Toyota stopping output in UK, France for 9 days

Toyota said Friday it is stopping production at its factories in France and Britain for a total of nine days amid falling sales that the company partly attributed to its recent recall woes.

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The world’s No. 1 automaker will suspend output at it plant in France for four days starting April 6, said spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi. Toyota will also stop production at its two factories in Britain for five working days sometime in May.

“In France, we’re reviewing production because of the impact of recall problems,” Takeuchi said. The closures in Britain were part of previous plans, she said, but also due to sluggish car sales in Europe.

In early June, Toyota also plans to halt one of its two assembly lines at its Burnaston plant in Britain for another five working days, Takeuchi said.

The stoppages come after Toyota recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally over braking problems in its Prius hybrid, sticky gas pedals and pedals that can get stuck under floor mats. [Read the full article]

State unemployment rates stabilized last month, reflecting a broader nationwide trend, according to a Labor Department report Friday. Sixteen states said their jobless rate was unchanged in February, seven reported declines and 27 reported increases.

That’s an improvement from January, when 30 states saw their rates rise, and much better than December, when joblessness rose in 43 states.

The nationwide unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in February, the same as the previous month. Layoffs are slowing as the economy is recovering and there are signs that employers are stepping up hiring.

The economy is likely to generate more than 150,000 new jobs this month, according to a survey of economists by Thomson Reuters. The national figures for March will be released next Friday. The jobless rate is forecast to remain at 9.7 percent. [Read the full article]

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, right, arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Friday March 26, 2010. EU leaders hold the second day of a summit that so far has focused on Greek economic woes, with eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund pledging financial support in a deal that aims to halt the government debt crisis undermining Europe’s currency union. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

A hard-won deal to provide a safety net for Greece provided the debt-ridden country with some welcome relief Friday, with its cost of borrowing on international markets edging down slightly and labor unions at home saying they would hold off on any further strikes — at least for now. [Read the full article]

Motorists filling up for weekend driving caught a small break at the pump Friday, as average retail gasoline prices held steady at the same level as a week ago.

Nationwide average retail prices shed less than a penny overnight to $2.811 a gallon. Pump prices are 13.3 cents higher than a month ago and 80.2 cents more expensive than the same time last year, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Motorists are paying 16 cents per gallon more now than they were at the start of the year.

Gasoline prices have climbed in recent weeks as refineries began producing more expensive blends to reduce pollution in warmer weather. On Monday, the national average gasoline price was $2.82 a gallon, the highest since October 2008.

Energy analysts and the government predict prices will reach $3 or more by summer, as more drivers hit the road.

Some of the lowest gasoline prices are in Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and the Gulf Coast region. [Read the full article]

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