Wednesday AM November 7th, 2007

$ continues losing ground against ‘ and ?…Plains Exploration & Production and Pogo Producing shareholders approve combination… resident Bush proposes tougher policing of products from abroad… The dollar’s new low against the Euro comes amid expectations of more interest rate cuts in the U.S. and concern about the strength of the economy. The Euro rose […]

$ continues losing ground against ‘ and ?…Plains Exploration & Production and Pogo Producing shareholders approve combination… resident Bush proposes tougher policing of products from abroad…

The dollar’s new low against the Euro comes amid expectations of more interest rate cuts in the U.S. and concern about the strength of the economy. The Euro rose to a record $1.4571 in late afternoon trading Tuesday in Europe before falling back slightly. The dollar has been on a downward slide since the Federal Reserve’s decision in September to cut rates by a half point, followed by a quarter-point cut last week. A higher Euro also makes vacations in Europe more expensive for U.S. travelers and can make European companies choose between raising prices or cutting profitability on goods sold in the U.S. with the holiday season approaching, it may also spur more Europeans to make shopping jaunts to the U.S., where the Euro and the pound buy more.

Shareholders for Plains Exploration & Production and Pogo Producing have approved the combination of the Houston companies. Plains announced its purchase of Pogo in July in a $3.6 billion cash-for-stock deal.

Houston-based PinPoint Commercial is planning a 350-acre industrial park on the edge of Hobby Airport, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Hobby Business Center will be near Almeda-Genoa and Telephone Road.

Mattel has recalled more than 172,000 Fisher-Price kitchen toys in the United States and Europe because several children choked and gagged on small, detachable parts. The company has received 48 reports of small parts separating from these toys, which feature a sink, a refrigerator and a range. One child choked on a detached piece and needed the Heimlich maneuver performed to remove the part. One child started to choke, and two children had pieces in their mouths and gagged. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the recall involves 155,000 toys sold in the United States. It also includes about 17,000 items distributed overseas. The Mexican-made toys were sold between May and October.

President Bush has proposed giving the federal government the ability to toughen its policing of products from abroad. Acting on recommendations from an advisory panel, the president has proposed that the Food and Drug Administration would be empowered to order mandatory recalls of products deemed a risk to consumers under new recommendations. They come from an advisory commission created in response to concerns about recalls of dangerous toothpaste, dog food and toys. The panel was established in July to study import safety, led by Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. Currently, the FDA lacks the authority to order recalls, but works with producers on voluntary recalls. Bush says the U.S. benefits from having an open market and a huge variety of products from across the globe. But says more needs to be done to ensure that “American families have confidence in what they find” on store shelves.

The House of Thaller is recalling more dip packaged in 7.5-ounce containers using the Kroger brand name–because it could be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes. The update–including products sold in Texas–involves more than 11,000 pounds of dip. No illnesses have been reported. This is an expansion of an October 29th recall of 529 pounds of dip. The recall includes smoked salmon dip, cajun smoked salmon dip and chipotle smoked salmon dip, each with a variety of date codes. The dip was sold at Kroger stores, Dillon Stores and King Soopers in Texas and 18 other states. For more information, call 1-800-462-3365.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke praised organizations that provide tiny loans to people struggling to start their own businesses. He says the movement, known as microfinance, has helped people all over the globe to start their own businesses and improve their lot in life. He says even more people can be helped in the future as organizations providing the loans improve their operating techniques. Microfinance has gained the most attention in poor nations. But Bernanke says it also has a role to play in the United States through such organizations as Accion Texas. Bernanke’s comments were made to a conference sponsored by Accion in San Antonio. Bernanke said that microfinance did not come to the United States until the 1980s and 1990s. But he says that now through such organizations as Accion Texas there was a “lively network” of activity in this country.

The Houston Chronicle is now the sixth-largest newspaper in the nation on Sundays, and remains seventh on weekdays, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Sunday circulation is up slightly to 693,228, with daily circulation dropping slightly to 507,437.

AT&T has cut its forecast for how many homes will have access to U-Verse. It’s the service that sends cable TV through home phone lines. In a regulatory filing, the San Antonio-based company said it expects U-Verse to be available to 17 million homes at the end of next year. That’s down from a previous estimate of 18 million. The company says the delay is due to a shift in resources to prepare for the U-Verse rollout in the former BellSouth territory. AT&T last year acquired BellSouth for $86 billion.

The nation’s largest manure-to-natural gas plant is up and running in the heart of Texas dairy country. The Huckabay Ridge Project is located in the heart of the Erath County dairy land near Stephenville, about 65 miles southwest of Fort Worth. It’s is expected produce enough energy to power 11,000 homes a year and is a high-profile example of the growing need for alternative energy. Huckabay Ridge gets manure from local dairy farms, processes it with grease and other restaurant waste, purifies it and turns it into natural gas–the energy equivalent of 4.6 million gallons of oil a year. The processing plant is owned by Microgy Incorporated. Microgy’s a wholly owned subsidiary of Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Environmental Power Corporation. Environmental Power CEO Richard Kessell says the company views the dairies “as non-depleting gas wells with a long-term supply of renewable energy.” The Lower Colorado River Authority buys the gas and uses it to power homes in central Texas. Next fall, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric will buy natural gas from Huckabay Ridge.

Electronic ticket resale company Flash Seats has bought up the Dallas-based ticketer Vertical Alliance. The purchase price isn’t being disclosed. Vertical Alliance’s operations will remain in Dallas. Through Flash Seats, which began about a year ago, customers can buy, sell or transfer already purchased tickets electronically for sporting events and concerts. Since 1999, Vertical Alliance has helped teams and venues sell tickets to their events. Cleveland-based Flash Seats is owned by an investor group led by Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert, who operates the Quicken Loans Arena where the Cavs play. Flash Seats provides ticket resale services for the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena. Vertical Alliance clients include the NBA’s Houston Rockets, the Houston Toyota Center, Boise State University and Texas A&M University.

Pipeline operator and natural gas producer El Paso Corporation reports its third-quarter profit rose 16 percent. Houston-based El Paso says the numbers were lifted by results at its pipeline operation and its exploration and production arm. Net income rose to $146 million. That compares to year-ago earnings of $126 million dollars. Revenue in the July-September period climbed nearly 24 percent. El Paso President Doug Foshee says this quarter continues the company’s financial and operational success as pipelines and E&P businesses performed well.

Valero Energy’s profit dropped more than 20 percent in the third quarter due to weak refining margins that hurt the industry. Officials with the San Antonio-based company also say Valero will explore a sale of its Aruba refinery. Net income fell to $1.27 billion. That compares to year-ago earnings of $1.6 billion. Revenue rose two percent. Results included a $1.1 billion reduction in operating income due to higher crude oil prices and resulting lower margins for many of Valero’s products.

Tenet Healthcare’s third-quarter loss narrowed on higher charges and more admissions in its most lucrative business–commercial managed care. Dallas-based Tenet says the loss narrowed to $59 million–compared to $89 million one year earlier. The loss from continuing operations widened to $35 million– compared to $19 million. Revenue improved 7.5 percent. Tenet Healthcare also reaffirmed its fourth-quarter and 2007 guidance for adjusted earnings.

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