Tuesday PM August 15th, 2006

Venezuelan state oil company to sell its minority share in Lyondell-Citgo refinery...Labor Department's Producer Price Index posts smallest gain in five months...Sentencing for former El Paso natural gas trader postponed to September 27th...

Venezuela's oil minister says the state oil company has agreed to sell its minority share in the Lyondell-Citgo oil refinery in Houston to Lyondell Chemical. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez says Houston-based Citgo Petroleum is selling the stake to Houston-based Lyondell for about $1.3 billion. Ramirez said the sale of the 41 percent stake in the refinery was finalized after two years of studying and negotiating the deal. Citgo is owned by the Venezuelan state-owned oil company. Ramirez said Venezuela's supply contract ends with the sale, but that it will continue to supply crude to the Lyondell refinery under new terms in a five-year supply contract. Rameriz says the previous 25-year supply contract included discounts and wasn't a good deal for the Venezuelan government. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has complained that the Citgo refineries have been a bad deal for his oil-rich South American nation. He says they buy Venezuelan oil at a discount, then pay taxes in the United States. The 700-acre Citgo-Lyondell refinery is located on the Houston Ship Channel and has a refining capacity of about 268,000 barrels a day. About 875 employees work there.

The Labor Department's July Producer Price Index posted the smallest gain in five months. The one-tenth of one percent increase in the wholesale prices gauge is well below expectations. It is also lower than the five-tenths of one percent increase reported for June. In the latest showing, falling food prices helped to offset rising energy costs. The core rate, which excludes food and energy, fell three-tenths of one percent. That's the best showing for the core in nine months. The Federal Reserve last week decided to stand pat on interest rates, stressing that a moderating economy should help keep inflation under control. The Labor Department is to follow up with the Consumer Price Index tomorrow morning, measuring inflation at the retail level. Investors cheered the PPI News, by sending the major stock averages solidly higher.

A new report finds most states saw a slowdown in home sales in the spring, but there were hotspots around the nation as well. The National Association of Realtors says 28 states and the District of Columbia had declines in the second quarter. Declines of 25 percent or more were seen in the former boom markets in Arizona, Florida and California. The group says nationally, sales fell seven percent in the April-June quarter, compared to the same period a year earlier. At the same time, other areas of moderate sales gains during the boom years experienced strong growth. Some 20 states had sales gains in the spring, led by Alaska with a more than 48 percent jump in sales. It was followed by Arkansas and Texas.

Sentencing for former El Paso natural gas trader Todd Geiger has been pushed to September 27th, allowing him time to review testimony from a recently-concluded trial against two other traders. Gieger says he wants to see testimony given by editors of two natural gas trade publications during the trial of former Dynegy trader Michelle Valencia and former El Paso trader Greg Singleton. Geiger pleaded guilty to one charge of filing inaccurate data in December 2003, and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse an additional $55.89 million to Houston and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Officials say the money is to defray costs associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn say Houston will get more than $48 million to cover costs associated with housing Hurricane Katrina evacuees. The DPS will get $7.86 million to offset expenses related to Hurricane Rita preparation and evacuation.

Dell's got a new Web site that tells you how to get a replacement battery for some of its notebook computers. More than four million Sony battery packs are being recalled on Latitude, Inspiron, XPS and Precision mobile workstation notebooks because they can burst into flames. The new site describes the affected models and tells consumers how to get free replacement batteries from Dell. Round Rock-based Dell says the Sony batteries were placed in notebooks that were shipped between April of 2004, and this past July 18th. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says consumers with affected laptops should only run the machines on a power cord.

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...