Monday PM August 30th, 2010

Consumer spending rises at fastest pace in four months...Bad weather delays raising of blowout preventer at BP Gulf site...Average price of regular gasoline drops over seven cents in last two weeks...

Consumer spending rose in July at the fastest pace in four months, helped by a jump in demand for automobiles. The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July after three lackluster months. Personal incomes were up 0.2 percent in July, less than expected but at least an improvement over June when incomes had not risen at all. The July spending gain was the best showing since a 0.5 percent rise in March. But the concern is that demand could taper off in the second half of this year if unemployment remains near double digits.


A new survey finds divisions among economists over how the government should stimulate the economy and how the Federal Reserve should proceed over the next 12 months. The latest semiannual survey by the National Association for Business Economics also shows economists are satisfied with the Fed's current interest rate policy. On the economy, most oppose another stimulus package but rank economic growth as a higher priority than deficit reduction. NABE President Lynn Reaser says the survey underscores the uncertainty about where the economy is really heading. Reaser says a majority of economists don't believe that the Bush administration individual income tax cuts, dividends tax cuts and capital gains tax cuts should be allowed to expire. Reaser says economists are looking for clear tax and regulatory policies.


President Barack Obama says Congress should make passing a long-languishing aid package to small business its first order of business when it gets back from summer vacation. He said in remarks in the Rose Garden that he'll also have other specific ideas on the nation's teetering economy in the days and weeks ahead. But he also said that action on the package of small business tax cuts and credit incentives is “one thing we know that we should do” as soon as possible. Republicans have been blocking the bill, calling it misguided. Obama said: “I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade.” Obama's remarks came after he met with economic advisers.


BP says high seas on the Gulf of Mexico have delayed operations to raise the piece of equipment from the seabed that failed to prevent the massive oil spill. The oil giant, in a Twitter posting, did not say how long the delay would be. Engineers were supposed to begin the process of removing the temporary cap that stopped more oil from flowing into the sea in mid-July. That was to be a prelude to removing the failed blowout preventer, which is a key piece of evidence in ongoing investigations. A new blowout preventer will be placed atop the well once the failed one is raised. After that, the goal is to drill the final 50 feet of a relief well. Engineers will then pump in mud and cement to permanently plug the well that gushed 206 million gallons of oil.

The administrator of the new claims process for victims of the Gulf oil spill says most of the individual claims reviewed in the first week lacked the minimal documentation to be paid. Ken Feinberg, who took over the claims process from BP on August 23th, said 18,900 individual claims were submitted in the first week and all were reviewed. He says payments were authorized to 1,200 individuals totaling about $6 million in emergency compensation. Feinberg discussed the process Sunday at the Southern Governors' Association Convention in Hoover. He said payments have already been processed for some and the rest will be done Monday. He said those who lacked the necessary documentation will be notified and told what type of material they might submit for payment.


A new survey finds the average price of regular gasoline in the United States has dropped 7.43 cents in the last two weeks. The Lundberg survey of fuel prices release this weekend said the price of a gallon of regular fell to $2.70. Analyst Trilby Lundberg says the average price for a gallon of mid-grade was $2.85, and premium was at $2.96. St. Louis had the lowest average price among cities surveyed at $2.39 a gallon for regular. San Francisco was highest among surveyed cities at $3.13.


The University of Texas is getting another supercomputer and the $9 million system is expected to be online by February. The Austin American-Statesman reports that the system will be built by the Texas Advanced Computing Center. UT has contributed roughly a third of the cost, while the government's National Science Foundation has contributed another third. The rest comes from a group including Texas A&M and Texas Tech, plus individual research organizations. UT President William Powers, Jr., says the collaboration is a natural partnership similar to how universities buy time on research telescopes such as the McDonald Observatory in West Texas. Another UT supercomputer, known as “Ranger,” was dedicated in February 2008.


Car shoppers will receive more details on window stickers about fuel efficiency, emissions, energy costs and energy consumption under a new government proposal for 2012 model year vehicles. The Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency are announcing the proposed stickers. Options include letter grades of A+ to D for the vehicle's overall fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions or keeping the current label's approach on miles per gallon and annual fuel costs with an updated design. Consumers scan the window stickers when shopping for a new car or truck. Officials say they want labels to give consumers straightforward information about the vehicle's effect on the environment.


Hewlett-Packard says its board has authorized the repurchase of $10 billion in shares. The announcement comes as the personal computer maker is involved in a bidding contest with rival Dell for the Data Storage company 3Par. HP says it plans to use the share buyback authorization to manage share dilution from employee stock plans and to buy back shares opportunistically. Hewlett-Packard had $4.9 billion left under its current $8 billion repurchase plan at the end of July. On Friday, HP raised its offer for 3Par to $30 a share, and 3Par threw its support for that offer. Dell said Saturday it is considering raising its offer of $27 a share.


Members of the California Rare Fruit Growers meet each summer to share seeds, cuttings and knowledge about exotic fruit and rare varieties of more common fare, such as apples and oranges. The organization founded in 1968 encourages gardeners and hobby farmers to plant unusual fruit, and members search the globe for new varieties. Some also work to develop tastier, heartier strains suitable for backyard growing. Seventy-year-old Edgar Valdivia says the big dream among members is to develop a variety that will be named after them. He says most aren't doing the work for money, but for the pleasure of growing something new and sharing their discoveries.


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...