Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Today's Headlines


- Oil extracted from tar sands in Canada can be made a clean energy source, and the U.S. will work with its northern neighbor to develop the technology, President Barack Obama said. A joint effort by the U.S. and Canada, its biggest trading partner, on ways to capture and store carbon dioxide underground would “be good for everybody,” Obama said yesterday in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Conservationists on both sides of the border have called on Obama to reject any bid to exempt tar-sands oil from proposed climate-protection rules. Government officials in Canada say restrictions on oil-sands exports would increase U.S. dependence on oil from unfriendly countries.

- Crude oil for April delivery fell on speculation that a government report tomorrow will show U.S. supplies climbed for the 19th time in 21 weeks as the recession cuts demand. Prices for delivery in future months are higher than for earlier ones, a situation known as contango, allowing buyers to profit from hoarding oil. This has led to record stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, where New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude is delivered. Futures touched $32.40 on Dec. 19, the lowest since February 2004, after a report showed that Cushing stockpiles climbed 21 percent the week ended Dec. 12. “We have to closely watch the contract expiration on Friday because of the supply pressure at Cushing,” said John Kilduff, senior vice president of energy at MF Global Inc. in New York. “We are going to challenge December’s lows and then head into the $20s.”

- It takes only a few seconds to make history new again. Leaders around the world are talking up economic stimulus, channeling U.S. President Barack Obama, who in turn is channeling Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Obama bases his confidence on an old story line with some appealing parallels to today:

- Netflix Inc.(NFLX) may allow customers to pay solely for online-video streaming by late this year or 2010 as more viewers watch content directly from the Internet, Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said. The largest U.S. mail-order movie service has “millions” of its more than 10 million subscribers watching video online, and is investing more this year to expand its library available on the Internet. Netflix has more than 12,000 titles for immediate viewing, compared with 100,000 for DVD-by-mail.

- The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index may be bottoming as U.S. stocks approach the lows reached in November, say strategists who oversee $500 billion. The lowest U.S. equity prices relative to earnings in two decades and $787 billion in government spending and tax breaks will limit losses after the S&P 500 retreated for five of the last six weeks, according to Bob Doll, who helps manage $280 billion as chief investment officer for global equities at BlackRock Inc. James Paulsen, Wells Capital Management’s chief investment strategist, says the S&P 500 will rise after revisiting its November levels.

- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed creating a privately run fund to loan up to $250,000 to local start-up companies, among several plans to encourage entrepreneurship and attract new financial firms. The “angel fund” is one of 11 proposals to spur growth in the city’s financial services industry, Bloomberg said during the announcement at 160 Varick St., site of the first city-sponsored “business incubator,” with office space for about 100 entrepreneurs that costs about $200 a month.

Wall Street Journal:

- Even as many leisure travelers are cutting spending because of the bad economy, discount carrier Allegiant Airlines(ALGT) is adding new routes. Most traditional U.S. airlines, including low-fare carriers, posted losses in 2008 and are reducing their flights, but not Allegiant, a unit of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co. Based on its 11.1% operating margin, it was the most profitable U.S. airline last year. And on Wednesday, it plans to announce it will add Los Angeles to its roster of holiday destinations that can be reached nonstop from small U.S. cities.

- Seeking to combat stiffer competition from cheaper store brands, big-name food manufacturers, including Kraft Foods Inc.(KFT) and General Mills Inc.(GIS), are joining forces with retailers to promote their brands alongside private-label goods.

- Solar-Powered Cell Phones Spark Interest at Conference.

- Carly Fiorina: Small Businesses are Key to Economic Recovery.

- The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post have called on Illinois Democratic Sen. Roland Burris to resign following revelations this week that he tried to raise funds for impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich after he had testified otherwise during the governor’s impeachment proceedings.

- Hedge-funds outflows totaled an estimated $74 billion in January, the second-highest ever, though the amount is seen slowing as the funds' assets continue to shrink, according to data-tracker TrimTabs. Hedge-fund investors have taken out $315 billion since September, TrimTabs said, but it expects outflows to slow in February, mainly because the funds' asset base has shrunk by half in eight months. Event-driven funds posted the biggest outflows in January, at $19.8 billion. Merger-arbitrage funds were the only ones to report inflows, totaling $2 billion.

- The Obama administration announced new plans Wednesday to make it easier for up to nine million people to rework or refinance their mortgages, as the White House began an aggressive effort to stabilize the housing market.

- Asia is likely to have 7.2 million more jobless people in 2009 than last year due to fallout from the global economic crisis, the International Labor Organization said. It forecast the ranks of unemployed workers would likely balloon to 97 million in 2009 in Asia, the world economy's star performer in recent years but where a third of the population still live on a little more than $1 a day. That would raise the region's jobless rate to 5.1% from 4.8% last year. In the most pessimistic scenario, the number of unemployed could swell to 113 million, or 22.3 million more than last year, the ILO said in a report on the crisis's fallout in Asia.
- Tough times on Wall Street are reaching all the way to the highest levels of the most storied former investment bank—Goldman Sachs(GS)—as partners there are being forced to borrow money to cover margin calls, according to sources within the firm. Several Goldman Sachs partners have leveraged their Goldman Sachs stock to buy alternative investments such as hedge funds & private equity, and they have done so through their Goldman Sachs brokerage accounts.

NY Times:

- As interest in cleaning up power generation grows around the country, Alaska is fast becoming a testing ground for new technologies and an unlikely experiment in oil-state support for renewable energy. Alaskans once cast a wary eye on anything smacking of environmentalism, but today they are investing heavily in green power, not so much to reduce emissions as to save cash. Advocates of renewable energy here say Alaska, with its windy coasts, untapped rivers and huge tidal and wave resources, could quickly become a national leader. The state already generates 24 percent of its electricity from renewable sources — almost exclusively hydroelectric — and Ms. Palin last month announced a goal of 50 percent by 2025.

- Three lawmakers said Tuesday that they were returning campaign contributions from donors listed as employees of the PMA Group, a Washington lobbying firm whose founder is under investigation for purportedly funneling money through bogus donors. The decision by the three lawmakers — Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, and Representatives Zoe Lofgren of California and Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana, all Democrats — puts new pressure on others who received cash from the PMA Group and its founder, Paul Magliocchetti. Other big beneficiaries include Representative John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee; Representative James P. Moran, a Virginia Democrat on the panel; and Representative Alan B. Mollohan, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, among other things.

- Some Marketers Using Tattoos to Advertise.

Atlanta Journal Constitution:

- Coca-Cola Co.(KO) plans to try out a new fountain machine that can dispense more than 100 different beverages, using restaurants in Atlanta and Orange County, Calif., as the test sites.

Chicago Tribune:

- ESL Investments Inc., the hedge-fund firm run by Sears Holdings Corp. Chairman Edward Lampert, more than doubled its stake in CIT Group Inc.(CIT) in the fourth quarter, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. ESL owned 15.4 million shares of CIT as of Dec. 31, according to Tuesday's filing, up from 7.3 million in the third quarter. The Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund also bought 11.5 million shares of Genworth Financial Inc.(GNW).


- Google(GOOG) saw healthy growth in the number of search queries on its core U.S. search engine in January, according to comScore qSearch numbers that came out last night. Google’s query growth rate was 38.4 percent, compared to January, 2008, outpacing the industry’s overall 28.6 percent growth in search queries. Any way you slice it, people are still doing more and more searches, which suggests that the search market is far from saturated.

Rasmussen Reports:

- General Motors and Chrysler are back this week seeking $22 billion more in federal help, but 64% of U.S. voters are opposed to providing any additional taxpayer-backed loans for the embattled automakers. Twenty-four percent (24%) support more loans for GM and Chrysler, and 11% are undecided in a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.


- In three months since Election Day, at least a half-dozen prominent journalists have taken jobs working for the federal government. Journalists, including some of those who’ve jumped ship, say it’s better to have a solid job in government than a shaky job — or none at all — in an industry that’s fading fast. But conservative critics answer with a question: Would journalists be making the same career choices if John McCain had beaten Barack Obama in November?

Financial Times:
- John Deere(DE), the world’s biggest maker of tractors and other farm machinery, said on Wednesday that demand for agricultural equipment would fall by up to 25 per cent this year in emerging economies as farmers find it increasingly difficult to access credit.

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