Friday AM August 17th, 2007

Port of Houston Authority to halve bond request...ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil reportedly close to compensation deal with Venezuela...ExecuNet: executive recruiters using Internet to screen job candidates before the interview...

The Port of Houston Authority has cut its proposed bond issue to $250 million—less than half of what it originally requested. The commission had been seeking approval of $550 million. The funding is for construction of the Bayport container facility and cruise terminal. The Harris County Commissioners Court will decide on Tuesday whether to include a port bond proposal as part of a larger package on a November ballot.

ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips may reach a compensation deal with Venezuela's national oil company within weeks over at least $5 billion worth of assets. The talks will be completed within a week or two, according to an official of Venezuela's national oil company. ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips left when the state company increased its stake in all heavy-oil projects in the Orinico region to at least 60 percent. ConocoPhillips took a $4.5 billion charge in the last quarter for the lost value of the projects.

Dell is reducing more than four years worth of earnings by up to $150 million. An internal probe found the Round Rock-based company misled its auditors and manipulated results for performance goals. Dell says its net income for the restatement period will be reduced by two-to-seven cents per share. Dell will restate all of fiscal 2003 through 2006 and the first quarter of fiscal 2007. The investigation, which began last August, evaluated more than five million documents. Dell says the review identified evidence that certain adjustments appear to have been motivated by the objective of attaining financial targets. The Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation into some of Dell's accounting and financial reporting practices—is ongoing.

Connecticut-based ExecuNet research shows an increasing number of executive recruiters and hiring managers are using Internet search engines to screen and eliminate job candidates long before the interview process. A recent study of 131 executive and corporate recruiters reveals the influence of online research is on the rise, from 75 percent utilizing search engines in 2005 to 83 percent this year. The percentage of recruiters that eliminated a candidate based on information found online increased from 26 percent in 2005 to 43 percent. A separate survey of 218 executives reveals that while a majority expect companies and recruiters to conduct a search of their name online during the hiring process, 22 percent have never entered their own name into a search engine to determine what personal or professional information is uncovered. Some 20 percent have taken proactive steps to increase the positive information found online under the name, up from 13 percent a year ago.

The Organization of Black Airline Pilots is holding its 31st annual convention this week at the downtown Hilton Americas. The group introduces minorities its profession through schools, flight academies and scholarships.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits has gone up in the past week. The Labor Department says jobless claims rose by 6,000 last week, to 322,000. The increase was unexpected. Analysts had been looking for a decline of around 1,000. The four-week average for claims was also up, rising by 4,750 to 312,500.

Expansion in manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region ground to a halt this month. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia says its Business Conditions Index, which gauges activity in the region's manufacturing sector, fell to a reading of zero in August from 9.2 in July. Positive numbers indicate expanding activity. The report says that even though the indexes for new orders, shipments and employment all remained positive, the survey's indicator for general activity suggests no overall growth in the manufacturing sector. The Philly Fed's manufacturing index is considered a solid leading indicator of national activity in the sector.

IBM and Sun Microsystems announced plans to cooperate on some server technologies. Sun Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz says the comprehensive relationship represents what he calls a "tectonic shift in the market landscape.'' Left out of the mix is Hewlett-Packard, which is locked in a battle with IBM for leadership in the worldwide server market. IBM and HP each had 29 percent share in the most recent figures compiled by market tracker IDC. Sun and Round Rock-based Dell were tied for third with 11 percent each. The collaboration will enable Sun's Solaris operating system to run on IBM servers. That means customers running Sun servers will be able to switch to Big Blue's hardware--without having to rewrite any programs.

J.C. Penney Company said that its second-quarter profit edged up nearly two percent year-over-year to top Wall Street expectations. The Plano-based department store retailer also raised its outlook for the full year. Net income rose to $182 million. Total sales increased nearly four percent to $4.39 billion, driven by sales of children's and women's apparel--especially in the southwest and Pacific northwest. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected higher sales of $4.42 billion. The company said its back-to-school selling season is off to a good start, and it's pleased by the response to its new Ambrielle private lingerie brand and exclusive Liz & Company and Concepts by Claiborne.

Archaeology has been added to ecology and economy as a concern for Arkansas regulators considering plans for a coal-fired power plant in southwestern Arkansas. The Arkansas Department of Heritage tells Southwestern Electric Power Company says "cultural deposits'' may be buried below the site of the $1.3 billion plan. The department says in a letter that the site in Hempstead County, Arkansas, should be evaluated for possible archaeological value. The department's also filed a copy of its letter with the Arkansas Public Service Commission, which is to decide whether to allow the plant. SWEPCO says the plant is needed for 464,000 customers in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Last week, the commission heard a lawyer for hunters argue that coal dust would fall from smoke plumes into the area's virgin woods and waterways and contribute to global warming.

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