Here’s what’s shaking:
U.S. CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT:
The U.S. current account trade deficit narrowed in the July-September quarter to the smallest level since late 2010, but the improvement may not last.
The deficit fell to $107.5 billion in the third quarter, down 9 percent from the second quarter imbalance of $118.1 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. It was the lowest trade gap since the final three months of 2010.
The current account is the broadest measure of trade. It tracks the sale of merchandise and services between nations as well as investment flows.
The current account deficit hit an all-time high of $800.6 billion in 2006. It then shrank after a deep recession reduced U.S. demand for foreign goods by a greater amount than U.S. export sales diminished. The trade gap began widening again after the recession ended in June 2009.
The U.S. government has slapped Toyota Motor Corp. with a record $17.4 million fine for failing once again to quickly report problems to federal regulators and for delaying a safety recall.
The fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency that monitors vehicle safety, is the maximum allowed by law. It’s the fourth fine levied against Toyota in the past two years for similar infractions, and it’s the largest single fine ever assessed against a car company over safety defects. In 2010, Toyota paid a total of $48.8 million in fines for three violations.
The latest fine stems from a June recall of SUVs from Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand. About 154,000 of the 2010 Lexus Rx 350s and RX 450h models were recalled because the driver’s-side floor mats can trap the gas pedal and cause the vehicles to speed up without warning. The problem was similar to troubles from 2010 that prompted a series of embarrassing safety recalls by the company.
Toyota said it agreed to pay the penalty without admitting any violation of the law. It also pledged to strengthen data collection and evaluation to make sure it takes action more quickly.
As of this writing, oil and U.S. stocks are up:
Stocks are opening slightly higher on Wall Street.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17 points to 13,252 shortly after the opening bell Tuesday. The Dow rose 100 points the day before.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose two points to 1,432 and the Nasdaq composite rose 10 to 3,020.
Radio ratings provider Arbitron jumped 24 percent after the company agreed to bought by Nielsen, the television ratings service, for $1.3 billion.
The price of oil pushed towards $88 a barrel on Tuesday.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for January delivery was up 56 cents at $87.76 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 47 cents to close at $87.20 on Monday in New York.
In London, Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, was up 66 cents to $108.30 on the ICE Futures exchange.
Investors are monitoring fresh information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products.
Data for the week ending Dec. 14 are expected to show a draw of 2.3 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a build of 2 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts.
The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday, while the report from the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration – the market benchmark – will be out on Wednesday.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.