Friday PM April 9th, 2010

Inventories held by wholesalers rose by a larger-than-expected amount in February while sales increased for the 11th consecutive month. The Commerce Department said inventories at the wholesale level were up 0.6 percent in February, better than the 0.4 percent increase analysts had expected. Sales rose 0.8 percent, surpassing the 0.5 percent rise economists had forecast. The gains were an encouraging sign that stronger demand is prompting businesses to restock depleted shelves, a development which will help sustain the economic recovery.


A leading advertising forecaster is raising its 2010 outlook on global ad spending. It is the most bullish reading in more than a year. It says companies are gaining more confidence that the economic recovery will stick. ZenithOptimedia expects combined ad spending in various media--including newspapers, television and billboards--to grow by 2.2 percent this year to $456 billion. That's up from its previous forecast of slightly less than one percent, made in December. It's the second time the forecaster has upgraded its 2010 outlook. The upgrades followed 18 months of consecutive downgrades.


Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says forceful action by policymakers in the United States and abroad during the financial crisis allowed the global economy to dodge a second Great Depression. Bernanke, a scholar of the Great Depression, says policymakers learned from the mistakes of their predecessors in the 1930s. In remarks prepared for a speech at Washington's Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, Bernanke acknowledges the severity of the recent financial crisis. But he says the world was spared an even greater economic meltdown that would have rivaled or even surpassed the Great Depression.


Interest rates are little changed in the bond market, capping off a week of big fluctuations as the government sold $82 billion in new debt. The yield on the ten-year Treasury note fell to 3.88 percent, from 3.89 percent late Thursday. Its yield is often used as a benchmark for consumer loans. The ten-year note yield remained in a tight range throughout the day as investors avoided making big bets.


Valero Energy says it is selling its Delaware City refinery to subsidiaries of PBF Energy Partners for $220 million. Valero said that the deal, expected to close in the second quarter, still needs regulatory approvals and the completion of certain agreements with the state of Delaware. San Antonio-based Valero announced in November that it was halting operations at the refinery and laying off 550, but agreed not to remove equipment while negotiations were under way. Governor Jack Markell's administration has been supporting efforts to sell and reopen the refinery. PBF is the investment arm of a partnership between Petroplus Holdings, the Blackstone Group, and private equity firm first reserve to buy U.S. oil refineries. Petroplus is the largest independent petroleum refiner and wholesaler in Europe.


A report by the Government Accountability Office says the Minerals Management Service has not properly considered the environmental effects of offshore petroleum lease sales in Alaska. The GAO, Congress' investigative arm, says the Minerals Management Service did not provide consistent policy to guide staff members in environmental reviews of petroleum drilling, and that has left the agency vulnerable to litigation and allegations of scientific misconduct. The report says proprietary information that should have been available to environmental analysts was withheld. In its official response, the agency promises to make changes. But environmental groups say the report is proof that the agency has made poor decisions in conducting lease sales in sensitive Arctic waters.


The Texas Department of Transportation says the US290/Hempstead Corridor Program has received a Notice of Availability for its final Environmental Impact Statement. That culminates a ten-year planning effort to obtain environmental clearance so that right-of-way acquisition and construction can begin. TxDOT will soon request a Record of Decision this summer, which allows construction to begin in the summer of 2011.


Forty-two teams from leading business schools are being judged by venture capitalists and investors for up to $1 million in prizes to aid start-up businesses. It's part of the upcoming 10th annual Rice University Business Plan Competition, April 15th through the 17th, hosted by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business. Teams will have 15 minutes to present their business plans. There will also be a new $10,000 Award for Courageous Women Entrepreneurs.


ExxonMobil is inviting college students to apply for paid summer internships in Houston non-profit and community service positions within the ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program. The foundation will sponsor 65 summer jobs, as well as development seminars about non-profits. Applicants must be currently enrolled full-time, undergraduate students planning to return to college in the fall of 2010.


Houston police officers are talking to high school seniors about careers in law enforcement tomorrow morning at the Hyatt Regency on Louisiana. The event is the 6th annual "A Night to Remember" which partners disadvantaged graduating seniors with educators, corporate sponsors and volunteers. Information is provided about financial literacy, college, health and career development.


Money Management International is marking National Financial Literacy Month with a series of free financial webinars. They're designed to provide consumers with a step-by-step action plan for regaining control of finances. Information is available on a special MMI Web site.


 

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