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3M hit with $22.5 million verdict in latest U.S. military earplug trial

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A federal jury on Friday awarded $22.5 million to a U.S. Army veteran who alleged that combat earplugs sold by 3M Co caused him to suffer hearing loss and tinnitus, the biggest verdict yet in massive litigation over the product.

Jurors in Pensacola, Florida, sided with former U.S. Army soldier Theodore Finley in the latest trial to result from more than 272,000 lawsuits by servicemembers and veterans who say defective earplugs made by 3M caused their hearing damage.

Finley, who used the earplugs while serving in the Army from 2006 to 2014, was awarded $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages. The verdict surpassed the $13 million jurors awarded a U.S. Army sergeant last month.

The trial was the eighth so far to reach a verdict, with plaintiffs in four other cases winning more than $29 million combined. Juries sided with 3M in three others, and two more trials are underway, with more to come.

“We will ensure that 3M is held fully accountable for putting profits over the safety of those who served our nation,” the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs – Bryan Aylstock, Shelley Hutson and Christopher Seeger – said in a joint statement.

3M called the verdict disappointing. It said it will continue defending itself and that 3M remained confident the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 was safe and effective.

Aearo Technologies LLC, which 3M bought in 2008, developed the product. Plaintiffs allege the company hid design flaws, fudged test results and failed to provide instruction in the proper use of the earplugs.

For the earplugs to work properly, the flexible cups on the side protruding from the ear sometimes had to be folded back. If not, the plugs would slowly loosen and noise would seep in. Veterans contend 3M failed to convey the need to fold the plugs.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in BostonEditing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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US shares rebound after Russia-Ukraine tensions hit markets – BBC News

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Ukrainian serviceman from the 25th Air Assault Battalion

Getty Images

European markets dropped sharply on Monday as concerns about military tension between Russia and Ukraine and interest rate rises prompted sell-offs.

In London, the FTSE 100 fell more than 2.6%, while exchanges in Germany and France slid nearly 4%.

But shares in the US staged a rebound and closed in positive territory despite falling more than 2% earlier.

The swings came ahead of a meeting of the US central bank and amid warnings of a potential invasion in Ukraine.

Nato on Monday said it was putting forces on standby, after Russia deployed some 100,000 troops and heavy armour at the Ukrainian border. On Sunday, the situation prompted the US, the UK and Australia to order diplomats’ families to leave Kyiv.

“Ukraine clearly is a concern that’s weighing on the markets today,” said Darren Schuringa, chief executive officer of investment adviser ASYMmetric ETFs.

“This will continue to weigh on the markets for the foreseeable future until there’s some type of resolution and more clarity as to what the outcome looks like.”

Concerns about inflation, Covid and other issues have led to three weeks of consecutive declines on US markets.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has fallen more than 10% from its previous high – a drop considered a market “correction” – and the broad-based S&P 500 is flirting with a similar decline.

Meanwhile, the price of Bitcoin, which hit a high of $69,000 in November, has almost halved since, dropping below $35,000 on Monday, before recovering ground to more than $36,000.

Monday saw moments of torrid selling piling onto January’s losses, with the Dow down more than 1,000 points – nearly 3% – at one point.

But the index, which includes many of America’s biggest companies, closed nearly 0.3% higher.

The Nasdaq reversed a more than 3% drop to end 0.6% higher, while the S&P 500 finished 0.3% up.

The swings come as investors wait for action by the US central bank, which has said it expects to respond to soaring US inflation by raising interest rates this year.

Such moves typically depress stock prices by making other kinds of investments more attractive.

Investors have also been also selling shares as they try to position themselves ahead of a wave of reports from companies about their end-of-year performance.

Last week, Netflix, one of the biggest names to share results so far, disappointed analysts with its forecast for the upcoming months, prompting shares to plunge more than 20%.

The declines were seen as a possible warning about other firms.

Walt Disney, which has been focusing on its streaming strategy to compete with Netflix, was among the biggest initial losers on the Dow on Monday, down more than 4% at one point, while Tesla, which reports this week, fell more than 6%.

Shares in both firms later recovered, with Disney ending flat and Tesla down about 1.5%.

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Stocks plunge into the red then rebound as uncertainty returns to markets – CBC News

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Stock markets plunged into the red before recovering to finish the day in positive territory on Monday, as fears over war in Ukraine and higher interest rates in the U.S. and Canada took investors on a wild ride.

Early in the afternoon, the Dow was off by more than 1,000 points, or about three per cent, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq was faring even worse as investors worried about the prospect of war in Ukraine.

“What really sparked the sell-off today is the fact that we seem to be marching inexorably towards a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia,” Dennis Mitchell, CEO of Toronto-based investment firm Starlight Capital, said in an interview.

Canadian shares were not exempt from the sell-off, as the benchmark Canadian index was on track for its worst day in months, down more than 600 points, or three per cent at one point.

In the afternoon, however, the market changed direction and investors started buying up shares. All three major U.S. stock groupings, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, finished the day in positive territory.

“The selling that you’re seeing today is usually a good indication that this is a good buying moment,” Mitchell said.

After falling nearly three per cent by midday, the TSX mounted a comeback of its own in the afternoon but fell short of reversing its losses, and closed the day down 50 points to 20,571.

Dianne Swonk, chief economist with Grant Thornton, said the pandemic has been a time of unprecedented volatility for almost two solid years now, and that can sometimes result in wild swings for stock prices.

“This is giving us a lot of turbulence out there,” she said in an interview, “and the problem is it it ups the uncertainty at a time when uncertainty is already high.”

Higher rates coming

Prior to Monday’s trading, the major event of the week was slated to be the Bank of Canada’s interest rate decision on Wednesday. Expectations are growing that central banks will soon have to raise their interest rates to keep a lid on inflation, which has run up to the highest level we’ve seen in decades lately.

All things being equal, higher interest rates are bad news for stocks because they raise the cost of borrowing. That gives companies and investors less of an incentive to borrow to invest.

Currently, the market is pricing in about a 60 per cent chance of a rate hike in Canada as soon as this week. If one doesn’t come this time around, it’s a near certainty to happen next time the bank meets in March, according to trading in investments known as swaps.

Swonk said some of the uncertainty comes from figuring out how central banks are going to try to find the right balance between keeping a lid on inflation but also not harming the economy that is still being hit by Omicron.

“They don’t want to put the flame out on the economy, but they certainly want to cool it off a bit,” Swonk said. “That’s left many people unsure of how fast rates will go up.”

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Declining U.S. Petroleum Inventories Push Oil Prices Higher – OilPrice.com

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Declining U.S. Petroleum Inventories Push Oil Prices Higher | OilPrice.com


Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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  • U.S. commercial petroleum stocks have fallen in most of the weeks in the past year and a half.
  • The continuously declining U.S. petroleum stocks over the past year suggest that supply has not caught up with rebounding demand.
  • Petroleum stocks at lower than seasonal norms have contributed to market tightness alongside the OPEC+ group’s inability to fully meet its rising monthly production quotas.

Petroleum inventories

Despite a crude oil inventory build in the latest EIA report, U.S. commercial petroleum stocks have declined in most of the weeks in the past year and a half, falling below seasonal averages for the past five years and even below the five-year average before the pandemic.   The continuously declining U.S. petroleum stocks over the past year suggest that supply has not caught up with rebounding demand as U.S. exploration and production companies have not responded with a spike in new drilling activity to the rising crude oil prices.  

Petroleum stocks at lower than seasonal norms have contributed to market tightness alongside the OPEC+ group’s inability to fully meet its rising monthly production quotas and rising global demand as economies look to return to normal. 

Global oil demand has held resilient during the Omicron wave so far, prompting the International Energy Agency (IEA) to revise higher its 2022 demand growth estimate by 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) last week. 

In the United States, the latest EIA data as of January 14 showed a small crude inventory build of 500,000 barrels and another large increase in gasoline stocks, which added 5.9 million barrels. This follows a combined build in gasoline inventories of over 18 million barrels for the previous two weeks. 

Despite the increase, gasoline stocks in the U.S. are now in line with the five-year average 2015-2019, before the pandemic, according to estimates by Reuters market analyst John Kemp.

Compared to the latest five-year average, which includes the pandemic years, gasoline stocks are now about 2 percent below the five-year average for this time of year, EIA data showed.

The data also pointed to the fact that total commercial petroleum inventories in the United States decreased by 1.5 million barrels in the week ending January 14. U.S. crude oil inventories are about 8 percent below the five-year average for this time of year. Distillate fuel inventories are about 16 percent below the five-year average, and propane/propylene inventories stood at some 7 percent below the five-year average, according to the EIA. That’s including the pandemic years. 

Compared to the 2015-2019 average, total U.S. commercial inventories are 4 percent below the pre-pandemic five-year seasonal average—the lowest level for this time of the year since 2015, Reuters’ Kemp has estimated. 

In December 2021, for example, U.S. petroleum demand returned to 21.1 million bpd with more people driving places instead of flying, the American Petroleum Institute’s chief economist Dean Foreman said in API’s latest Monthly Statistical Report

Related: The Nickel Supply Squeeze Could Send Prices Even Higher

“By contrast, the production of U.S crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) remained flat overall, with a minimal response by investment and drilling even as oil prices returned to more than $80 per barrel in January,” Foreman wrote. 

“Lower domestic oil production has also required refiners to use oil that’s already been produced and consequently reduced U.S. crude oil inventories to below their five-year range,” he added. 

At the end of December, crude oil inventories were below the five-year range and at their lowest for December since 2014, API’s report showed. Moreover, total inventories were at their lowest for December since 2017.

Lower-than-normal petroleum inventories have been putting an upside pressure on U.S. and international oil prices, which hit the highest since October 2014 last week. 

The tighter market these days is reflected in the rising backwardation in the futures prices of both major benchmarks, WTI and Brent, with prompt prices higher and rising compared to those further out in time.

Robust demand, insufficient investment in new supply, low inventories, and declining global spare production capacity have prompted major Wall Street banks – including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley – to forecast that oil prices could hit $100 per barrel as soon as this year. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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