Tuesday PM January 18th, 2010

Comerica is buying regional banking company Sterling Bancshares for stock worth about $1.03 billion in a deal aimed at strengthening its presence in Texas. The Dallas bank says the transaction will give it 152 banking centers in the state, up from 95. The transaction also gives Comerica about $3 billion in loans and $4 billion in deposits. Sterling Bancshares of Houston had been facing a proxy fight from its largest shareholder and had reportedly put itself on the auction block.


U.S. homebuilders remain discouraged over the prospects for improved home sales, unconvinced as yet that the economy will spur the job growth needed to coax more buyers into the market. The National Association of Home Builders says that its monthly reading of builders' sentiment was unchanged in January at 16, where it's been since November. While it remains the highest reading since June, any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the market. The index hasn't been above that level since April 2006.


Gasoline prices are staying at their highest levels in more than two years. And analysts say that's causing Americans to start watching their spending more carefully. According to AAA and other pump-watchers, the national average for a gallon of regular is now at $3.10. It's about 12 cents more than a month ago, and 35 cents more than a year ago. One analyst says for every penny the price at the pump increases, it costs consumers overall an additional $4 million.


The University of Houston has taken another step in its quest to become Texas' fourth “tier one” university. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching moved the university from its previously ranked second-tier status to a tier one school for “very high research activity.” But the university is still not a tier one school like the University of Texas, Rice University and Texas A&M. University President Renu Khator tells the Houston Chronicle the announcement is “good news” but the school still needs to increase its graduation rate and better its reputation in Houston.

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