TODAY

– August 2, 2014

Ag firm Olam locates West Coast HQ in Fresno

Olam International, the Singapore-based supplier of ag products from cashews to cotton, is setting corporate roots in the Valley with the announcement that Fresno will be its West Coast headquarters.

About 80 people will work out of Olam's new office at 205 E. River Park Circle, Suite 310, overseeing operations including sales, accounting, financing and farming, said Warren Williams, Olam's general counsel in Fresno.

Olam already employs about 1,683 people at its farming and food processing operations in Fresno, Lemoore, Hanford and Firebaugh. The new 16,660 square-foot office will serve as a corporate hub for its Valley business which includes farming almonds, processing tomatoes and dehydrating vegetables.

"This brings everyone together in one spot, which is a big benefit," Williams said.

Olam is hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 18 to celebrate the new office with scheduled guests including John Gibbons, president of Olam Americas based in New Jersey, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Fresno County Supervisor Susan Anderson.

Employees began moving into the new digs on April 25.

Olam is a truly global company that operates an integrated supply chain for 20 products in 64 countries. It began its expansion into the Valley in 2007 when it acquired cotton processor Anderson Clayton Crop. in Fresno after purchasing its parent company, Queensland Cotton Holdings of Australia.

Since then it has been buying up agriculture-based holdings left and right in the Valley, including the former De Franceso & Sons dehydrating plant in Firebaugh in 2008, the bankrupt SK Foods tomato processing plant in Lemoore in 2009 and another dehydration plant in Hanford through its 2010 purchase of Gilroy Foods & Flavors from ConAgra

Jose Antonio Ramirez, Firebaugh city manager, said having Olam's West Coast corporate headquarters in Fresno could open up more prospects for its Valley holdings, including an expansion of the products it processes as well as research and development.

"The value-added opportunities that are going to surface from having its headquarters in Fresno and a plant in Firebaugh are going to be endless," Ramirez said.

Olam Americas has about 25 operations in the U.S., including California locations in Williams (north of Sacramento), Gilroy and Modesto in addition to its Central Valley holdings.

In 2010, the publicly-traded Olam International reported sales revenue of about $8.53 billion, with about $292.2 million in net profit.

Attorney Carl Refuerzo, chair of the business department for Fresno law firm Baker Manock & Jensen, works with Olam on its various business dealings. He said Olam's representatives here and abroad are easy to work with, and that this is great news for Fresno and the Valley.

"This shows Olam's commitment to investment in agribusiness in the Central Valley," Refuerzo said.

--

Previous Olam International stories:

Olam purchases another Valley food processor

Hanford dehydrating plant to transfer ownership

Olam closes deal on Lemoore plant

$10M in bonds authorized for garlic facility

Lemoore’s SK Foods sold

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Written on 08/01/2014, 3:44 pm by gabrieldillard
Central Valley unemployment rates for June stayed flat or rose slightly in the month after hitting five-year lows, according to new statistics released by...
Written on 08/01/2014, 3:38 pm by gabrieldillard
Influential Fresno developer Tom Richards was frank in his assessment of the Valley economy this week, advocating in favor of high-speed rail in front of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. “I don't see things any better here, and they are probably worse than when I moved here as a young adult,” Richards said. “We need jobs, which we don't have. We can't live off the backs of agriculture forever. We can't live on taking ag land out of production.”Richards, CEO of The Penstar Group and vice-chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, was attempting (unsuccessfully) to steer the board away from reversing its support of the project. His words echo most economic developers in the region and beyond. 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Hanford is No. 5 with a 57.6 percent change, and Visalia is No. 11 with a 40.9 percent change.Levine forecasts that non-farm employment will continue to grow 2.8 percent this year, 3 percent in 2015 and 3.2 percent in 2016.In turn, taxable sales will grow 4-5 percent over the next few years, and the real estate market will continue to recover.The report also references some of the gains in the Valley’s energy sector, which includes several solar farms and a variety of renewable energy projects as well as increased oil drilling.“…The South San Joaquin Valley is in the midst of both a traditional and an alternative energy boom and has become a much more diverse economy than it was in previous decades,” according to Levine. Business activity The growth of the Valley’s gross domestic product from 2002 to 2007 was nearly the same as the state’s overall, but after that period, things changed. 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But Meux also points out that during the previous drought from 1989-1991, the ag industry did not see an abnormal decline in the value of ag production for the region. While there was a 14 percent drop from 1990 to 1991, Meux points out that that was also a period of nationwide recession.The report sees opportunities in the current situation, including infrastructure improvements. Meux points at the McKay Point project in Tulare County, which is a proposed 120-acre reservoir site.The report also references the Water FX solar desalination plant in the Firebaugh area that is looking to expand at the end of the year.“Even though this project is running at a very small scale at this point, it’s still highlights the important role that innovation can play in overcoming the state and region’s water supply issues,” according to Meux.
Written on 08/01/2014, 3:21 pm by Business Journal Staff
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Written on 08/01/2014, 3:16 pm by Leah
President/CEOJ-I.T. Outsource (Formerly The Geeks Computer Service) What we do:Solve business problems with technology, act as the outsourced I.T. department for small to medium-sized businesses under 500 computers.   Education:Bachelor’s degree, English — California State University, Fresno Age:39 Family:Wife, JenniferSons, Aaron (12) & Tyler (8) How did you come to establish The Geeks Computer Service?My first post-McDonald’s job was with the Fresno Unified School District, where I moved from a Spanish language bilingual instructional aide to technology aide. I soon was working in the homes of teachers and administrators and their spouses’ businesses. Over the next 19 years, I served 17,000 end users and ended up known as the leading consumer computer repair brand in the area, despite vicious competition. Being known as the consumer solution, a lot of people didn’t even realize that by the end of 2013, 70 percent of my business was coming from business network support. 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So, I’d say if you’re willing to do the work, you have a bright future in the Valley. What was your first job and what did you learn from it?My first real job was throwing the Fresno Bee when I was 14. I learned the value of “putting it on the porch.”  The Bee didn’t insist I do it for every client, only those who requested it. I learned that if I simply put it on the porch for everyone, I would have happy customers. It’s the simple service details that make all the difference. What are your roots in the San Joaquin Valley?My mom was raised in Clovis. I was born in SoCal but she brought me to Fresno when I was a year old, so I’m a Fresno native—a Southeast Fresno Homeboy, even though I now live in Clovis. Mom worked very hard and raised me and my brother and sister as a single parent, eventually working her way out of poverty, when she remarried to a man who eventually adopted all of us. Chris Petersen served on the Fresno City Council in Southeast Fresno’s District 5 in the 80s, and I learned from him how important it is to bring value to your community and to show love for your city. I took his last name when he adopted us. He passed away a number of years ago, but I hope he’s proud of the contribution I’m trying to make. What do you like to do in your spare time?I’ve read about spare time in a book once.
Written on 08/01/2014, 2:50 pm by Leah
Fresno’s WinCo Foods locations will soon feature self-checkout stands as the grocery chain rolls out the feature to all of its 93 stores in seven states.Mike Read, vice president of public and legal affairs at Idaho-based WinCo Foods, said three stores in the Fresno area should have the self-checkout stands this month. With its low prices, extensive bulk food selection and warehouse-store feel, WinCo may be known by customers as a place to stock up. But Read said that doesn’t apply to everyone.“Not all shoppers do what I would call a stock-up trip,” he said. “Some have only a few items and really would like the convenience of having self-checkout lines.”WinCo Foods recently secured a building permit to install the self-checkout stands at the Clovis location at 396 W. Ashlan Ave., though a representative reached at the store was unaware of the project and referred a reporter to WinCo’s corporate office.Read declined to state how much the self-checkout lanes will cost the entire chain. The valuation of the Fresno permit was $90,000, and the contractor is Eleven Western Builders Inc. in Escondido.Construction had yet to begin at WinCo’s Fresno store at 4488 W. Shaw Avenue earlier this week. Fresno has another store at 1004 S. Peach Ave. in Fresno. There is also a Visalia location.As part of the renovations, two traditional checkout stands in each store will be replaced with six self-checkout stands recommended for customers with 15 items or less. The use of coupons will require a clerk’s assistance.As before, WinCo shoppers will continue to bag their own groceries. All forms of payment except credit cards will be accepted at the stands. WinCo doesn’t accept credit card payments.Read said there will be no accompanying layoffs or staffing increases at WinCo stores as a result of this effort. — Gabriel Dillard Tulare Family Dollar closesA Tulare Family Dollar location is set to close Monday, an apparent victim of flagging sales.The North Carolina-based discount retail chain started a building spree around 2012, opening around a couple of dozen stores in the Central Valley, in larger as well as rural cities.An employee at the Tulare Family Dollar location at 1277 N. Cherry Street said a going-out-of-business sale will continue through the weekend. Two other Tulare locations will remain open.The Dollar Tree discount chain announced this week it is buying the Family Dollar chain for $8.5 billion. The move would make Dollar Tree the largest player in the dollar store segment, with more than 13,000 combined locations. Current leader Dollar General Corp. has about 11,300.Both have opened several Central Valley locations in the last few years.The companies did not say if any Dollar Tree or Family Dollar stores would be closed as a result of the sale. — Gabriel Dillard New Wing Stops in worksNew Wing Stop restaurants are planned for Clovis, Hanford and Porterville.The Clovis location spans 1,200 square feet at the northeast corner of Clovis and Herndon avenues. The building was leased to Wing Stop from Clovis-Herndon Center LLC. Shane Anderson and Doug Cords were agents.The Hanford restaurant spans 1,606 square feet at 150 N. 12th Avenue, #103. It was leased to Wing Stop from Centennial-Hanford Center III LLC. Shane Anderson and Doug Cords were agents in cooperation with Geoff Smith, agent at Lauritzen Company.Wing Stop picked up 1,444 square feet of space at 1375 W. Henderson Ave., Suite 2B. The building is leased to Wing Stop from Henderson-Prospect Partners III LLC. Nathan Negri, Shane Anderson and Doug Cords were agents in the deal.The Wing Stop chain already has restaurants at 5177 E. Kings Canyon Rd. and 1089 E. Shaw Ave. in Fresno, and at 1195 Herndon Ave. in Clovis.Wing Stop is known for its chicken wings. Its menu includes boneless wings, boneless chicken strips and gliders with 11 sauce flavors including atomic, mango habanero, Cajun, original hot, mild, hickory smoked BBQ, lemon pepper, garlic parmesan, Hawaiian, teriyaki, and Louisiana rub. Wing Stop started out as a buffalo-style wing restaurant in Garland, Tex. It now has 500 locations in 30 states. — Chuck Harvey Fresno firm takes on Lotto poolsEveryday millions of people join office lottery pools to increase their chances of winning the big jackpot and hopefully changing their lives forever. One local company, LottoLishus, is launching a social, mobile lottery pooling website and smartphone app aimed at bringing lottery pooling into the 21st century.The company launched what it calls its “Universe Builder” on June 18, which allows potential lottery poolers to begin creating their own lottery pools using the LottoLishus software. Starting in a few weeks, LottoLishus will go live with its full program.It will allow members to play games like Mega Millions, Powerball and Super Lotto Plus from their phones, tablets and PCs.Entrepreneur’s Mark Lane and David Hardcastle have been working with local development firm Bitwise Industries and their subsidiary Shift 3 Technologies to bring LottoLishus to life.“Technology has touched almost every aspect of our lives in the past few years except for lottery pooling,” said Hardcastle, CEO of LottoLishus, in a release. “We saw an opportunity to combine lottery pooling, which has been around since lotteries began, with the convenience of modern technology and ease of sharing with social media.”Players set up an account with a credit card to play $4, $6 or $8 on lotto each week. Playing with a pool of members helps increase the chance of winning.“And to make it more fun, we’re giving away iPads and iPad Minis to people who can grow the biggest pools,” Lane said.Lane and Hardcastle make their money through subscription fees. All business will be handled online.LottoLishus is a homegrown Fresno company. “We’re using local developers, graphic designers, and marketers to launch this venture,” Hardcastle said. “We even did a grass roots capital raise up with local friends and family. We truly believe in the talent here in Fresno and are looking forward to showing off what we can do to our anticipated worldwide audience.”Lottery sales globally are close to $300 billion dollars annually and growing at a steady 8-10 percent rate every year. LottoLishus hopes to tap into that market.“Our goal is to make it fun and convenient while increasing your chances to win,” Lane said. “Our patent pending software will allow our pool to grow to thousands and hopefully millions of players and tickets in play.”Lane said players will win something slightly more than 70 percent of the time playing Mega Millions and more than 30 percent of the time playing Powerball. — Chuck Harvey
Written on 08/01/2014, 2:46 pm by ben
The Hanford City Council voted 5-0 last week to approve environmental documents for a development that will include 500,000 square feet of commercial space near highways 198 and 43. The development, proposed by Fresno-based Pinnacle Pointe LLC, is sited on a 58-acre plot of former ag land bordered by Lacey Boulevard, Highway 198 and Highway 43 in east Hanford.Pinnacle Pointe, which bought the property in 2004, will be building up the development in four phases.Phase 1 will consist of 275,000 square feet of building space, including 100,000 square feet of anchor retail, 6,500 square feet of fast-food restaurants and 5,000 square feet of sit-down restaurants.The first phase also calls for two other retail pads of 9,500 square feet and 4,000 square feet and 150,000 square feet of a discount club that will likely be a Costco.While other potential tenants have yet to be announced, Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle said the goal is for Costco to close escrow on the property soon with construction wrapping up on the store by spring 2015.“We’re going to bust tail at the City of Hanford to make that happen and the street improvements will begin as soon as we do our plan check and acquire the right of ways,” Pyle said.Phase 2 of the project will add three large retail tenant spaces to the area as well as two smaller building pads, while phase 3 will see another three large retail tenant spaces and two smaller building pads. Phase 4 will bring another four building pads and additional parking.Complying with the City of Hanford’s wishes to preserve downtown as a viable commercial center, Pinnacle Pointe will exclude certain types of businesses from the development, including financial institutions, theatres and auto dealerships.To handle the influx of new traffic, Pinnacle Pointe has also agreed to install traffic signals where Highway 43 intersects 10th Avenue and Grangeville Boulevard and add road lanes to allow for the increase in traffic volumes.Pinnacle Pointe will also be responsible for relocating the intersection at Highway 43 and Lacey Boulevard about a quarter-mile west and 300 feet north of its current placement to avoid a gas station and convenience store in the area.In addition, the company will take on a widening project bringing Lacey Boulevard from its current two lanes to four and will also make improvements to the Highway 43-to-Highway 198 ramps. Another project will involve two new wells drilled on the site with booster pumps to provide power for fire sprinklers.Under the City of Hanford’s Sales Tax Incentive Program adopted in 2011, Pinnacle Pointe will be reimbursed for the improvements by receiving back 50 percent of its sales tax revenue — up to $2 million per year — if the development generates at least $23 million a year in sales tax.The Costco must generate $5.75 million per quarter in sales tax in order for Pinnacle Pointe to receive payment for that quarter.Pinnacle Pointe is also benefiting from another city program started up in 2011 that reduced development impact fees by 30 percent for sewer, water and transportation infrastructure.Pyle said the new sales tax revenues should be in the neighborhood of $500,000 a year at full buildout, helping Hanford to add more services and infrastructure in that part of the city, including a planned eastside fire station.“We were going to struggle with east Lacey Boulevard until this development came along,” Pyle said, referring to the loss of the city’s redevelopment agency a few years ago. “Now we have good motivation for public investment with sewer and infrastructure and road improvements. It’s also within eye-shot of the high-speed rail station location.” Ben Keller  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3465 or e-mail ben@thebusinessjournal.com
Written on 08/01/2014, 2:44 pm by chuckharvey
A warm, dry spring has expedited harvests of two of the most valuable Valley crops, grapes and almonds.“Grapes are now being harvested on a small scale,” said Ryan Jacobsen, CEO and executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. “And they are already shaking almonds.” National Agriculture Statistics Service reports that the Kings County almond harvest has begun. Normally the start is later in August.And the grape harvest is running one to two weeks ahead of schedule.Bud break for grapes was very early this season, leading to early flowering and an early harvest. Water allocations for the crop all but disappeared in drought conditions, but farmers with wells kept the crops alive and growing.The hope is that grape quality will be good throughout the season. GrapesWine grape harvesting normally starts in August with Thompson seedless and pino gris harvested first in Valley vineyards. The season concludes in October.Jacobsen said his family would start harvesting wine grapes the week of July 28.Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers in Fresno, said wine grape maturity is running about five days ahead of normal. The crop is lighter and the berry size is smaller.Sugar levels are high, which is great for wine making. Early maturity means that dry wines can be produced with just the right alcohol and sugar levels.“The quality is quite good,” said Peterangelo Vallis, executive director of San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association in Kingsburg.Vallis said growers dodged a bullet this year in that most were able to pump enough water to keep vines healthy. But another dry year would mean less water available and plant stress levels would be high.DiBuduo said he hopes that with production down some this year, and with early maturity, buyers will be tempted to buy early and generate some markets. However, many buyers have long-term agreements that keep prices in check.Table grapes, by contrast are more subject to crop timing, supply and market conditions.The Valley table grape season started in late June. “Normally it starts about the fourth of July,” said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League.Bedwell said production statewide would be about 116 million boxes of grapes this year, compared to 117 million boxes in 2013. Earliest grape varieties include flame seedless and superior seedless.Quality of the table grape crop is good, Bedwell. He added that harvest of table grapes would continue into November or December.The early table grape harvest could mean a profitable start for many growers. Farmers report good demand and above normal prices as the market transitions to the San Joaquin Valley. Wholesale table grape prices have been running at $17 to $19 per 19-pound container of bagged grapes since July 1.Bedwell said farmers have been fortunate in terms of having enough workers to pick grapes. “But we expect the real test to be in late August and early September when we reach peak harvest time for other crops such as raisins.”Fresno County grapes, for the first time, reached the billion-dollar mark for gross value in 2013. Almonds reached $1.1 billion in gross value the same year. Almonds are shaken from the trees by mechanical equipment. Wine grapes and a growing percentage of raisin grapes are also harvested mechanically.Table grapes are harvested by hand. AlmondsIndustry website AGFax.com reported that some almond harvesting started in Shafter in the southern San Joaquin Valley on July 21. More almond orchards were set to start on July 28.In Kings and Fresno counties, almond harvest is about 10 days ahead of where it was last year and two weeks ahead of the norm.As with grapes, bud break for almonds was very early this year. Then, hot weather around July 4 pushed the crop along even further.Because of shortages in water deliveries, growers had to supplement their irrigations with water from new or existing wells. Because almond trees need to be irrigated following harvest, the industry is concerned about getting enough water in late August and September.Also with less water available, farmers had to fallow many row crops in order to irrigate their almond groves. Fortunately, the quality of the almond crop has been excellent so far. “The hulls and the meats look good,” said Michael Kelley, CEO of Central California Almond Growers Association in Kerman.Kernel sizes on the newly harvested almonds is said to be larger than the 2013 crop.The National Agriculture Statistics Service reported that California’s 2014 almond production is forecast at 2.10 billion meat pounds, up 7.7 percent from May’s subjective forecast and 4.5 percent from last year’s crop. The forecast is based on 860,000 bearing acres.Kelley said he believes that the 2.10 billion pounds figure is too high. And although the almond market is stable, it loses some steam when buyers look at that figure. A smaller estimate would be conducive to creating a better market, Kelley said.The NASS report pointed out that after the warmest winter on record for California, the almond bloom began in early February. It was one of the earliest blooms in memory.Rains were sparse this season so orchards required irrigation in the winter months. The average nut set per tree is 6,646 almonds, down 0.6 percent from 2013.Both almond groves and grapevines received several irrigations in July as conditions became very hot and dry.As the water soaked in and rejuvenated the crops, workers prepared for a harvest season that — following an early start — is likely to wrap up a little early this year.That’s positive, Kelley said, because the earlier the almonds come off, the sooner summer irrigation can conclude and less chance there is of almonds drying out. Chuck Harvey  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3466 or e-mail chuck@thebusinessjournal.com
Written on 08/01/2014, 2:30 pm by Gabriel Dillard
Assemblymember Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) was in town Friday morning warning business leaders about impending sticker shock at gas pumps next year. Perea's Assembly Bill 69, which would delay the fuel industry's inclusion into the state's cap-and-trade program until 2018, took top billing along with the water bond during his first appearance as part of the Fresno Chamber's Eggs & Issues breakfasts. The California Air Resources Board estimates that once the state's oil companies are required to deal in emissions credits in the cap-and-trade market starting Jan. 1, 2015, consumers could see a jump at the pumps from 17 to 79 cents per gallon, Perea said. AB 69 would delay compliance until 2018. Perea said Bay Area families could very well swallow such an expense, but the results could be dire for residents of the Central Valley families struggling to make ends meet. "That's a very different dinner table conversation, Perea said. The bill has rankled the feathers of other Democrats in the Assembly and Senate who are reluctant to revisit such a key measure of the state's plan to deal with greenhouse gases. But that's nothing new for Perea and an unofficial caucus of business friendly Assembly Democrats called the Mods — sometimes even the Mod Squad, he said. He chairs the group of mostly inland Democrats that has proven a formidable force in Sacramento. With a magic number of around 17 Mods — along with the Assembly GOP — Perea said the group has had a hand in defeating legislation deemed job killers by the California Chamber of Commerce. These include: • SB 935, an additional minimum wage increase that died in the Assembly labor committee. • SB 1021, a split roll parcel tax proposal that could single out commercial properties for higher taxes. It died in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation committee. Perea also made some predictions about the water bond that will (or will not) be on the November ballot. Perea worked on a proposal that totals about $8.5 billion, which includes $3 billion for water storage projects. Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing a $6 billion bond that Perea said "doesn't do anything for anybody." He said the alternatives heading into the Aug. 11 deadline include going with 2009's $11 billion water bond or pulling the ballot item entirely and starting again for the next election cycle. Perea thinks there will be a bond that lands in the $8 billion range, and include funds for storage, clean water for rural communities, groundwater cleanup, desalination and recycling.
Written on 08/01/2014, 2:28 pm by Business Journal Staff
The City of Clovis came in at No. 15 in survey of top California cities suited for home ownership. A survey by NerdWallet of 178 California cities with 50,000 or more residents took into account home availability, home affordability, area growth, home values, median monthly household incomes and homeowner costs as a percentage of household income. The survey found that despite high housing costs, California remains a popular place to live with a 34-month population growth of 2.9 percent, compared with the national average of 2.4 percent. Population growth in Clovis was 4.7 percent from 2010 to 2012. Clovis has a home ownership rate of 62.6 percent. Median monthly homeowner costs came in low at $1,981. Median home value for Clovis is $259,000. The top-rated city for all the considered attributes was Brentwood. It had the highest population growth rate on the list at 9.7 percent from 2010 to 2012. Brentwood has a homeownership rate of 75.7 percent and a median home value of $360,800. Rounding out the top 10 were: 10, Temecula; 9, San Ramon; 8, Perris; 7, Victorville; 6, Hacienda Heights; 5, Lake Elsinore; 4, Murrieta; 3, Menifee and 2, Elk Grove. Visalia came in at No. 20, followed by Tulare at 27, Porterville at 44, Hanford at 48, Madera at 56 and Fresno at 99. Fresno’s population growth for 2010 to 2012 came in at 2.4 percent. But the real problem for Fresno was in median home values at a low $195,900 and a somewhat high homeowner costs as a percentage of household income (45.9 percent).
Written on 08/01/2014, 2:15 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — The U.S. stock market is closing out its worst week in two years.Traders moved money into investments traditionally seen as having lower risk Friday, such as U.S. government bonds, gold and utility stocks. Energy stocks fell after Chevron reported weaker oil and gas production. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 69 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,493. The Dow has lost 387 points over the past two days. The slump interrupted five months of steady gains.The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,925. The S&P 500 lost 2.7 percent this week, the biggest loss since June 2012. The Nasdaq fell 17 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,352.Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.49 percent.

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