Friday AM October 6th, 2006
by: Ed Mayberry, October 6, 2006 5:10:00 am
Union workers at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant in Tyler have walked off their jobs. That's after talks between Goodyear and the United Steelworkers Union failed to reach agreement on a new labor contract by the midday Thursday deadline. The walkout does not affect Goodyear's Houston plant. When the picket line went up at midday in Akron, Ohio one union member shouted, "what do you want?'' In response, others yelled, "contract!'' The walkout by about 1,000 workers affiliated with the steelworkers union is part of a nationwide strike by more than 12,000 Goodyear workers in 12 states. The union had been working on a day-to-day contract after the July 22nd expiration of a three-year deal. The future of the Tyler plant is a central issue in the national talks. A key sticking point in the talks are Goodyear's desire to close plants in Tyler and Gadsden, Alabama. The union says it's determined to avoid plant shutdowns. A spokesman at Goodyear's Akron headquarters isn't commenting. The company says it's prepared to keep its plants open and take care of its customers, but there's no word on how it plans to do that.
The Labor Department is reporting a sharper-than-expected decline in the number of new jobless claims. The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for benefits dropped by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted total of 302,000. That's the lowest level in ten weeks. It marks the second straight week of declines. The report comes a day ahead of the monthly unemployment report.
Weaker demand for workers in the financial services and utilities sectors sent the Monster Employment Index down slightly last month. Seven of 20 industries and eight of 23 occupations tracked by the index registered declines in September. And online job availability rose in seven of the nine census regions. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia also saw greater levels of online job demand during the month. Overall, the index is just one point shy of its historical high point, indicating online recruitment activity remains strong heading into the fourth quarter.
Houston-based ConocoPhillips is creating a North American joint-venture heavy oil company with Calgary, Canada-based EnCana Corporation. ConocoPhillips will provide the downstream segment in the partnership with its Wood River, Illinois and Borger, Texas refineries. EnCana will provide the upstream portion, with its oil sands production.
Falling gasoline prices couldn't have hurt. Retail chains are reporting surprisingly strong September sales. Major chains, like department stores and teen merchants including Bebe Stores, J.C. Penney and Federated Department Stores, are among the winners. One analyst says consumers had more money to spend because of the drop in gasoline prices. Back-to-school shopping was strong. Of the several dozen retailers reporting September results early this morning, most beat expectations. One exception is Wal-Mart. The world's largest retailer says sales at stores open at least a year rose just 1.3 percent. By contrast, Target and Federated raised their earnings outlooks, based on strong sales.
J.C. Penney said today its sales rose faster than expected in late August and September. The Plano-based retailer also raised its profit estimates for the third quarter and all of 2006. Penney says department store sales rose 10.2 percent to $1.38 billion. It also says same-store sales grew 8.7 percent in the five weeks that ended September 30th. Both figures grew faster in September than in August. The Plano-based retailer said September sales were strong across apparel and accessory categories, with the best results in fine jewelry, children's and men's goods. Geographically, the northeast and central regions were strongest. However, it says big-ticket items for the home continued to experience soft sales.
Mortgage rates generally held steady this week. Freddie Mac says the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.3 percent, compared with 6.31 percent last week. It's the lowest rate since the first week of March. A year ago, rates for 30-year loans averaged 5.98 percent. The rate for 15-year mortgages, often used in refinancing, was unchanged this week at 5.98 percent. A year ago, it was 5.54 percent. Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft says home refinancing rose 18 percent last week, accounting for almost half of all mortgage applications. That's because as homeowners are refinancing their adjustable rate mortgages rather than waiting for them to reset in the future when rates may be higher.
With oil prices at the lowest levels in months, OPEC's president says the cartel may hold an emergency meeting to discuss a reduction in output. That word comes from the Nigerian minister in Abuja, who is also serving as president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The comments came with oil prices rebounding from a seven-month low. Even so, crude oil futures are roughly 24 percent below their July peak. With the news, crude prices have been edging higher in electronic trading overseas on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
A United Nations panel has awarded to the owner of the Dallas Morning News control of an Internet domain name that used a slight misspelling of the paper's name. The ruling by an arbitrator for the World Intellectual Property Organization centers on the domain name "dalasmorningnews.com''--with Dallas spelled with one "l.'' It transfers control of the domain name to Dallas-based Belo Corporation. Arbitrator David Taylor found that the domain name's previous owner -- ZJ of Zhangyang, Shanghai, China--had registered and used the name in "bad faith.'' The Dallas Morning News Web site uses the domain "dallasnews.com.'' Anyone can register a domain name for a few dollars, which has led to so-called "cybersquatters.'' The UN arbitration system, which started in 1999, allows those who think they have the right to a domain to get it back without having to fight a costly legal battle or pay large sums of money.
Benny Delgado works in a high-pressure, fast-paced restaurant where the dishes are flying at lunchtime and he's expected to produce food fast. Delgado is like many Hispanics in the food service industry --part of the crew that keeps the restaurant humming. But Mark Erickson--vice president of continuing education at the world-famous Culinary Institute of America-- is trying to train more to become chefs and leaders in restaurants and catering businesses. The creation of the Center for Foods of the Americas in San Antonio aims to accomplish that. The school is graduating its first class of a dozen local student-chefs tomorrow. The culinary institute graduates chefs from campuses in California's Napa Valley and in Hyde Park, north of New York, but nothing in between. The center in San Antonio was started with backing from local private investment company Silver Ventures and is the only program of its kind affiliated with the culinary institute. The 21-year-old Delgado says it would have been tough for him to train anywhere outside of San Antonio. Other schools in the area may offer him certification--but its only recognized locally or statewide.
Tab Harding needs a new pickup truck --but don't bother him with exhausting sales pitches. The mason contractor prefers shopping at the State Fair of Texas' auto show. It's where the next generation of trucks can be seen months before they reach the showrooms. Harding gave the 2007 Silverado a thorough review, examining the re-designed front end, playing with the new touch screen navigation system and gently running his hand over the leather seats. The truck goes on sale next month. With pickup truck sales in a 13 percent decline this year, manufacturers feel a heightened sense of urgency over the fair's potential effect on sales. Industry executives say one out of every four vehicles sold in Texas is a pickup, as compared to one out of eight elsewhere in the United States. Ford, General Motors and Toyota each have new models sitting in the fair's outdoor display.