Wednesday February 15th, 2006

Enron trial moves to cross-examination of second witness...Houston hits all-time high in purchasing managers index...

The defense today portrayed former Enron executive Ken Rice as an out-of-touch manager who didn't know how many people worked for him. Rice faced cross-examination in the fraud and conspiracy trial of his former boss--ex-CEO Jeff Skilling--and Enron founder Ken Lay. Rice was once a top trader who ran Enron's money-losing broadband venture. When asked by a Skilling lawyer if he knew how many people worked at Enron Broadband Services, Rice said he thinks about 1,200 to 1,500. Rice is among 16 ex-Enron executives who pleaded guilty to crimes and agreed to help prosecutors in hopes of securing a lenient punishment. Rice in 2004 admitted to securities fraud.

Houston Public Radio's Ed Mayberry has been covering the trial, and had this report on KUHF's 5 p.m. business newscast:

Ed Mayberry's Enron trial report


Economic growth in Houston has hit an all-time high of 67.9, according to the National Association of Purchasing Management. This is the 11th anniversary of the group's Houston business report. The PMI has held steady in the range of 58 to 64 for the past two years. The index is based on a monthly survey of some 80 purchasing executives oil and gas exploration and production, manufacturing, engineering and construction, chemicals, distribution, business and financial services and healthcare. Components include sales, production, employment, purchases, prices paid and inventory levels.


The nation's largest savings and loan is shutting down ten loan-processing offices and eliminating 2,500 jobs as it cuts back to better match current mortgage market demand. Washington Mutual says the move will reduce to 16 the number of nationwide offices providing administrative support to its home loan businesses. Work from the locations that are being closed will be moved to the remaining offices, where increased hiring will partially offset the job cuts. There's no word on whether Houston outlets are affected.


The phone versus cable TV fight reached Washington today in a high-tech fight over offering video service. Phone companies want Congress to make it easier for them to roll out their new video services that would compete with cable. The cable industry says such government assistance would create an unfair advantage. Both sides today took their arguments to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are considering legislation to ease the entry of phone companies into subscription video services. San Antonio-based AT&T and Verizon say the current system is outdated and is choking competition. Chairman Ed Whitacre told the Senate Commerce Committee that if they were somehow able to sign one franchise deal each week, it would take 30 years to complete the process. Cable companies dispute that the franchising process is a drag on competition.


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