Morning Business Memo…
Wal-Mart is announcing a plan to hire almost any military veteran who wants a job - one of the biggest job commitments ever made by a company. America's largest retailer expects to hire more than 100,000 veterans in the next five years. The program will begin on Memorial Day and the offer is being extended to any vet who received an honorable discharge from the military within a year of applying for a job. First lady Michelle Obama, who has led a White House effort to encourage businesses to hire vets, called the Wal-Mart decision "historic." Since the recession, unemployment rates for troops discharged from active duty have been higher than the US average.
Millions of Americans are using their retirement savings to pay today's bills. More than one in four workers with a 401(k) plan and other retirement savings accounts use them to pay current expenses. According to a Washington Post investigation: "A large and growing share of American workers are tapping their retirement savings accounts for non-retirement needs, raising broad questions about the effectiveness of one of the most important savings vehicles for old age."
One of the biggest trends at this week's International Auto Show in Detroit is fuel efficiency. More companies are working on new technology that will help consumers lower their gas bills. "I think we're a year or so away from every single major segment having alternative powered technology," says Larry Dominique, executive vice president at TrueCar.com. More hybrids, plug-ins and clean diesel models have been introduced or are on the way. "You are seeing this rapid growth of these technologies and I think the cost is starting to come down." Dominique says one big reason why demand for gas is falling is because new cars and trucks are more fuel efficient, leading to "348 million fewer gallons of gasoline used in 2012 versus 2011 for the same number of miles driven."
A shot across the bow? There have been more calls on Congress to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a US default. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says not raising the ceiling would be like a family trying to improve its credit rating by not paying its credit card bills. Bernanke pointed out that the debt ceiling increase is to pay for commitments already made by Congress. The ratings firm Fitch says this morning that any delay in raising the debt ceiling would prompt a formal review of the US government's triple A credit rating. "Fitch Ratings' expectation is that Congress will raise the debt ceiling and that the risk of a U.S. sovereign default remains extremely low," says a statement. "Nonetheless, and in line with our previous guidance, failure to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner will prompt a formal review of the U.S. sovereign ratings."
Facebook says it has a big announcement to make today. The company tells reporters to "come see what we're building." The event will be held at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. ABC's Joanna Stern has the best preview we've seen of what could be coming.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio ABCNews.com twitter.com/daviesabc