The daily business briefing: September 20, 2016

Harold Maass
A Google self-driving car in California
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


Southeast gas crisis eases

A surge in gasoline futures eased on Monday as fuel deliveries began reaching gas stations across the Southeast after a leak shut down an Alabama pipeline. Colonial Pipeline made emergency deliveries using a pipeline normally used for diesel. The company said it was building a bypass for the damaged section of its main line, which distributes 1.3 million barrels of fuel a day from Gulf Coast refineries. The bypass is expected to be completed next week, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said. Gasoline shortages and price increases were reported in Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee as motorists rushed to fill up, fearing an extended supply problem. [Bloomberg]


Fed starts two-day meeting, keeping investors on edge

Federal Reserve policy makers on Tuesday start a two-day meeting, and economists expect them to announce Wednesday that they are leaving the Fed's benchmark interest rate unchanged. The U.S. central bank has left the rate at 0.38 percent since December, when it hiked the rate for the first time in nearly a decade. U.S. stock futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Tuesday as investors await indications on where rates are headed, and when. The Bank of Japan also is holding a meeting on monetary policy that could influence markets. [Reuters, MarketWatch]


Unilever acquires Seventh Generation

Unilever agreed on Monday to buy Seventh Generation, a maker of eco-conscious cleaning products. The deal reportedly is worth about $700 million. The acquisition of the Vermont-based company is part of a push by Unilever to increase its share of the market for natural products. The addition to Unilever's product portfolio, which already includes Dove soaps, "will help us meet rising demand for high-quality products with a purpose," Nitin Paranjpe, president of Unilever's home-care division, said in a statement. [Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal]


Sears Holdings announces more Kmart closings

Sears Holdings Corp plans to close another 68 Kmart stores, in addition to the 70 closures it announced in January. The latest cuts mean that the company, which had 941 locations as of Jan. 30, now plans to shut down 14 percent of its outlets. Sears Holdings has already shut about a third of its Kmart locations — or roughly 400 of the discount stores — over the last five years. Sears, once the nation's largest retailer, has posted just one quarterly profit over the last four years as it struggled to compete with Walmart and online retailers. [Reuters]


Obama administration releases guidelines on driverless cars

The Obama administration on Monday unveiled guidelines for automakers as they race to bring automated vehicles to market. "We envision in the future, you can take your hands off the wheel, and your commute becomes restful or productive instead of frustrating and exhausting," said Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council. He said that highly automated vehicles "will save time, money, and lives." Federal auto safety regulators plan to oversee the software and other driverless car technology, while states will handle licensing drivers and cars, which Obama administration officials said would "avoid a patchwork of state laws." [The New York Times]