Tuesday PM April 10th, 2007

Purchasing managers note continued economic growth in Houston... LatinAmerica Broadcasting expanding into 22 more markets...Energy Department predicts average nationwide cost of gasoline will likely peak in May...

Houston's economy continued growing in March for the 28th consecutive month, according to the National Association of Purchasing Management. Their Purchasing Manager's Index was 62.4 for the month. Purchase level increases, sales and prices of goods and services grew. Inventory levels were lower for March. The Houston PMI is based on a monthly survey of purchasing executives in oil and gas exploration and production, manufacturing, engineering and construction, chemicals, distribution, business and financial services and healthcare. Components of the PMI include sales, production, employment, purchases, prices paid and inventory levels.

Houston-based LatinAmerica Broadcasting is affiliating with Arkansas-based Equity Media Holdings to distribute its programming in 22 new markets. Patricia Torres-Burd is Executive Vice President of Programming and Branding for LAT TV.

"They're going to be carrying our programming lineup that we have right now, and obviously, you know, with the expansion it allows us to, you know, delve into different areas of production. We are going to be starting some co-production agreements—specifically one with Plural Entertainment, in which we're going to be co-producing a show called "Mis Quince," which is a little bit of a docu-reality show in the very, very popular tradition of celebrating Quincea?era, which is the Rite of Passage at 15 years old for Hispanic young ladies. We're going to be co-producing and now that we're in all these new territories its going to be shot here and in a lot of our major markets that we're going to be in."

The distribution agreement takes effect on May 30th.

"This launch-out also happens to coincide with with our one-year anniversary. As you know, we launched on May 19th, so we do, we have a new brand, a new look coming out, and so we're very excited everything's happening at the same time. There'll be a little bit of a new look, you know, once again working very hard to always keep the level and raise the level for Hispanic television, as well as some really exciting new programs we're going to be introducing."

LatinAmerica Broadcasting will now be seen in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Seattle and Portland, as well as two California outlets and five markets in Florida. The programs are seen locally on KCVH-TV channel 30, as well as in Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix, Austin and San Antonio. LAT TV plans to become a full broadcast network reaching 70 percent of Nielsen coverage within the next two years.

The government says drivers can expect the recent gasoline price surge to ease up over the next few weeks. The Energy Department is predicting that the average nationwide cost of regular-grade gasoline will likely peak at $2.87 a gallon in May. That's up only seven cents over the average last week. The summer fuels outlook says the price of regular-grade gasoline is projected to average $2.81 a gallon through the summer driving season. That would be three cents lower than last year. The government says the recent price surge can be attributed to higher crude oil prices, unplanned refinery outages and an increase in demand as well as a decline in gasoline imports.

A shelter-in-place alert was lifted around 1:30 this afternoon after the containment of a catalyst leak at the BP Texas City plant's Cat 3 unit. The catalyst material could be an irritant for people with asthma or other breathing problems. The plant was evacuated as a precaution, according to BP's Neil Chapman.

State district Judge Susan Criss of Galveston has ordered a second deposition of a public affairs manager at BP's Texas City refinery, according to the Houston Chronicle, as the court looks into possible jury tampering. BP's Texas City-based manager for government and public affairs Neal Geary has testified in court and by deposition about a mailing sent out to 900 Texas City business leaders before a civil trial last October. The mailing outlined BP's efforts to improve safety. But BP lawyers last week said they discovered a second mailing to about 7,000 Texas City residents. Judge Criss called the initial mailing a stunt that could taint the jury pool for a case involving two of the 15 deaths from the 2005 explosion at the plant. The judge was given lists of recipients for the mailings, and the second list is being scanned for matches to potential jurors. She will consider sanctions against BP in a hearing next week.

As previewed earlier, the International Monetary Fund says troubles in the U.S. mortgage market aren't expected to derail stability in global financial markets. The assessment is part of a wide-ranging report on the world financial outlook. The IMF report does say that ''the subprime segment has deteriorated a bit more rapidly than had been expected at this point in a housing downturn.'' But it notes that ''fallout has so far been limited to a small number of lenders, but could yet spread to the structured credit markets.'' Subprime lenders are those making home loans to people with poor credit histories or low incomes. Weak home prices and rising interest rates have made it increasingly difficult for some U.S. borrowers to keep up with their payments. Delinquencies and foreclosures in the U.S. subprime mortgage market have been soaring.

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