First it was a tax hike. Now consumers are looking at a higher than expected gasoline bill for 2013.
The government on Tuesday boosted its forecast for gasoline prices this year by 11 cents to an average of $3.55 a gallon. That would be the second-highest annual average ever, behind last year's $3.63 a gallon.
The revised forecast follows a more than 10 percent increase in gas prices since the middle of December. The Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, says the average gas price jumped from $3.25 on Dec. 17 to $3.61 Monday.
Still, there is some good news: The government expects oil prices to drop because of increased production in countries outside of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. For instance, crude oil production in the U.S. is expected to grow 13 percent to 7.25 million barrels a day this year.
As a result, the government says, gas should peak at an average $3.73 a gallon in May, 21 cents below last year's high of $3.94 in early April.
January surplus shrinks deficit: The federal government reported a rare surplus for January and is on track to run the lowest annual deficit since President Barack Obama took office. The Treasury Department said Tuesday that the government took in a surplus of $2.9 billion in January, helped by nearly $9 billion more in Social Security taxes. Last month Congress and the White House allowed a temporary cut in Social Security taxes to expire. The monthly surplus was the first since September.
Senate panel approves Hagel: A bitterly divided Senate panel on Tuesday approved President Barack Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the nation's defense secretary in a rancorous session at which Republicans questioned the former GOP senator's truthfulness and challenged his patriotism. On a party-line vote of 14-11, the Armed Services Committee voted to send the nomination to the full Senate, where Republicans have threatened to delay a vote on the president's choice to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Will be far from Vatican: The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI will spend his final day as pontiff attending a morning farewell ceremony with his cardinals, then fly off by helicopter in the early evening to his papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. That timetable means Benedict will be far from the Vatican when he ceases being pope at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said today that no formal or symbolic act was needed to make his resignation official at that time, because Benedict had already done all that was required to resign under church law by affirming he had taken the decision freely.
Synod leader apologizes: Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President Matthew Harrison has apologized for reprimanding a Newtown, Conn., pastor who participated in an interfaith prayer vigil in apparent violation of the church's constitution. Rev. Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church offered the benediction at the Dec. 16 vigil with other religious leaders -- including Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i -- for victims of the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Media reports on the reprimand and Morris' apology incited outrage among some bloggers and posters on social media sites who expressed disapproval with the synod's decision. On Monday, Harrison posted a video apology on the synod website saying his actions had only made things worse.
Judge tosses lawsuit: Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina in Ingham County judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Michigan's right-to-work law. The Lansing State Journal reported Aquilina rejected the suit on Monday because it should have been filed directly with the state Court of Appeals. She didn't rule on the underlying legal challenge. The right-to-work law takes effect in late March and makes it illegal to require financial support of a union as a condition of employment.
Syria shipments will continue: Russia will continue supplying weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad's government despite the country's escalating civil war, the head of Russia's state arms trader said today. Anatoly Isaikin, the director of Rosoboronexport, said that Russia sees no need to stop arms trade with Syria as it isn't prohibited by the United Nations. He dismissed Western criticism of Russian arms sales to Assad's regime, saying that his company has only delivered defensive weapons.
Government seeks changes: The makers of a popular carbonated alcoholic drink guzzled on college campuses are going to be changing the look of its Four Loko cans to settle the government's charges of deceptive marketing. The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that Chicago-based Phusion Projects will be required to put an "alcohol facts panel" on the back of flavored malt beverage cans containing more than two servings of alcohol. The panel, similar to "nutritional facts" labels found on foods, would disclose the alcohol by volume and the number of servings in the container. Phusion also will have to redesign cans of drinks containing more than 21⁄2 servings of alcohol so they can be resealed and the drink wouldn't have to be consumed in one sitting.
JCPenney ups credit facility: JCPenney Co. has amended its bank credit facility to increase its borrowing capacity as it looks to finance its multiyear transformation. The department store chain said Tuesday it expanded the credit facility to $1.85 billion and got an option to increase that by another $400 million. Penney's previous facility had $1.75 billion of borrowing capacity, according to Deborah Weinswig of Citi Investment Research.