Friday PM June 29th, 2007

Retail gasoline prices drop for fifth straight week...Texas okays construction of Highway 121 toll road...Apple's iPhone goes on sale this evening...

AAA Texas says retail gasoline prices have dropped for a fifth straight week. The lower cost at the pump comes as travelers prepare for next week's July 4th holiday. AAA Texas reports retail prices for gasoline average $2.88 per gallon across the state. That's a drop of three cents from last week. The survey found El Paso with the highest average retail price for regular, at $3.09--or down one nickel from last week. The lowest average price per gallon was Corpus Christi, with $2.74--or four cents lower than last week. The agency reports that in Texas--about 3.4 million people are expected to travel during the holiday period. Fuel prices this year are nearly ten cents higher than one year ago.

The State Transportation Commission has voted to allow the North Texas Tollway Authority to build the Highway 121 toll road. The roadway involves parts of Denton and Collin Counties. Regional leaders earlier this month endorsed NTTA, instead of the planned work by Cintra Constructionξof Spain. NTTA has 60 days to negotiate a binding agreement with the Regional Transportation Council. After that, NTTA would have 45 days to pay more than $3.3 billion to the state for use on other north Texas road projects. The contract goes back to Cintra if the NTTA is unable to meet either condition.

Apple's iPhone go on sale this evening and eager buyers lined up outside some stores in Texas. It's a wait-in-line scene duplicated across the country as the high-tech gadgets will be available starting at 6 p.m. (local time) all across the nation. Customers will be limited to two iPhones per purchase on a first come, first served basis. The iPhone triples as a cell phone, iPod media player and a wireless Web device. It sells for $499 for a four-gigabyte model and $599 for eight-gigs. There's also a monthly service contract that starts at around $60.

As electronics junkies in the U.S. wait for Apple's iPhone to go on sale, Motorola is selling the new version of its popular Razr cell phone in South Korea--ahead of a global launch scheduled for July. The "Razr2'' is available via SK Telecom, Korea's largest wireless carrier by revenue, for about $630—before handset subsidies. Motorola unveiled the new cell phone last month in a bid to resurrect its ailing handset business. It has a slimmer frame, larger screen and improved call quality compared with its predecessor. The company has sold nearly 100 million Razr phones.

Four women who workedξwith Halliburton's former subsidiary KBR have filed federal lawsuits against the companies for sexual harassment and rape while working in Iraq, according to the Houston Chronicle. Attorneys for the women in the alleged rape cases are filing cases in civil courts.

A Houston jury awarded around $1.5 million to a former manufacturing manager who sued Input/Output, according to the Houston Chronicle, alleging he was fired because of his age. The Houston-based seismic technology and equipment company terminated 68-year-old Gaines Watkins in 2002, but says it was not related to his age. Input/Output says it laid off 56 percent of its work force over a two-to three-year period during a slow time for the seismic industry. Watkins is now 73 and works for another energy company.

The Port of Houston Authority has approved additional work projects, including an additional $5 million in construction work to the Bayport Container and Cruise Terminal. The commission also approved up to $1.6 million for maintenance dredging of Woodhouse and Sims Bayou berthing areas and more than $70,000 in port security improvements. Anticipated size of vessels and projected cargo volumes requires the expansion of the planned Berth 3 Wharf to provide berthing space for larger ships.

Oil prices have shot back up above the psychologically important $70 mark. The price of crude is trading above that level for the second time in two days on worries about gasoline supplies. With most U.S. refineries expected to increase output in the coming months after finishing maintenance, pressure on gasoline is expected to drop. Still, prices could remain high because increased refinery capacity puts greater demands on crude availability.

Tags: News


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