Thursday AM August 14th 2008
by: Ed Mayberry, August 14, 2008 4:08:00 am
The Texas Association of Builders says new legislation requires that all new residential construction and remodeling have a minimum of three inspections to ensure compliance with building codes. All construction or remodeling that begins on or after September 1st is subject to the inspections. Inspections are to be performed at the foundation stage, prior to the placement of concrete; framing and mechanical systems construction stage, prior to frame coverings; and final inspection upon completion of the project. The builder/remodeler is responsible for contracting with the Fee Inspector, who must be a licensed engineer, a registered architect, a professional Texas Real Estate Commission-licensed inspector or a third-party inspector approved by the Texas Residential Construction Commission.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Dallas has established an inspection program for crane operations. The Regional Emphasis Program will address being struck by objects, electrocution, crane tip-over, being caught in or between machinery and falls. There has been a general requirement for employers to inspect construction cranes prior to each use, during use and annually. The emphasis program will supplement existing OSHA targeting programs.
Government data show businesses added to their inventories in June at the fastest pace in five months--a bigger gain than had been expected. The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that stockpiles held by businesses on shelves and backlots rose by 0.7 per cent in June, nearly double the 0.4 per cent rise in May. It's the biggest increase since a one per cent rise in inventories in January and is bigger than the 0.5 per cent rise that economists had been expecting.
The Federal Highway Administration says driving by Americans dropped sharply in June, just as the summer travel season was beginning. Americans drove 12.2 billion fewer miles in June 2008 than they did in June of last year. That was the biggest monthly drop in a downward driving trend that began in November as soaring gas prices started to pinch consumers. Overall, Americans drove 53.2 billion fewer miles November through June than they did over the same eight-month period a year earlier.
Treasury bond prices have advanced, driven by continued concern about credit losses from major Wall Street banks and uncertainty about the value of risky mortgage-backed securities. Investors sought the relative safety of government debt after two major banks warned about future losses caused by the credit market dislocation. JPMorgan Chase said it will write down the value of its mortgage-backed securities by at least $1.5 billion during the third quarter. And Switzerland's UBS posted its fourth straight quarterly loss, saying it sees "adverse economic and financial trends." Fears about the ongoing credit crisis have pummeled financial services stocks in the past year, often triggering a flight to government debt.
Continental Airlines is launching daily non-stop flights between Newark Liberty International Airport and Shanghai, China. The flights begin March 25th, and also offers through flight service between Cleveland and Shanghai. Continental has operated non-stop service between New York and Beijing since 2005.
American Airlines said it'll take delivery of another six Boeing 737-800s in 2010. That's an effort to speed up the replacement of gas-guzzling MD-80s in the Fort Worth-based airline's fleet. The move brings the total number of 737-800s expected to be delivered in 2009 and 2010 to 76 aircraft. American said the deal is part of an amendment under its purchase agreement with Boeing. The nation's biggest airline is exercising its right to buy 20 737-800s for delivery in 2009 and 2010. American said it has secured financing for about two-thirds of the Boeing 737-800 deliveries in 2009 and 2010. While the carrier said it has the option to finance all of its 2009 deliveries under the deal, it declined to disclose any further details about the plan. The airline said it still has "firm commitments" to its plan to take delivery of 11 737s in 2013, but it noted it is still evaluating opportunities to further speed up the fleet renewal process.
BP has filed court papers saying it is complying with required safety improvements ordered by federal and state regulators, according to the Houston Chronicle. The filing counters allegations from a refinery safety expert that BP hasn't complied with requirements to improve. The expert from Apex Safety Consultants had said that perpetuates safety lapses that led to the Texas City explosion. But BP counters that it has extended considerable time and effort in complying with the OSHA agreement.
Wartsila North America has been awarded a $19 million contract to deliver a 25 megawatt power plant to serve Greenville, northeast of Dallas, according to the Houston Business Journal. Wartsila is the Houston-based subsidiary of the Helsinki-based Wartsila Corporation. The plant is slated to come online in late 2010.
Fluor has been awarded a $3.8 billion contract to modernize BP's refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Sugar Land-based Fluor says that could lead to more hiring. The company added about 1,500 employees in the past two years. The expansion will increase production by 1.7 million gallons per day, and will enable the processing of Canadian crude. The project is scheduled for completion in 2011.
Best Buy is going to start selling iPhones September 7th, becoming first U.S. chain to do so outside of Apple and AT&T's own stores. The announcement by Best Buy expands the availability of Apple's phone to 970 full-size stores and 16 smaller Best Buy mobile stores. It's also a coup for the Minneapolis-based chain, which has been upgrading its cell phone departments. Best Buy also resells Apple's Mac computers and iPod media players. An Apple spokeswoman says the long-standing relationship between the companies is the reason best buy will now be able to sell the iPhone.
Consumer choices continue to grow when it comes to wielding the remote control. The nation's largest cable operator plans to team with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to provide a video-on-demand channel featuring action movies and TV shows. It will be called "impact." Comcast says the VOD channel will have 25 to 30 titles every month, and about 200 a year. And it will tap into MGM's library of over 1,000 action movies and TV shows, many in high-definition. MGM says it's in talks with other cable providers to carry the channel. Movies include those in the James Bond franchise, Rocky and Robocop. They'll be grouped into categories including thrillers, crime, war films, martial arts and westerns. Most of the movies offered will carry no additional charge.
Macy's says second-quarter earnings dropped slightly from a year earlier and profits for the full year will be below Wall Street forecasts. Macy's says it earned $73 million. Macy Chairman, President and CEO Terry Lundgren says the results came despite "the poor economic environment." Like other chains, Macy's is seeing a slowdown in clothing sales.