Energy exports reduce trade deficit to 3-year low
WASHINGTON - A jump in energy-related exports and a steep decline in oil imports lowered the U.S. trade deficit in December to nearly a three-year low.
The improvement suggests the economy grew in the October-December quarter instead of shrinking as the government estimated last week.
A brighter outlook for trade also illustrates how a boom in oil and gas production is reducing crude oil imports and making the U.S. a leader in the export of fuels. And it shows that higher domestic sales of fuel-efficient cars are lowering dependence on oil.
Lay's test-crunches 3 fan-nominated flavors
NEW YORK - The next Lay's potato chip will taste like chicken and waffles. Or cheesy garlic bread. Or Sriracha hot sauce.
Lay's is letting potato chip lovers decide which one of the three will be its newest flavor. All of them will be sold at retailers nationwide starting next week. After trying them, fans have until May to vote. The flavor with the most votes will stay on store shelves.
Lay's Chicken & Waffles, Cheesy Garlic Bread and Sriracha were suggested by three people through the company's "Do Us a Flavor" campaign. A panel of chefs and flavor experts looked though 3.8 million submissions.
Fans will have three ways to vote for the finalists: through Lay's Facebook page, by texting "vote" to 24477 or through Twitter using the hashtags #SaveChickenWaffles, #SaveGarlicBread or #SaveSriracha.
The person who submitted the winning flavor will win $1 million, or one percent of the chip's 2013 sales, whichever is more. The runners-up will win $50,000.
Coal sales investigated by feds; no violations yet
BILLINGS, Mont. - The U.S. Interior Department is investigating whether mining companies are skirting royalty rules as they increase exports of coal to Asia, but no violations have yet been issued, federal officials disclosed Friday.
The investigation is focused on companies that use affiliates or brokers to sell coal from mines in the Western U.S. to customers in Asia. That's when the parent company pays government royalties based on the mine price, then the affiliate ships the fuel overseas where it's sold for many times the original price.
Supercomputer's prowess ready for doctors, insurers
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Dr. Watson is accepting new patients. The Watson supercomputer is graduating from its medical residency and is being offered commercially to doctors and health insurance companies, IBM said Friday.
IBM Corp., the health insurer WellPoint Inc. and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center announced two Watson-based applications - one to help diagnose and treat lung cancer and one to help manage health insurance decisions and claims.
Both applications take advantage of the speed, huge database and language skill the computer demonstrated in defeating human "Jeopardy!" players two years ago.
US wholesale stockpiles off slightly in December
WASHINGTON - U.S. wholesalers cut their stockpiles slightly, 0.1 percent, in December while their sales were unchanged, suggesting businesses were cautious at the end of a weak quarter, the Commerce Department said.
The Associated Press