Wednesday AM June 11th, 2008
by: Ed Mayberry, June 11, 2008 4:06:00 am
Houston ranks first in the nation in terms of manufacturing jobs, according to a report in the Houston Business Journal from Manufacturers' News, even as industrial employment in the state remains flat. Texas is in a better position than the rest of the U.S. Employment has lost ground nationwide over the year. MNI says Texas is home to 24,273 manufacturers employing 1,225,585 workers, ranking just behind California. Houston accounts for 222,072 industrial jobs.
State grid operators have begun shifting Riverway Power's 6,500 customers to other providers after the Houston-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. Riverway is the fourth electric retailer in less than a month to move customers to providers of last resort. E-tricity, National Power and Pre-Buy Electric have also had to move customers to other providers after defaulting on financial obligations to the grid.
Continental pilots plan to rally in downtown Houston today. The Air Line Pilots Association International says the informational picket and rally is to remind airline management of the $200 million in concessions that pilots took in their last contract, which is amendable at the end of the year.
The trade deficit jumped to the highest level in 13 months in April as America's bill for foreign crude oil soared to an all-time high. The Commerce Department reported that the gap between what the nation imports and what it sells abroad rose by 7.8 percent to $60.9 billion, the largest imbalance since March 2007. The April deficit was $4.4 billion higher than the March imbalance of $56.5 billion. The deterioration in the deficit was driven by a $4.3 billion increase in crude oil imports which jumped to a record $29.3 billion in April, as the average per barrel price rose to an all-time high of $96.81. Oil imports are expected to climb further in coming months.
While the government says non-farm payrolls have contracted every month so far this year, a new survey finds that 26 percent of U.S. employers plan to add jobs in the third quarter. The survey, released by the employment firm Manpower, also finds that some ten percent of U.S. employers plan to cut their payrolls in the July-September quarter. Most of them, some 58 percent, expected no change in the hiring pace and a small number were undecided about hiring. Overall, the survey indicates a slight hiring decline in the quarter. While noting "overall softness" in the job market, manpower CEO Jeffrey Joerres says employers "are generally not reacting with large-scale payroll reductions."
A Texas Congressman says the agency responsible for anti-terrorism and national security shouldn't be keeping track of American workers. Representative Sam Johnson of Plano spoke to members of a U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee in Washington. Johnson wants to make the Social Security Administration, rather than Homeland Security, in charge of checking whether employers are hiring illegal immigrants. The Texan also backs using an existing state new-hire system rather than the e-Verify system Homeland Security prefers. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff designated e-Verify, a Web-based system, as the one the contractors should use. The ACLU opposes any verification system, saying all proposals are inadequate to protect American workers privacy and their right to work.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says the Bush administration will continue a policy of what he calls "robust engagement" with China. He says that will include filing unfair trade cases where needed and pressuring Beijing to move more quickly to revalue its currency. Speaking ahead of next week's high-level meeting between the U.S. and China, Paulson says it is important for both nations to resist calls for erecting protectionist barriers. Critics charge the U.S. trade deficit is partly to blame for the loss of more than three million manufacturing jobs since 2001. Representatives from both countries will meet in Annapolis, Maryland, for the fourth round of discussions dubbed the Strategic Economic Dialogue.
Houston-based Grey Wolf tells the Houston Business Journal that it has received an unsolicited buyout offer from Alberta, Canada-based drilling firm Precision Drilling Trust. Grey Wolf and Midland-based Basic Energy Services had agreed to merge into a $2.9 billion drilling services company on April 21st. Grey Wolf has a fleet of 121 drilling rigs with two new rigs expected this year.
Two firms are buying a natural gas-fired power plant in Channelview from Reliant Energy in a $500 million deal. Global Infrastructure Partners of Connecticut and New York-based Fortistar are purchasing the six-year-old plant, which has a contract to sell steam and electricity to Equistar Chemicals--a subsidiary of Netherlands-based LyondellBasell Industries.
XTO Energy says it is acquiring privately held Hunt Petroleum for $4.19 billion in cash and stock. XTO Energy says the deal includes $2.6 billion in cash and 23.5 million shares of XTO stock. The stock portion of the deal is valued at about $1.6 billion, or $67.50 per share. Fort Worth-based XTO estimates Dallas-based Hunt's Properties' proved reserves total about 1.052 trillion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent. About 70 percent of the properties are in east Texas, central and northern Louisiana. The acquisition is expected to close around September 3rd, subject to antitrust clearance.
The Houston East End Chamber of Commerce is hosting Dr. Stephen Klineberg today talking about his new 2008 survey forecasting Houston's future. His luncheon speech is at Brady's Landing on Cypress.
Twenty-five Houston Independent School District teachers will be awarded the BP A+ for Energy Grant in an awards ceremony this evening at Space Center Houston. The winners created 15 energy projects to teach their students about energy, conservation and alternative sources of energy. Fourteen of the projects will receive $10,000 grants and one a $5,000 grant. BP's A+ for Energy will also provide a total of $30000 in scholarships to the winning teachers to attend a three-day conference sponsored by BP.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne says there's no scientific proof that polar bears are threatened by oil and gas development. Two conservation groups disagree. The Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment are planning to sue to protect the bears from petroleum exploration and drilling off Alaska's coast. The groups say they are not seeking to shut down offshore drilling, but will sue to ensure that the government follows requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The groups say the bears are already in bad shape because of the melting ice and boats, aircraft and drilling platforms will add to animals' stress.
AOL is revamping its popular online radio service, adding streams from all 140 CBS-owned radio stations. AOL is also upgrading its player to add more functions and expand the service's reach. Much is at stake for AOL, which is looking for new ways to boost revenues from online music streaming. The move comes a year after a panel of copyright judges sharply increased the royalties that online radio providers pay to record labels and artists. Lisa Namerow, the general manager of AOL's online radio unit, said the company's music streaming business was still unprofitable. But recent figures from Arbitron show AOL has the largest average weekly online audience.
A growing number of restaurant chains and stores are stopping sales of some raw tomatoes because of salmonella fears. McDonald's, Burger King, Outback Steakhouse and Taco Bell are among the restaurants taking tomatoes off their menus. Wal-Mart, Kroger and Winn-Dixie have pulled certain kinds of tomatoes from their shelves. The tomato warning involves only certain types, including red plum, red Roma or round red tomatoes unless they were grown in certain states or countries. The centers for disease control and prevention says 145 people have become infected since mid-April. At least 23 have been hospitalized. The Food and Drug Administration says it's working "hard and fast" to trace the source of the outbreak. Salmonella is a bacterial infection that causes fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps that typically last four to seven days.