Morning Business Memo

Feb 16, 2012 8:09am

Higher oil prices and the rising cost of gasoline might be emerging as new threats to the U.S. economy, as most other economic reports point to growth.

Global oil is now more than $101 a barrel, the highest level in five weeks. The cost of crude has been pushed higher by tensions with Iran. Motorists are already paying more. Gas prices are at their highest ever for this time of year. Average prices nationwide rose about 12 cents a gallon in the past month.

Stock market averages are down for the second day in a row, with fresh concerns about European debt problems. There’s still confusion about whether Greece will get its bailout to avoid a default next month.

Borrowing rates rose this morning for Italy and Spain, a sign of renewed investor concerns that both countries could be dragged back into the debt crisis. Doubts have grown in the past few days that the bailout deal might be unraveling.

Relations between Greece and its partners in the eurozone hit a new low. Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said there were some who wanted Greece out of the euro while his counterpart in Germany, Wolfgang Schaeuble, even urged the postponement of elections in Greece, which are due in April.

More U.S. foreclosures: Banks took back more homes last month than in December, the latest sign the crisis is not going away and continues to be a drag on the housing market. The foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac predicts the accelerating pace of foreclosures will involve 1 million home seizures this year. The company’s new report says foreclosures rose 8 percent nationally last month from December, but were down 15 percent from a year earlier.

Smartphone-app developers gather the information in users’ personal address books and store it on their own personal computers. The New York Times reported that the address books in smartphones “is free for app developers to take at will, often without the phone owner’s knowledge.” The practice has been questioned by members of Congress, who want new curbs on the use of private information on mobile devices.

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