The Royal Mail has been around since the time of Henry VIII, but now, unlike 500 years ago, it must compete with Federal Express and UPS even as traditional "snail mail" declines.


Oil up $11 per barrel; expect gas to follow

NEW YORK - The price of oil has shot up $11 a barrel in two weeks on rising demand in the U.S. and political upheaval in the Middle East.

Gas prices are about to follow.

There's another factor: Bottlenecks that had trapped increasing amounts of domestically produced oil in the middle of the country are loosening. As that oil reaches the coasts, it can command prices more in line with costlier imported crudes. An improving U.S. economy is also supporting higher oil prices.

Royal snail mail to be privatized

LONDON - The Royal Mail can trace its history back 500 years to the time of Henry VIII, and its bright red "pillarboxes" grace streets across the UK from the Scilly Isles to Scotland.

But change is coming as the British icon seeks to adapt to the decline in traditional "snail mail" and compete with the likes of Federal Express and UPS.

The UK's coalition government laid out plans Wednesday to privatize the Royal Mail. Analysts have speculated that the company could be worth 3 billion pounds ($4.5 billion). The government plans to sell a majority stake but has yet to decide on the exact amount - it'll leave that to market conditions.

Fed meeting shows sharp divisions

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve officials seem far from a consensus on the question that's consumed investors for months: When will the Fed slow its bond purchases?

Minutes of their June 18-19 policy meeting show many of the 19 officials felt the job market's improvement would have to be sustained before the Fed would scale back its bond purchases, which have helped support spending and growth, lifted stocks and kept mortgage rates near record lows.

Many thought purchases should extend into 2014.

Firms approve pact for Bangladesh safety

A group of nearly 20 North American retailers and clothing makers has agreed to a five-year pact aimed at improving safety conditions at Bangladesh factories.

The group - which includes Walmart Stores Inc., Gap Inc. and Target Corp. - agreed to inspect all the factories they do business with within a year and set up basic safety standards within three months. They're also requiring that the inspection results of the factories be made public. They will then develop action plans for improvement. The group has provided a total of $42 million so far in funding.

PC shipments falling

Worldwide shipments of personal computers fell 11 percent in the April-June period, according to data from research firms Gartner and IDC, as people continued to migrate to tablets and other mobile devices.

The Associated Press