Monday PM March 5th, 2007

HISD considers offering early $6K signing bonuses for harder-to-find math, science and bilingual teachers...Biofuels Power begins producing electricity from plant in Montgomery County... OTC names 2007 Distinguished Achievement, Heritage and Spotlight on New Technologies awards recipients...

The Houston Independent School District wants to offer as much as $6,000 this spring to lure harder-to-find math, science and bilingual teachers. Superintendent Abelardo Saaverdra will present the plan to the school board this evening, hoping to go after teachers immediately as they prepare this spring to finish college or change jobs, before they are lured to other school districts. The board is getting its first look at the plan at its meeting this afternoon, and will vote on it Thursday. Every summer HISD hires about a thousand new teachers to replace those who retire or move on. The district has offered signing and annual bonuses for hard-to-find teachers for several years, but the superintendent wants to offer the money much earlier this year.


Houston-based Biofuels Power has begun to produce and sell electricity from its biodiesel-powered generating plant in Oak Ridge North in south Montgomery County, according to the Houston Business Journal. Electricity is being sold into the ERCOT power grid for the Houston area, including about 80 percent of the homes in Oak Ridge North. The facility has a capacity of up to five megawatts, using three diesel-powered Caterpillar generators running on biofuels produced by The Woodlands-based Safe Renewables' refinery. Biofuels Power plans a series of biodiesel-powered electric generating plants, and is now constructing a larger turbine-based biodiesel power plant at the refinery site.


Stocks churned about today, with the Dow industrials moving in and out of positive territory throughout the session. In the end though, continued concern about losses over loans to customers with poor credit ratings kept buyers from making any serious headway. Stocks closed lower for a third straight session on concerns including a strengthening yen and tumbling stock markets abroad. The Dow Jones industrial average finished with a loss of more than 63 points at 12,050. Declining issues on the New York Stock Exchange led gainers five-to-one on volume of about 3.4 billion shares. The Nasdaq composite index was down 27 points at the 2,340 level, with roughly 2.2 billion shares traded. And the S&P 500 dropped 13 points, closing at 1,374.

Beginning in Asia, and continuing in Europe, world stock markets began the day by extending their slide into a second week. In Tokyo, the Nikkei fell for a fifth day, down more than 3.3 percent. Declines of about two percent were being seen in Europe's major averages three hours before the opening bell on Wall Street. The dollar was down against the yen, but gained ground against other major currencies in European trading. Last week, the Dow fell nearly four and a quarter percent, while the Nasdaq composite lost more than 5.8 percent of its value.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has begun a three-nation Asian tour in Tokyo. His visit there comes amid the turmoil being seen in global stock markets and the dollar's sudden drop against the yen. Paulson will also meet top leaders in China and South Korea during his five-day swing through Asia. In Tokyo, Paulson met with Japan's prime minister, saying the two had "a very nice visit.'' Although Japanese officials declined to give details of their agenda, discussions will likely include the current fluctuations in regional stock markets and the dollar's value against the Japanese currency. Trade between the world's biggest and second-biggest economies is also likely to be a topic of discussion.


The Offshore Technology Conference has named its 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award and Heritage Award recipients. Awards will be presented at the annual OTC Awards Luncheon on May 1st at Reliant Center to Marcos Assayag of Petrobras and to Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum, Helix Energy Solutions and Enterprise Products Partners for their contributions to the offshore oil industry. The conference for offshore development is set for April 30th through May 3rd. OTC will mark the 60th anniversary of offshore exploration and production activities by presenting three Heritage Awards. Recipients are Jon Gjedebo, founder of Hitec; John Huff, chairman of Oceaneering International; and Owen Kratz, chairman of Helix Energy Solutions Group.

The Offshore Technology Conference has announced the 13 winning technologies that will receive the 2007 Spotlight on New Technologies Awards being given at this year's OTC. Award recipients (some with two awards) include: Aker Kvaerner Subsea and Well Services; Baker Oil Tools; DYNAenergetic; FARO Technologies, Jet-Lube, MODEC International; Single Buoy Moorings; Secure Drilling; Versabar; Vetco Gray and Weatherford.


Dallas-based Southwest Airlines placed fifth on Fortune magazine's 25th annual list of America's Most Admired Companies. General Electric tops the list, followed by Starbucks, Toyota Motor--which bumped Southwest from the number three position it held last year--and Berkshire Hathaway. The magazine says a common theme of the top three is company focus on environmental initiatives. The list and related stories appear in the March 19th issue of the publication.


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