rules will give overtime protections to about 260,000 workers who don’t have them and strengthen overtime protections for about 235,000 others. Affected workers will also become eligible for sick leave and retaliation protections.

At a news conference Wednesday, Labor and Industries Director Joel Sacks gave an example of one type of worker who will be protected : a shift manager who makes $40,000 a year but is expected to work 60 hours a week.

Under the new rules, that worker will be paid overtime for the additional hours, or the business will need to  additional staff.

“It’s fair, it’s right and it’s long overdue,” Sacks said.

Among those who might be helped is Victor Duran, a co-manager of a sports apparel store south of Seattle. He said he makes about $52,000 a year and doesn’t get overtime, but is required to work at least 45 hours per week — and up to 60 during the holidays.

“We say bye to the family at the beginning of the season and say we’ll see them after Christmas,” Duran said.

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