Wednesday PM March 25th, 2009

BJ Services, Pride International report job cuts…New home sales rebound, but still second-worst on record…Per capita personal income for Texans grows 6.1 per cent…

BJ Services has cut 1,500 jobs, according to the company's CEO, speaking at the Howard Weil Energy Conference in New Orleans. Bloomberg reports that CEO James Stewart also said salaries are frozen. Pride International has eliminated 300 jobs in the past month, according to CEO Louis Raspino.


The government says new home sales rebounded unexpectedly last month, but were still the second-worst on record and remained well below last year's levels. The Commerce Department says sales rose 4.7 per cent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 337,000 from an upwardly revised January figure of 322,000. Even after the revision to January's sales results, the month remained the worst on records dating back to 1963. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected February sales to fall to a pace of 300,000 units. Sales were down more than 40 per cent from February 2008.


Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods unexpectedly rose in February after a record six straight declines. The Commerce Department says durable goods orders increased 3.4 per cent last month, much better than the two per cent fall economists expected. It was the first advance since July and the strongest one-month gain in 14 months. The strength was led by a surge in orders for military aircraft and parts, but demand for machinery, computers and fabricated metal products also rose. Still, the rebound was expected to be temporary given all the problems facing the economy, and a large drop in orders in January was revised even lower.


A government report showing that domestic supplies of crude grew more than expected sent futures prices down a bit. The Energy Information Administration reported crude inventories rose by 3.3 million barrels last week--15.6 per cent above year-ago levels. A survey by Platts had forecast an increase of 1.4 million barrels.


Per capita personal income for Texans grew 6.1 per cent last year, according to preliminary estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, as reported by the Houston Business Journal. There was a 7.6 per cent increase between 2006 and 2007. Per capital personal income grew from $32,230.33 in 2007 to $34,206.57 last year. Nationwide growth was 2.9 per cent in 2008.


Postmaster General John Potter says that without help, the U.S. Postal Service will run out of money this year. Potter told a House subcommittee the lingering question is: which bills will get paid and which will not. He said he will make sure that salaries are paid, but also said other bills might have to wait. Potter is seeking permission to reduce mail delivery to five days a week and wants to reduce other costs. He said the post office is "facing losses of historic proportion. Our situation is critical." The post office was $2.8 billion in the red last year and is facing even larger losses this year due to the sharp decline in mail volume in the weak economy.


Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says he's reached an agreement with Don McGill Toyota after complaints that some customers believed they were entering into vehicle purchase agreements, but were actually signing three-year lease agreements. The lease agreements were more expensive than an ordinary vehicle purchase. The dealership agreed to a restitution fund of more than $78,000. The AG's investigation revealed that some McGill sales personnel folded sales contracts in a manner that obscured the entire document, as customers were told they would receive lower interest rates if their sales contract was prepared on a lease-type document.


Norwegian Oil and Gas Partners' 11th annual two-day U.S.-Norway technology conference is underway at the Omni Houston Hotel on Riverway, with speakers looking at cleaner production and energy efficiency. The INTSOK conference was opened by the deputy minister of the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, with speakers from ExxonMobil, Shell and StatoilHydro.


Continental Airlines has begun its new service from Houston to Shanghai. The Houston-based air carrier says it serves more destinations in the Pacific than any other carrier.


Enventure Global Technology has opened its first office in Beijing to support China's demand for its solid expandable drilling and production technology. Twelve employees will work at the Beijing office.


The Texas House has given preliminary approval to a bill urging the governor to consider small businesses for Texas Enterprise Fund grants. The Enterprise Fund is used by the governor to try to create jobs and lure businesses to the state. The House voted 145-1 to tentatively approve the proposal by Representative Patrick Rose, a Dripping Springs Democrat. There still must be a final vote. Lawmakers spent plenty of time debating the bill and attempting to add on provisions. One amendment is designed to prevent Enterprise Fund money from being used for executive bonuses. Another would encourage grants in the renewable energy field.


The Texas House has tentatively approved a measure designed to help lure movie and television productions to the state. The House gave tentative approval to a bill by Representative Dawnna Dukes, an Austin Democrat, that will give the state film office more flexibility in deciding financial incentives for moviemakers. Dukes says it will help the state better compete nationally for production of movies, television shows and video games. In the past few years, Texas has been losing out to other states with better incentives for movies.


Dallas-based Blockbuster has formed a partnership with TiVo to provide digital movie titles through TiVo DVRs. TiVo is a provider of television services for digital video recorders. The Blockbuster OnDemand service is expected to begin in the second half of this year.


As consumers seek relief from the recession and spiraling food prices, bidding on goods at grocery auctions is gaining in popularity as an easy way to cut costs. The sales operate like regular auctions, but with bidders vying for dry goods and frozen foods instead of antiques and collectibles. Some auctioneers even accept food stamps. When Kirk Williams held his first grocery auction in rural Pennsylvania last month, nearly 300 people showed up. Astonished by the turnout, he's scheduling auctions at locations throughout northeastern Pennsylvania. The auctions sell leftover or damaged goods from supermarkets, distribution centers and restaurant suppliers. Some of the goodies are out-of-date. But the auctioneers stress that they're still okay to eat. The FDA does not generally prohibit the sale of food past its sell-by or use-by date. Grocery auctions can be found in at least nine states from Oklahoma to New York.


Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...