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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 2, 2010

BUSINESS BRIEFS
U.S. manufacturing reports its strongest month since 2004


Advertiser News Services

NEW YORK Hopes that America's factories will help drive the economic recovery gained support yesterday from news that manufacturing activity grew in January to its strongest point since 2004.

Other reports yesterday offered a reminder that the recovery remains fragile. Construction spending sank in December to its lowest level in more than six years. And gains in personal income and spending were too modest in December to suggest that consumers can fuel a strong rebound.

Manufacturing activity has become a pocket of strength, though some of it flows from temporary factors such as customers needing to add to depleted stockpiles of goods.

OBAMA WANTS TO BEEF UP SEC ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS

WASHINGTON President Obama is seeking a 12 percent budget increase for the Securities and Exchange Commission, including $382 million for more than 100 new enforcement staff to work on the agency's burgeoning caseload targeting fraud and market manipulation.

The request to Congress yesterday for nearly $1.3 billion for the SEC in the budget year starting Oct. 1 would boost total staff to 4,190 from the current 3,800 at the traditionally low-profile agency, which was rocked by its failure to detect the massive 16-year fraud of money manager Bernard Madoff.

The request includes a 10.6 percent increase in enforcement attorneys and investigators, to 1,368.

TREASURY TRIMS BORROWING PROJECTION BY $86 BILLION

WASHINGTON The Treasury Department says it expects to borrow $392 billion in this quarter to help finance the largest annual budget deficit in history.

The projection is $86 billion lower than an estimate the department issued in November, when it expected to borrow $478 billion. The improvement is largely due to higher-than-expected repayments of about $90 billion in bailout funds by large banks.

The department also says it borrowed $260 billion in last year's fourth quarter, below an earlier estimate of $276 billion. Treasury expects to borrow $268 billion in the second quarter of this year.

UNSAFE PRACTICE MAY COST AMERICAN EAGLE MILLIONS

DALLAS Federal regulators are proposing a penalty of nearly $2.5 million against AMR Corp.'s American Eagle for not making sure crews had accurate information about the weight of baggage on dozens of flights.

Incorrect takeoff weights are considered a safety hazard if pilots rely on faulty information when determining the right speed for takeoff and landing.

The Federal Aviation Administration charges that Eagle operated at least 39 flights after being told of the problem. On at least two flights, the FAA charges, Eagle planes should not have taken off because they were too heavy.

EXXON-MOBIL EARNINGS PLUNGE ON LOW OIL DEMAND

NEW YORK Exxon Mobil's earnings fell by more than half to $19.3 billion in 2009, the lowest total in seven years, as company refineries struggled with a plunge in global fuel consumption. But Exxon remains the profit champion among U.S. public companies.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company finished the year with a 23 percent decline in fourth-quarter income. Exxon now has posted lower profits for five straight quarters after setting a record of $14.83 billion in the third quarter of 2008.

Like rivals ConocoPhillips and Chevron, Exxon's business of exploring for and producing oil benefited from an increase in crude prices at the end of 2009. But weak demand for gasoline, heating oil and other products severely depressed profits at the major oil companies' refineries.