TODAY

– March 30, 2015

Tulare County new car sales up since recession

New vehicle registration has revved back since the Great Recession in Tulare County, mirroring a trend seen across the nation.

“We’re not all the way back from the high during the 2005/06 period,” said Don Groppetti, the county’s largest auto dealer.

Still, the improvement is dramatic.

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Written on 03/30/2015, 2:55 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno-based United Security Bancshares, parent of United Security Bank, announced that Bhavneet Gill has been selected as vice president and chief...
Written on 03/30/2015, 1:26 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stock indexes are closing higher following encouraging news on consumer spending and home sales. Energy stocks and banks had some of the biggest gains Monday. UnitedHealth Group jumped 2.5 percent after the nation's largest health insurer said it would buy pharmacy benefits manager Catamaran. The Dow Jones industrial average soared 263 points, or 1.5 percent, to 17,976. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 25 points, or 1.2 percent, to 2,086. The Nasdaq composite climbed 56 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,947. Homebuilders rose after a gauge of future home sales surged to its highest level since June 2013. Separately, the government reported that consumer spending edged up in February following two months of declines. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.96 percent.
Written on 03/30/2015, 12:48 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — You can bring your beach towels and floral headbands, but forget that selfie stick if you're going to the Coachella or Lollapalooza music festivals. The sticks are banned this year at the events in Indio, California, and Chicago. Coachella dismissed them as "narsisstics" on a list of prohibited items. Selfie sticks have become a popular but polemical photo-taking tool: Avid picture takers like perching their cellphones on the lengthening devices to snap their own shots in front of monuments and sunsets, but critics dismiss them as obnoxious and potentially dangerous to others. Museums in the U.S. and Europe, including the Palace of Versailles outside Paris and Britain's National Gallery in London, have banned them. A spokesperson for Coachella wouldn't comment on the restriction. Lollapalooza representatives didn't immediately return a request for comment.
Written on 03/30/2015, 12:06 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno's newest Walmart Neighborhood Market location will open during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 1. The grand-opening ceremony will take place at 7:30 a.m.  The new store is located in the former Cedar Lanes bowling alley at 3131 N. Cedar Ave. and is open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. At 41,000 square feet, the facility features a full line of groceries, health and beauty aids and a pharmacy counter.  "With our fresh produce and convenient location, we are hoping to provide Fresno residents a great option for their everyday grocery shopping," said Matthew Enochs, store manager. The new store employs 95 full- and part-time staff members.  The grand-opening celebration will include presentations of $8,000 in grants from Walmart and the Walmart Foundation to local community groups including the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central California and McLane High School.  The new Walmart Neighborhood Market will also host "A Big Family Welcome" on April 4. The event will give customers a chance to meet Enochs and enjoy family friendly activities such as face painting, cupcake decorating and free food samples while supplies last. The community event will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The Cedar Avenue facility is the third Walmart Neighborhood Market to open in the Fresno area in recent years. The first store opened at 6855 N. Willow Ave. Northeast Fresno in May 2013 and was followed in September 2013 by the Clovis location at Shaw and Clovis Avenues.
Written on 03/30/2015, 12:05 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Tesla Motors says it will reveal a new product next month, but it's not a car. CEO Elon Musk tweeted Monday that "a major new Tesla product line" will be revealed April 30. Tesla shares rose 3 percent to $190.60 after the tweet. Musk said in February that the company would soon unveil a home battery that would be ready to go into production in about six months. Tesla has already partnered with Solar City — a solar energy company chaired by Musk — on battery storage systems for businesses that charge up during peak sunlight hours and use the energy in the evening, when demand spikes and rates rise. Solar City has also installed Tesla battery storage systems in about 300 California homes as part of a pilot program.
Written on 03/30/2015, 11:57 am by The Associated Press
A business economics group has boosted its outlook for U.S. economic improvement this year and next, particularly for job growth. The March report from the National Association for Business Economics forecasts more hiring, a lower unemployment rate, a lower inflation rate and more growth in consumer spending in 2015, compared to the group's forecast in December 2014. The report, released early Monday, also predicts more investment by businesses in both equipment and intellectual property, as well as modest growth in stock prices. "Healthier consumer spending, housing investment and government spending growth are expected to make outsized contributions to the projected acceleration in overall economic activity. Accordingly, recent labor market strength is expected to continue," John Silvia, the association's president and the chief economist at Wells Fargo, said in a statement. Other factors driving the improved forecast include an increased pace of activity in the housing sector, the strong dollar and continued low oil prices. The report predicts the benchmark price for crude oil, which fell from $98 per barrel in December 2013 to $59 in December 2014, will average $61 per barrel at the end of the year and $69 per barrel in December 2016. Just three months ago, the group forecast that oil would spike to $85 per barrel by December 2015. The NABE report did contain some negatives, however. Those include a widening U.S. trade deficit in 2015, a 0.1 percent dip in 2015 hourly compensation growth from December's prediction to 2.5 percent, and scaled-back forecasts for 2015 corporate profit growth, down 2 percentage points to 4.7 percent from December's forecast. Meanwhile, 88 percent of the panel of 50 professional forecasters predicted the Federal Reserve will start increasing interest rates in the second or third quarter of this year. Highlights of the association's forecast include: —On average, the economy should add 251,000 jobs per month in 2015 and then 216,000 per month in 2016. —The U.S. unemployment rate — now 5.5 percent, the lowest in seven years — is expected to dip to 5.4 percent in December and then decline to 5.1 percent in 2016. —Gross domestic product is expected to grow 3.1 percent in 2015, unchanged from the December forecast. —The federal deficit is expected to total $460 billion in fiscal 2015 and $453 billion in the 2016 fiscal year. —The group's forecast for Standard & Poor's 500 index, on average, is to end 2015 at 2,150 and end 2016 at 2,262. —Inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, is expected to decline 0.6 percent in 2015, a big improvement over December's forecast that it would increase by 1.7 percent. —Consumer spending is forecast to increase by 3.3 percent in 2015 and to increase by 3 percent the following year. "The improved consumer spending outlook may be attributable to the psychological impact of lower gasoline prices, as well as improving employment and income growth," the report noted.
Written on 03/30/2015, 11:51 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Ski lifts are coming to an early stop in Southern California. Climbing temperatures and a lack of snow have ended the ski season at the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit resorts. Even at 7,000 feet elevation, temperatures over the weekend threatened to hit 70 degrees. California Ski Industry Association executive director Bob Roberts tells the Press-Enterprise of Riverside (http://bit.ly/1G8XUmH ) that California resorts are ending the fourth consecutive season of below-average snowfall. Roberts says it's the first time he can recall four consecutive years when snowfall levels dipped dramatically. The National Ski Areas Association says skier visits plunged nearly 28 percent from the previous season at California, Nevada and Arizona resorts. California is in the midst of a long-running drought.___Information from: The Press-Enterprise, http://www.pe.com
Written on 03/30/2015, 11:50 am by KRISTIN J. BENDER, PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press
(AP) — Two former federal agents were charged with fraud in the theft of digital currency during an investigation into an online black market known as Silk Road that let users buy and sell drugs and other illegal items, authorities said Monday. Former U.S. Secret Service special agent Shaun W. Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Maryland, appeared in federal court in San Francisco but didn't enter a plea. He has been charged with wire fraud and money laundering. He was later released on $500,000 unsecured bond. His attorney, Steven Levin, declined to comment. Bridges is accused of diverting more than $800,000 in digital currency to his personal account after gaining control of the funds during the investigation. The complaint alleges that Bridges placed the assets into a now-defunct digital currency exchange in Japan then wired funds into one of his personal investment accounts in the U.S. The criminal complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Wednesday and unsealed Monday. Carl M. Force, 46, of Baltimore, a former special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, also has been charged in the case. He was expected to appear Monday in court in Maryland. Force worked undercover and was tasked with establishing communications with a target of the investigation, Ross William Ulbricht, who was convicted of seven drug and conspiracy charges in February. Ulbricht was accused of creating the multimillion-dollar marketplace for illegal drugs and other contraband and adopting the alias Dread Pirate Roberts, a character from the movie "Princess Bride."The website promised its buyers and sellers anonymity by using encryption and bitcoins. Force is charged with wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering and conflict of interest. The complaint alleges that Force used fake online personas and engaged in complex bitcoin transactions to steal from the government and Ulbricht. Investigators say Force solicited and received digital currency as part of the investigation but failed to report the funds and instead transferred the currency to his personal account. In one such transaction, Force sold information about the government's investigation to Ulbricht, authorities say. The complaint also alleges that Force invested in and worked for a digital currency exchange company while still employed by the DEA. He directed the company to freeze a customer's account and then transferred the account funds to his personal account, it says.
Written on 03/30/2015, 11:49 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Amazon.com is introducing a referral service to help people to get projects and chores done around their homes. The recommendation system, called Amazon Home Services, marks the e-commerce company's latest attempt to expand its empire beyond online shopping. It debuted Monday across the U.S. after several months of testing in New York, Los Angeles and Amazon.com's home city of Seattle. Amazon.com's move poses a potential threat to other online referral and business rating services, including Angie's List, Yelp and Thumbtack, a startup that raised $100 million last year from a group of backers led by an investment arm of Google Inc. About 700 different services in major U.S. cities can be booked through Amazon.com, spanning from housecleaning to goat grazing. Amazon.com isn't charging consumers a fee to use the service. Instead, the company will collect a commission ranging from 10 percent to 20 percent from most of the professionals. All professionals listed in the service are vetted by Amazon.com, which is also guaranteeing all the work. Amazon.com believes connecting consumers with handymen and home-maintenance specialists will prove to be a logical extension to its e-commerce business because about 85 million of its customers buy products that require installation or periodic servicing. Investors haven't always approved of Amazon.com's efforts to diversify outside of online shopping, a push that has seen the company branch out into making a variety of gadgets and running an Internet video service. The investments in the other projects have shrunk Amazon.com's profits and sometimes lumped the company with losses to the dismay of its shareholders. Shares of Amazon.com rose $3.21 to $373.77 in afternoon trading. Its shares have risen more than 10 percent over the past year.
Written on 03/30/2015, 11:48 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — StubHub is suing Ticketmaster and the Golden State Warriors, alleging it unfairly required fans looking to resell tickets to use Ticketmaster's resale exchange. The online ticket marketplace and division of San Jose, California-based eBay Inc. alleges that the organizations prevent fans from deciding how they want to resell tickets and artificially drive up ticket prices. Specifically, StubHub said Ticketmaster and the Warriors cancelled fans' regular-season and playoff-game tickets when those fans used StubHub and other exchanges to resell tickets. In other cases, the complaint says, Ticketmaster and the Warriors' front office broke the law by threatening fans with cancellation to force them to use Ticketmaster's resale exchange. Ticketmaster is a unit of Beverly Hills, California-based Live Nation Entertainment Inc. A representative for the company could not immediately be reached.

Latest State News

Written on 03/30/2015, 11:51 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Ski lifts are coming to an early...
Written on 03/30/2015, 11:48 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — StubHub is suing Ticketmaster...
Written on 03/30/2015, 11:25 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A McMuffin for dinner? It might...
Written on 03/30/2015, 10:06 am by chrisrose
(AP) — An unusually high number of...

Latest National News

Written on 03/30/2015, 1:26 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stock indexes are closing...
Written on 03/30/2015, 12:48 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — You can bring your beach towels...
Written on 03/30/2015, 12:05 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Tesla Motors says it will reveal...
Written on 03/30/2015, 11:57 am by The Associated Press
A business economics group has boosted...