The University of Michigan's preliminary index decreased to 90.7 from 92 in January, a report showed Friday. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey called for 92.3. While sentiment cooled for a second month, so did households' long- term inflation expectations, which declined to the lowest in records to 1979.
A weakening of sentiment reflected the impact of the recent turmoil in equity markets, fueled by everything from declining oil prices to a dimmer global outlook. At the same time, households were more upbeat about their financial prospects because they expect inflation to remain low.
"Consumers tend to feel much better about not only their ability to consume in the near-term when they have a little bit more cash in their pocket," Thomas Simons, a money-market economist at Jefferies LLC in New York, said before the report. "But they also feel better about their longer-term inflation prospects too, being somewhat lower."
Retail sales climbed 0.2 percent in January, the third straight monthly advance, as Americans kicked off 2016 by spending on cars, clothing and online merchandise.
Consumer confidence estimates from 64 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 89.9 to 94.
The report's gauge of current conditions, which tracks Americans' perception of their personal finances, fell to a three-month low of 105.8 from 106.4. Even with the decline, the share of households reporting that their financial situation had improved rose to 45 percent, the highest in six months.
Households expected income gains of 1.6 percent in the year ahead, twice as much as last month's 0.8 percent.
"If you look at the detail, almost all these gains are expected among younger workers, median age 35," Richard Curtin, director of the Michigan Survey of Consumers, said on a Bloomberg conference call. "But those over 45 and 65, they report virtually no wage gain expectations over the year ahead."
The gauge of expectations six months from now dropped to 81, the weakest since September, from 82.7.
Consumers concluded that the decline in equity prices and the weak global economy "will hurt prospects for the economy in the year," but they have not changed their views in the long term, Curtin said on the call.
Americans expected the inflation rate over the next five to 10 years to be 2.4 percent, down from 2.7 percent and the lowest since the late-1970s, when the university began asking about price expectations.
In the next year, they anticipated inflation will be 2.5 percent, unchanged from January and down from 2.8 percent in 2015.
Persistent job growth continues to underpin sentiment. Payrolls climbed by 151,000 in January and the jobless rate dropped to an eight-year low of 4.9 percent, according to the Labor Department.
Strong hiring helped push wages up by 0.5 percent last month as employers started to feel more pressure to increase pay to retain or attract talent.
The Michigan report corroborates some of the data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index. In that survey, attitudes about whether it was a good time to spend advanced to the highest in nine months in the week ended Feb. 7.
The university's data showed "buying plans remained favorable due to discounted prices and low interest rates," Curtin said in a statement. "Favorable buying attitudes toward household durables and vehicles declined slightly from last month but remained more favorable than a year ago."
What's more, home-selling conditions were viewed by respondents as the most favorable since April 2006.]]>
The foundation also raised $43 million in new gifts from individual, family, organizational and corporate donors last year, the fourth-highest total in its history. Founded with a $10,000 gift from Jesse Metcalf in 1916, the foundation's assets have grown to $790 million.
The foundation works in partnership with donors and nonprofits to meet the needs of the people of Rhode Island, and to find long-term solutions to community issues. Many of the awards were made under its competitive strategy grant program, which targets seven sectors: arts and culture, children and families, education, economic security, environment, health and housing.
"We are indebted to our committed donors for joining with us for 100 years to address the state's challenges and opportunities," said Neil D. Steinberg, the foundation's president and CEO.
"Their extraordinary generosity made it possible for us to make investments in Rhode Island as never before."
Some of the recipients and their awards included Day One of Providence, which got $72,030 to support its work fighting the commercial sexual exploitation of children and to provide victims with counseling, and Hope & Main in Warren, which received $100,000 to support its work helping culinary start-ups.
"From investing in programs that ensure young people can have productive lives to helping people lead healthier lives, our grants take on the issues that will move Rhode Island forward," said Jenny Pereira, vice president for grant programs.
In 2015, the foundation also raised a record $354,247 in the fourth year of its annual Civic Leadership Fund, which enables the foundation to go beyond traditional grant making to provide leadership and a forum for dialogue on critical community issues. Ongoing projects include the Buy Local RI economic development initiative and Community Conversations, a series of presentations on critical issues.
To celebrate its centennial, the foundation plans a full year of community activities highlighted by a campaign to raise $10 million to preserve and improve Roger Williams Park.]]>
The next installment, which was previously announced, is being directed by Michael Bay and will star Mark Wahlberg, according to Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, who gave a presentation to investors on Friday. The 2018 movie will focus on the films' Bumblebee character, while the 2019 sequel will be a general "Transformers" story, he said. They're all slated to be released around June of each year.
Hasbro, the second-largest U.S. toymaker, released the Transformers toys in the 1980s and built them into an entertainment franchise. In its bid to improve profit margins and maintain revenue growth, the company has more movies based on its biggest brands in the works. That includes a "My Little Pony" film in 2017.]]>
PROVIDENCE - RhodeWorks, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo's truck toll plan to improve the state's deteriorating bridges and roads, is now law.
The plan, which will levy tolls on only large, commercial trucks, cleared the final hurdle Thursday with a Senate vote of 25 to 12 in favor of the plan. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved the bill, 52 to 21, then again on Thursday to approve the Senate bill, 50 to 18.
The legislation, according to a news release from the R.I. General Assembly, will repair more than 150 structurally deficient bridges and make repairs to another 500 bridges to prevent them from becoming deficient, bringing 90 percent of the state's bridges into structural sufficiency by 2024.
Raimondo said RhodeWorks will add thousands of jobs in Rhode Island, improve the safety of roads and make the state more attractive for businesses to grow.
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed said RhodeWorks has been "months in the making," and that public debate helped shape the plan.
"RhodeWorks is an investment that will fix Rhode Island's roads and bridges, put Rhode Islanders to work and save taxpayers money. It is a reasonable solution that asks those who put the most wear and tear on our transportation infrastructure to contribute to its repair and upkeep, including those from out-of-state who otherwise wouldn't contribute at all. It's fair to Rhode Island taxpayers and will give us a sustainable source of income to finally maintain our roads and bridges properly, for the safety of those who use them and to make Rhode Island more attractive to growing businesses," she said.
House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello said Rhode Island has the "worst bridges, roads and overpasses in America, and this plan will fix hundreds of them before an emergency occurs."
"We have vastly improved the legislation since it was first introduced last spring, cutting the rate of borrowing in half and dramatically reducing the interest rate on the bonding, while inserting language to ensure that truck tolls will never be extended to other vehicles without voter approval," Mattiello said.
However, Christopher J. Maxwell, Rhode Island Trucking Association president, said Friday that his 500-member group still opposes RhodeWorks, and "the battle is far from over."
"A lawsuit [challenging the plan's legality] is coming no doubt, from a party probably much larger than the Rhode Island Trucking Association," Maxwell said.
While Maxwell said it was a "long and very constructive debate," he said the association feels there was "quite a bit of misinformation and quite a few violations of commerce on many fronts."
Maxwell said RhodeWorks is "perverting the interstate." He said it discriminates a class of vehicles and questioned how truck access to secondary roads could be denied.
"We don't own the interstate, the federal government does, and the federal government has a say," Maxwell said.
The plan would place 14 gantries around the state with an average toll of $3 each, with a cap of $20 per day in each direction for any truck crossing the state. Officials say that approximately 60 percent of trucks paying tolls will be from out of state.
The bill was changed substantially since its introduction last year, in part to take advantage of hundreds of millions of federal highway funds garnered by the state's congressional delegation. Those funds enabled borrowing to be reduced from $600 million to $300 million, and also reduced the state's interest costs by 65 percent.
Patrick D. Jones, International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association executive director and CEO, applauded the passage of RhodeWorks, saying that across 35 states, tolling generates more than $14 billion annually in revenue to support nearly 6,000 miles of toll roads.
"With the passage of Rhode Works, the smallest state in the nation has taken the most significant action to address their infrastructure needs with both a reasonable plan and a steady revenue stream to repair and maintain Rhode Island's deteriorating bridges," Jones said.]]>
The 0.2 percent gain matched the previous month's advance that was initially reported as a decline, Commerce Department data showed Friday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.1 percent increase in January. Excluding cheaper gasoline, which depressed service-station receipts, purchases climbed 0.4 percent.
Greater job security, improving wage growth and falling gasoline prices may be persuading more consumers to loosen their purse strings after a fourth-quarter slowdown. A pickup in household purchases, which account for the lion's share of the economy, would help the U.S. stave off the negative effects of a strengthening dollar, sluggish foreign demand and tumultuous financial markets.
"Consumer fundamentals still look very strong," said Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York. "We had really strong real incomes at the end of last year, and that's going to feed through to consumption."
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a decline of 0.5 percent to a 0.4 percent gain. December retail sales were revised up to a 0.2 percent advance, previously reported as down 0.1 percent.
The retail figures used to calculate gross domestic product, which exclude categories such as food services, auto dealers, home-improvement stores and service stations, increased 0.6 percent in January, the most since May, after falling 0.3 percent the month before.
Economists are looking for a pickup in consumer spending to help buoy growth this quarter after the expansion slowed to a crawl at the end of 2014. Gross domestic product grew at a 0.7 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter as companies adjusted inventories and cut back on capital investment.
Eight of 13 major categories showed increases in demand in January from the prior month, the retail figures showed. Purchases made online climbed 1.6 percent, the most in 11 months. Sales at general merchandise outlets rose 0.8 percent, the biggest advance since May.
Demand held up even after a winter storm moved through the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions late last month. Snow blanketed cities from Baltimore to New York and caused power outages, more than 13,000 flight cancellations and severe coastal flooding, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Continued strength in the labor market is keeping Americans spending. Employers added 151,000 to payrolls in January after expanding headcounts by 262,000 the month before. Wage growth also showed signs of life. Average hourly earnings climbed 2.5 percent in the 12 months ended January after a 2.7 percent gain in December that was the most since 2009.
Automobile dealers' sales increased 0.6 percent in January after rising 0.5 percent the prior month, according to Friday's retail report. That corroborates industry figures that showed automakers reported the strongest U.S. January sales in almost a decade.
Purchases of cars and light trucks came in at a 17.5 million annualized rate last month, the most for any January since 2006, based on Ward's Automotive Group data. Sales totaled 17.4 million last year as cheap gasoline and low interest rates helped boost demand for SUVs and pickups.
Receipts at gasoline stations dropped 3.1 percent last month, the most since September, the retail sales report showed. The Commerce Department's retail sales data aren't adjusted for changes in prices. The cost of an average gallon of regular gasoline was $1.72 as of Feb. 9, the lowest level in seven years.
A separate report, released by the Labor Department, showed import prices declined 1.1 percent in January for a second month, reflecting a plunge in petroleum costs.]]>
The initiatives require that Rhode Island commercial insurers use health care payment models focused on "quality, rather than volume," according to a press release from R.I. Office of Health Insurance Commissioner.
"The Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner continues to advance policies designed to meaningfully improve the quality and efficiency of health care service delivery in Rhode Island," OHIC Commissioner Dr. Kathleen C. Hittner said in a prepared statement.
OHIC's first initiative, the new Alternative Payment Methodology Plan, builds off a previous set of standards from July 2015. Rhode Island commercial health insurers beginning in 2017 will be required to direct 40 percent of medical payments through quality and efficiency-based payment models. The requirement increases to 50 percent in 2018.
A second initiative, called the Care Transformation Plan, requires commercial insurers to continue to grow primary care patient-centered medical homes. The regulator says it's providing guidelines on how to continue this work, according to a press release.
"We are highly appreciative of the time, effort and input that physicians, payers, employers and consumers have committed as we developed these affordability initiatives," Hittner said.
The new initiatives are meant to build off efforts of Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, who last year pushed to redesign the state's Medicaid program.
"The new initiatives adopted by OHIC, along with the Raimondo administration's efforts to innovate health care, signify a major step in the transitioning to health care payments based on value and expanding models of care delivery that stress care coordination and increase quality of care," according to the release.
Rhode Island insurers are expected to meet the new standards during the regulator's annual rate review later this year.
RIEMA said the National Weather Service said it is highly likely that temperatures will fall into the teens and single digits starting Saturday afternoon. Temperatures then could fall as low as 20 below zero throughout Rhode Island Saturday night, then return to single numbers and teens Sunday.
"We are expecting dangerously cold temperatures this weekend," Gov. Gina M. Raimondo said in a statement. "My number one priority as governor is your safety, and the best way to stay safe this weekend is by limiting yourself to the extreme cold by staying indoors as much as possible. I also ask that you please check on neighbors and loved ones and make sure they have everything they need to stay safe and warm."
Peter Gaynor, RIEMA director, said people need to cover themselves up as much as possible if they venture outside as Rhode Island could "potentially see record low temperatures."
"Additionally, make sure that you have sufficient heating fuel for the next few days. If you experience a loss of your heating source and need emergency heating, contact your local municipalities or dial 2-1-1," Gaynor said.
Due to the forecast of extreme cold, several communities will have warming centers open to the public for those who need to seek temporary shelter. Information on warming centers can be found at riema.ri.gov/warmingcenters.]]>
The company also raised $5 million from Cue Ball Capital and Excel Venture Management, allowing it to invest in engineering, product, marketing, sales, client success and operations teams, resulting in a 30 percent increase in employees, including key executive hires.
The company would not say how many it employs, however.
ShapeUp expanded last year, launching a Boston office, and also released the Wellbeing Hub, a platform which aggregates the entire employee wellbeing system into a single, personalized interface.
The company said that in 2015, it inspired people around the world to increase their physical activity, leading leading participants to track more than 1 trillion steps to date on the ShapeUp platform, something it called "a new milestone in the world of employee well-being."
"ShapeUp has once again marked a banner year of growth, innovation and results," Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder and CEO of ShapeUp, said in a statement. "Every year, we intend to better serve our clients and participants. I'm thrilled that in 2015, our team went above and beyond, delivering 100 percent revenue retention and laying the groundwork for an even more successful 2016. We anticipate a continued stream of exciting company announcements in the year ahead."
In the coming months, ShapeUp said it will release new products, including enhanced mobile and smartwatch features, a new evidence-based approach to employee well-being assessments, more team wellness challenges, and lifestyle programs designed to reduce stress and improve resilience.]]>
John Hazen White Jr., chairman of Cranston-based Taco Comfort Solutions, a manufacturer of heating, cooling and plumbing products, will be recognized for his continuing efforts to create new products, develop his workforce and expand markets for the nearly century-old family business.
White has grown the company from a regionally-focused supplier of HVAC products to a global competitor in those markets as well as others not directly involved in heating and cooling. To reflect this growth, Taco rebranded itself as Taco Comfort Solutions earlier this month.
The company's search for new markets led it to acquire the indoor heating business of Italian pump manufacturer Askoll. Taco now has facilities in Cranston; Fall River; Marion, Ark.; and Milton, Ontario, as well as in Sandrigo, Italy, and Big Duong Province, Vietnam.
In 2012, the company opened a $20 million education center at its Cranston home, adding 24,000 square feet of classrooms, laboratories and a business center to its existing workforce development facilities. The company was recognized for those efforts in PBN's 2012 Fastest & Innovative Companies Awards program.
White is among 13 winning individuals and companies selected from dozens of applications that will be recognized at a dinner Tuesday, March 15, from 5:30-8 p.m., at Bryant University's Bello Center.
Other winners in this third year of the Manufacturing Awards are:
Tanury Industries, for Overall Excellence, more than 150 employees
National Marker Co., Overall Excellence, 50-150 employees
Custom Design Inc., Overall Excellence, fewer than 50 employees
Red Hed Manufacturing Inc., Collaboration in Manufacturing
Agcore Technologies LLC, Emerging Manufacturer
Edesia, Exporting Excellence
Bouckaert Industrial Textiles, Green Manufacturing Excellence
Parmatech Proform, Lean Manufacturing Excellence
Life Wear Technologies LLC, Product Innovation & Design
AstroNova, Safety Performance & Records Excellence
Epec Engineered Technologies, Supply Chain Excellence
Hope Valley Industries, Workforce Development & Productivity Excellence
Presenting sponsor for the third PBN Manufacturing Awards program is Polaris MEP. Partner sponsors include BlumShapiro, Cox Business, Gallo/Thomas Insurance and Hope Global. Media partner is AM790.
For information about attending the PBN Manufacturing Awards dinner on March 15, click HERE.]]>
The Renewed Homes program will provide $20,000 in down payment assistance, structured as a forgivable second-mortgage on the property. If the buyer remains in the house, condominium or multi-family property for five years, the second mortgage would not have to be repaid.
The program is aimed at qualified, first-time homebuyers.
Communities involved are: Providence, Central Falls, Cranston, East Providence, Johnston, North Providence, Pawtucket, Warwick, West Warwick and Woonsocket.
The program, announced Thursday, is expected to help about 135 eligible Rhode Island homebuyers. Funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. The program was made available through $2.7 million in federal funds.
First-time homebuyers who plan to purchase a one-family, up to a four-family multiple residence, or a condo must obtain a Rhode Island Housing first mortgage through a participating lender, or through Rhode Island Housing itself.
The properties that qualify have to have been the subject of a particular event, including a foreclosure, a short sale by a mortgage lender, a receivership or a transfer by deed in lieu of foreclosure, according to Rhode Island Housing.
For information, contact Rhode Island Housing at 401-457-1180 or visit the project's site at RenewedHomesRI.org. Loan options are available on the loans.rhodeislandhousing.orgwebsite.]]>