Monday PM August 11th, 2008

Federal authorities moved to shut down the companies that have been linked to the Texas charter bus that crashed Friday, killing 17 passengers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered Iguala Busmex and Angel Tours to cease commercial operations. The agency issued a second order finding that the activities of the companies' owner and president, Angel de la Torre, "in connection with motor carrier operations pose an 'imminent hazard' to the public.'' Authorities also announced that an Iguala Busmex bus was pulled out of service at the religious festival in Carthage, Missouri, because it was unauthorized to operate. Meanwhile, the 52-year-old driver of the bus, Barrett Wayne Broussard, remained in critical condition at a Sherman hospital. His driving record includes citations for driving while intoxicated in 2001 and for speeding in May 2004 and March 2007. Federal officials say his license was suspended for two months in 2001 because of the DWI conviction in Harris County. Broussard failed roadside inspections twice last year. Inspectors pulled his bus out of service both times.

Trash hauling giant Waste Management has raised its unsolicited buyout offer for rival Republic Services by about nine per cent to $37 per share. That puts the total value at more than $6.7 billion. The sweetened offer is the latest salvo in the battle among the nation's largest waste haulers. Republic Services rejected Waste Management's earlier offer in July, saying it undervalued the company. Waste Management's attempt to acquire its number three rival is widely seen as an effort to break up Republic's agreement to buy another trash hauler, Allied Waste Industries.

An insurer of military members and their families said that it'll open eligibility to older retirees. San Antonio-based USAA was chartered in 1922 to serve military officers. It used to require military retirees to join before they turned 35 or when they left the service if they were over that age. The change allows military retirees who didn't opt to join when they were younger to now join the USAA. Family members are also eligible for membership. USAA provides insurance and financial services to 6.4 million current and former military members and their families. The change will open eligibility to three million more former military members.

A Bloomberg News survey indicates the U.S. economic slump will extend into 2009. Some 50 economists surveyed in the first week of August say the economy will grow at an average 0.7 per cent annual pace from July through December—half the gain of the first six months of the year. They predict household spending will stall in the last three months of 2008. The jobless rate will grow from 5.7 per cent to six per cent in early 2009—a five-year high. Household incomes will suffer as salaries fail to keep up with inflation, according to the survey.

A national survey shows gas prices continue dropping across the nation. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline at self-serve stations is at $3.85, down almost 15 cents from two weeks ago. Mid-grade goes for $3.99 and premium is at $4.10. That's according to the Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations nationwide, released Sunday. Diesel is at $4.64. The cheapest gas is in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a gallon of regular cost $3.50. Anchorage, Alaska, is most expensive at $4.37. Houston's average is at $3.74 a gallon—nearly a quarter less than the all-time high of about $3.99 set in July 17th. The western states are the only region in the U.S. where gas remains above $4 a gallon on average. The California average is $4.11—down 27 cents from two weeks ago.


Food distributor SYSCO reports its fourth-quarter profit jumped ten percent. Houston-based SYSCO was helped by managing costs and a boost in sales. SYSCO, for the quarter that ended June 28th, saw its net income rise to $334.1 million. That compares to year-ago earnings of $303.4 million. The company said it was able to grow its profit because it effectively managed costs in the quarter. Revenue rose five percent. SYSCO sells and distributes food products to restaurants, health care facilities, schools and hotels. The company also distributes equipment and supplies.


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