WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. factories increased production for a third straight month in October, as stronger output of primary metals and furniture offset declines in auto production. The Federal Reserve says manufacturing output rose 0.3 percent last month, up from 0.1 percent in September. Factory output is the biggest component of industrial production, which also includes mining and utilities. Overall industrial production fell 0.1 percent after a 0.7 percent September gain. The mining sector, which includes oil and gas drilling, declined 1.6 percent after six months of gains. Utility output fell 1.1 percent. Manufacturing output has risen in five of the past six months. Factories have also stepped up hiring over the past three months, according to the government's October employment report released last week.
NEW YORK (AP) - The stock market is opening higher, a day after the nominee to head the Federal Reserve signaled she would continue the central bank's effort to pump up the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 13 points, 0.1 percent, to 15,890 in early trading Friday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained one point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,792. The Nasdaq eased three points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,969. Fed chair nominee Janet Yellen said Thursday that it was important not to remove support when the economic recovery remained fragile. Agilent Technologies jumped $3.61, or 7 percent, to $54.1. The company, which makes scientific instruments, reported on Thursday that its fiscal fourth-quarter adjusted earnings beat expectations. Its shares rose the most in the S&P 500 index in early trading.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. Postal Service says it lost $5 billion over the past 12 months. It's the seventh straight year the agency has reported a net loss. Postal officials say the loss increases the urgency for Congress to let them end Saturday mail delivery and reduce payments for retiree health benefits. The Postal Service has struggled for years with declining mail volume and required payments of $5.6 billion annually in health care costs for future retirees. It has defaulted on three of those payments. Revenue from package delivery continued to grow, rising 8 percent last year. But that's not enough to offset losses in first class mail, which has been the post office's most profitable service.
CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) - The latest version of Apple's iPad Mini is going on sale. The new Mini is the first version of the smaller iPad to feature a high-resolution display that Apple calls Retina. It also includes a power-efficient A7 chip, along with faster wireless and expanded LTE cellular connectivity. It's available in silver or gray. Wi-Fi-only models will start at $399 for a 16-gigabyte gigabyte model, while cellular-capable models will start at $529 for the 16-gigabyte model. The new Minis are available starting Tuesday through Apple's online and retail stores, along with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and select retailers.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan is working with auto industry and government officials on plans to bring a fleet of networked, driverless vehicles to Ann Arbor by 2021. The goal of the Mobility Transformation Center was detailed in an announcement Friday. Peter Sweatman, director of the Ann Arbor school's Transportation Research Institute, says that the project would make the city a leader in 21st century mobility. He says an aim is to ensure that such vehicles can be safe, effective and commercially successful. A connected vehicle project, called Safety Pilot, involves about 3,000 area residents in networked vehicles. And last month, University of Michigan officials green-lighted a $6.5 million facility for testing automated vehicles that's designed to simulate a cityscape.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000 last week, bringing applications to pre-recession levels. The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average dropped 9,250 to 348,250. The average was elevated by the 16-day partial government shutdown and backlogs in California that occurred because of computer upgrades. Weekly applications have fallen for four straight weeks. While companies are firing fewer workers, they are not hiring many new ones. Falling applications are typically followed by more job gains. But hiring has slowed in recent months, rather than accelerated. In a surprise, the economy grew at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, according to a separate government report released Thursday. That's up from 2.5 percent in the April-June quarter.
PLANO, Texas (AP) - J.C. Penney says a key sales barometer rose in October for the first time in nearly two years. Its stock climbed in Thursday premarket trading. Sales at stores open at least a year edged up 0.9 percent last month - the first increase since December 2011. This metric is a key indicator of a retailer's health, because it measures growth at ongoing locations by excluding results from stores recently opened or closed. In September, the figure fell 4 percent for the Plano, Texas company. CEO Mike Ullman said in a statement that the October increase came despite the federal government shutdown and tough consumer environment. J.C. Penney Co. said shoppers responded well to promotions and better inventory levels. Online sales climbed 37.6 percent from a year ago.
DETROIT (AP) - More than half of child booster seats that went on sale this year earned a top rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The institute, which is funded by insurers, ranked 31 new models. Nineteen earned the top rating of "best bet," which means they correctly position a 4- to 8-year-old child to use the regular shoulder and lap belts in almost any car.
Britax, Evenflo, Ferrari, Graco, Harmony, Recaro and Safety 1st all had seats on the institute's "best bet" list. Both booster seats with high backs and those without backs performed well.
One seat - the Ferrari Beline SP - got a "good bet" rating when used in its high-back mode. That means the fit is acceptable in most vehicles. Eleven seats got a "check fit" rating, which means the seats may provide a good fit in some vehicles but parents should make sure.
A belt fits correctly when the lap portion lies flat across the child's upper thighs and the shoulder portion crosses snugly over the middle of the shoulder. The institute said children in booster seats are much more likely to escape serious injury in a crash than those without boosters. Children should use boosters until they're big enough for adult belts to fit properly.
The cheapest "best bet" was the Graco Connext backless seat, which costs $18. The most expensive, the Ferrari Beline SP, which has both high-back and backless modes, is $300.
The institute said seats have made big improvements since it began testing them five years ago. In all, there are 58 seats ranked on its website, including seats that weren't new in 2013. The group tested the boosters based on how they positioned a child-sized test dummy to use a car's seat belts.
There are only two booster seats the institute warns people not to buy: The Safety 1st All-In-One and Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite. Both are made by Dorel Juvenile Group, which has several other seats on the "best bet" list.
The institute said the seats - which can be used in rear-facing mode for infants as well as forward-facing mode for young children - aren't recommended because the lap belt comes up too far on the abdomen and the shoulder belt is too far out on the shoulder.
Dorel Juvenile Group said in a statement that the seats comply with all federal safety requirements and are recommended by the institute in some of their other modes.
NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. dollar is unchanged against other North American currencies in New York trading. It's worth 1.04 Canadian dollars, unchanged from late Wednesday. And the dollar is trading at 13.14 Mexican pesos, unchanged from late Wednesday.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - The rubber duck has squeaked out a win for a place in the National Toy Hall of Fame. The bath toy joins the ancient game of chess in the class of 2013 inducted Thursday. The pair beat out 10 other finalists for a spot in the 15-year-old hall. The finalists that didn't make the cut include bubbles, the board game Clue and little green Army men. Chess is one of the world's oldest games, tracing its history to an ancient Indian war game. Hall officials say no one knows exactly who hatched the rubber duck, though squeak toys have been around since the 1800's. The National Toy Hall of Fame is located inside The Strong Museum in Rochester.