China agrees to unleaded toys

Chinese regulators agreed to ban the use of lead paint in toys exported to the U.S. Meeting with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, China pledged to increase inspections and help its exporters comply with U.S. safety rules. Lead paint has been banned for U.S.-made toys since 1978, but it is still legal in China. ( But as Chinese manufacturers take the blame for the recent toy recalls, some analysts are also starting to point fingers at U.S. toy companies. “Design flaws do account for more recalls than lead paint,” said Carter Keithley of the Toy Industry Association. “It is unfortunate.” (The Washington Post)

Health premiums outpace wages

The cost of employer-sponsored health insurance premiums has risen 6.1 percent this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The increase is less than last year’s 7.7 percent hike, but it exceeds salary increases. Since 2001, premiums have spiked 78 percent, compared to a 19 percent rise in wages and a 17 percent increase in inflation. The average annual premium for a family plan is now $12,106, with the worker contributing $3,281. (Los Angeles Times, free registration required) “For that kind of money, you could buy a compact car every year,” said Kaiser Foundation President Drew Altman. (The New York Times, free registration required)

Oil hits a new ceiling

Oil futures closed at a new high of $78.23 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday, and rose another 13 cents in after-hours trading. Analysts tied the rise to a likely decrease in inventories going into a high-demand winter season. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) OPEC voted yesterday to up oil production by 500,000 barrels a day, but traders shrugged. “The Saudis convinced other OPEC countries that $80 a barrel was a ceiling,” said Vera de Ladoucette of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. “They were really worried about contributing to the world economic crisis.” (The New York Times, free registration required)

Courting tech-savvy grown-ups

Fresh off an obsession with teenagers and 20-somethings, Silicon Valley start-ups are starting to woo a new demographic: the AAPR set. Money is flowing into dating, news, photo-sharing, and social networking sites for Web users 55 and up. Whereas younger surfers have the advantage of attracting top ad dollars from Madison Avenue, there are three times as many baby boomers as there are teenagers. And older users, among other things, stick around. “Teens are tire kickers—they hang around, cost you money, and then leave,” says blogger and venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky. (The New York Times, free registration required)