Monday PM January 31st, 2011

The Federal Reserve says banks loosened their lending standards modestly for certain business loans over the past three months. The Fed says about 12% of the banks responding to its latest survey had somewhat eased their standards on commercial and industrial loans to large- and mid-size businesses. However, the survey found little change in the tight lending standards imposed on consumer loans since the housing market collapsed.


Congressional investigators say oil and gas companies have injected more than 32 million gallons of fluids containing diesel fuel in a widely used technique known as hydraulic fracturing. Democratic lawmakers say the practice by companies such as Houston-based Halliburton and BJ Services appears to violate the Safe Drinking Water Act, because the companies did not obtain needed permits for use of diesel fuel. The probe by Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California found no evidence that the practice contaminated water supplies. Of the 32.2 million gallons reported, most was injected in Texas, followed by Oklahoma, North Dakota, Louisiana and Wyoming.


A Texas state budget expert identified $10 billion in lost revenue created by poor planning in making past tax cuts. Chief Revenue Estimator John Heleman said the legislature's decision to cut property taxes in 2005 and replace that revenue with a new business tax created a perpetual budget shortfall. He said recovery in jobs and business revenues would be slow. State senators must figure out how to solve a $27 billion budget shortfall in drafting a new budget.


A marketing survey commissioned by Louisiana's Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board shows that more than 70% of consumers polled nationally express some level of concern about Gulf of Mexico seafood safety following last spring's BP oil spill, and 23% have actually reduced their consumption. The figures are the result of online canvassing of a thousand households in December.

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