TODAY

– January 30, 2015

Stocks end little changed as Fed meeting kicks off 


(AP) — Stocks are ending little changed as investors wait to see if the Federal Reserve will decide to start dialing back its stimulus or not.

The Dow Jones industrial average eased nine points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 15,875.26 Tuesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down five points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,781. The Nasdaq composite fell five points, or 0.1 percent, at 4,023.68

Recent good news on the U.S. economy could increase the likelihood that the Fed decides to pull back on its huge bond-buying program as early as this week.

Frontier Communications surged 38 cents, or 8 percent, to $4.78 after the company agreed to acquire AT&T's fixed-line business in Connecticut for about $2 billion.

Delta Air Lines fell 98 cents, or 4 percent, to $26.94.

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Written on 01/30/2015, 11:49 am by Leah
PartnerQuiqLabs What we do:Quiq Labs provides comprehensive mobile Web and app answers for businesses and organizations that have a marketing goal to...
Written on 01/30/2015, 11:43 am by Gabriel Dillard
It appeared to be a profitable year for some of the Central Valley’s larger community banks, though not all enjoyed the year-over-year growth that shareholders like to see.Here’s an overview for local banks that have released fourth quarter financial information. They are placed in order of year-over-year growth in net income. Fresno First Bank2014 income: $2.12 million2013 income: $26,000Year-over growth: 8,053 percentLast year was a big year for Fresno First Bank. It completed the formation of its parent company, Communities First Financial Corp., and once again was a top performer in terms of Small Business Administration lending. The bank’s annual income growth rate was astounding, though it probably illustrates that 2013 was more an anomaly for the young bank when it reported $26,000 in earnings.In fact, net income for 2012 was $1.1 million.Notable quote: “We accomplished a lot during 2014. Breaking through $2 million in net income for the first time, once again posting double digit growth in loans, deposits and assets, and the formation of our holding company are all things we are proud of as we continue our work to enhance shareholder value,” stated Rick Whitsell, president and CEO of Communities First Financial Corp.Security First Bank2014 income: $2 million2013 income: $393,000Year-over growth 408 percentSecurity First Bank was among a number of local banks celebrating record net income in 2014. The bank saw noteworthy growth in the year in categories including total assets, loans and deposits.Notable quote: “The focus of the board and management in improving our bottom line has provided Security First Bank with the funding and strong capital position used to support our significant loan growth. We’re very pleased with our bank’s progress and continue to be optimistic about the bank, its performance, and future prospects,” stated Steve Jones, president and CFO of Security First Bank. Bank of the Sierra2014 income: $15.2 million2013 income: $13.4 millionYear-over growth: 14 percentLast year was a pivotal one for Sierra Bancorp, parent company of Bank of the Sierra. It launched a new succession plan, a conversion in its core banking system, a rebranding and a bank acquisition (Santa Clara Valley Bank on the Central Coast). Bank officials cited the bank acquisition as one factor that tempered earnings for 2014, but Bank of the Sierra continues its unbroken run of positive annual income. Notable quote: “Acquisition costs negatively impacted our financial performance, but those costs were lower than originally projected and were largely offset by other favorable variances. We’re very pleased with the robust financial results achieved in 2014, including a dramatic reduction in nonperforming assets, strong loan and deposit growth, and increased net income,” stated James C. Holly, CEO of Sierra Bancorp. Valley Business Bank2014 income: $4.3 million2013 income: $4.1 millionYear-over growth: 5 percentValley Commerce Bancorp, parent of Visalia’s Valley Business Bank, reported a fourth-straight year of record annual earnings. The bank saw favorable growth in net loans and total deposits last year of 13 percent.Notable quote: “It is my privilege to report a fourth straight year of record earnings. Our 2014 earnings reflect growth in our loan and investment portfolios, increased non-interest income, and prudent control of non-interest expenses,” Allan W. Stone, president and CEO, Valley Commerce Bancorp. Premier Valley Bank2014 income: $7.2 million2013 income: $6.5 millionYear-over growth: 10 percentPremier Valley Bank is another institution making moves last year, including the commencement of a $3 million stock repurchase plan. Record earnings followed. Bank officials are confident promising times lay ahead.Notable quote: “We are pleased to report that 2014 was the most profitable year in the history of the bank, the fourth consecutive year we have been able to make this statement. These results have allowed us to increase our quarterly cash dividend from $.07 per share to $.08 per share and actively maintain our Share Repurchase Plan, under which the Bank is authorized to repurchase PVLY shares from shareholders who may wish to sell,” stated J. Mike McGowan, president and CEO, in a statement. United Security Bank2014 income: $6.2 million2013 income: $7.2 millionYear-over growth: -14 percentAs a bank that reported losses in the height of the financial downturn, shareholders must be happy to see positive earnings again, even though year-over totals showed negative growth. Last year was also important for the bank because it marked the end of regulatory agreements with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Dating back to 2010, the agreement was intended to improve the overall condition of the bank through measures including increased board oversight, monitoring of asset quality and prohibition of capital-reducing measures, including cash dividends.Notable quote: “2014 was an exceptional year for us with the termination of all formal regulatory agreements. We grew our loan portfolio over $60 million and continued to see positive momentum with reductions in non-performing assets and a year-over-year increase of 20 percent in core earnings. We are well positioned going into 2015 for continued success,” Dennis R. Woods, president and CEO, United Security Bancshares.
Written on 01/30/2015, 10:56 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Slumping sales of Barbie did little to bring a happy holiday to her maker, Mattel Inc. Mattel's fourth-quarter earnings release Friday drilled down into the details of a weak performance that led to the resignation of its chairman and CEO. Barbie sales fell 12 percent, though that wasn't as bad as the third quarter's 21 percent drop. Fisher-Price sales fell 11 percent. While American Girl slipped 4 percent, it was better than the 7 percent decline in the third quarter.Hot Wheels sales rose 5 percent. Interim CEO Christopher Sinclair said he will spend the next few months evaluating the company's businesses to "revitalize our brands." The results for the quarter that ended Dec. 31 are important because they include the holiday season, a make-or-break time of year for toy makers. Mattel's fourth-quarter performance fell far short of Wall Street's expectations when the toy maker provided preliminary results Monday, the same time it announced the departure of CEO Bryan Stockton. Stockton became CEO in January 2012 and then was named chairman a year later. A former Kraft Foods executive, he served as a Mattel's chief operating officer before becoming CEO. Sinclair has served as a Mattel Inc. director since 1996. For the fourth quarter, Mattel posted an adjusted profit of 52 cents per share on revenue of $1.99 billion. That was below the 83 cents per share on revenue of $2.07 billion that analysts polled by FactSet predicted. Drew Crum of Stifel Nicolaus said in a client note that not all was bad for Mattel in the fourth quarter, as it significantly lowered retail inventory in domestic markets and reported better-than-expected revenue from Mega Brands. But the analyst kept a "Hold" rating, saying he is waiting for evidence of improvement in its core brands. Mattel's full-year adjusted profit was $1.48 per share on revenue of $6.02 billion. The company's stock shed 50 cents to $26.40 in premarket trading.
Written on 01/30/2015, 10:50 am by DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
(AP) — California reached a court-ordered target to reduce the number of inmates in its crowded prisons on Thursday, more than a year ahead of the deadline set by federal judges. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had until February 2016 to reduce the population of the state's 34 adult prisons to 137.5 percent of their design capacity. The state now has an institutional population of 113,463 inmates, slightly below the judges' target. That is down from an all-time high of 162,804 inmates in 2006, when the prisons held more than twice as many inmates as they were designed to house. Some inmates slept in bunks stacked three high in gymnasiums, dayrooms and other public areas. "We're clearly making progress, but much work remains," department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in an email. The challenge now is to keep the population below the level established in court orders that the U.S. Supreme Court has backed, said Don Specter, director of the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office. "Wow. Well, that's quite a milestone," said Specter, one of the attorneys who sued to force the state to reduce the inmate population to improve conditions for inmates. He noted that the prison population has been projected to gradually rise, though that was before voters approved Proposition 47 in November. That ballot measure lowers the penalties for certain drug and property crimes and has led to the release of more than 2,000 inmates so far. The department projects more than 3,200 additional inmates could be released. The state also met the target in part by keeping 8,800 inmates in private prisons in other states, but it wants to eventually return them to California. "They're still having trouble running the prisons in a lawful way at this level, and it's costing the public a lot of money to run the prisons at this level," Specter said. The population could be further reduced without affecting public safety, he said. But state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said the state already is suffering the effects of a major criminal justice realignment backed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011 that has led to tens of thousands of lower-level offenders being kept in county jails instead of state prisons. "This threshold has been met at the expense of our families' safety and security," Nielsen said in a statement.
Written on 01/30/2015, 10:47 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Hundreds of people gathered in Riverside on Thursday to protest its new sister-city relationship with a city in Vietnam, arguing that nation's communist government abuses human rights. Several hundred people, many bused in from the Vietnamese-American community in neighboring Orange County known as Little Saigon, gathered outside City Hall, chanting "freedom" and waving U.S. and South Vietnam flags, the Riverside Press-Enterprise  reported. The Riverside City Council voted in favor of entering a sister-city relationship with Can Tho in March. But activists weren't alerted until officials from the picturesque city in the Mekong Delta flew to California to formalize the partnership this month, the Los Angeles Times reported. Can Tho is Riverside's ninth sister city, a relationship designed to enhance cultural, educational and business ties. However, immigrants who fled Vietnam decades ago harbor deep animosity toward the government controlling their homeland. People oppose the relationship because they're "very strongly concerned about what the communist government is doing there right now," Van Hoang, a 51-year-old Moreno Valley resident, told the Press-Enterprise. He came to the U.S. with his family as refugees after the Vietnam war. Protester and Garden Grove City Councilman Phat Bui told the crowd that the Vietnam government is corrupt and subjects those who disobey it to "brutal, ruthless harassment." "It doesn't matter that the (sister city) contract has been signed," Dr. Huu Dinh Vo, board president of the Federation of Vietnamese Communities of the USA, told the Times before the protest. "If we don't speak up, they will keep celebrating. We care about a country whose people are still suffering — and we want them to reconsider their agreement." The group successfully persuaded Irvine to sever a similar relationship with the coastal city of Nha Trang last year. In a statement, the city of Riverside said it "respects all viewpoints and the rights of everyone to express themselves." The sister city relationship "provides a venue for direct, person-to-person conversations on issues of mutual interest to people all over the world" and the city "looks forward to further developing those bonds with the people of Can Tho," the statement said.
Written on 01/30/2015, 10:42 am by Business Journal Staff
Fresno Pacific University will host the groundbreaking ceremony for the new AIMS Center for Math and Science Education on Feb. 4.  The event marks the beginning of the $1 million expansion of the 10,000-square-foot facility dedicated to translating math and science research into teaching practices. The center focuses on training teachers in best practices for the diverse backgrounds of Central Valley children in order to deepen their understanding of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields.  The groundbreaking will begin at 10 a.m. at 1717 S. Chestnut Ave. in Fresno. Guest parking is available at Butler Church located at 4884 East Butler Ave.  The foundation recently pledged $5 million to launch the AIMS Scholars Program and fund scholarships awarded to up to 30 students enrolling in the graduate program every year. The foundations of goal is to help teachers actively engage students in learning STEM.  The AIMS Center is supported by the AIMS Education Foundation which grew out of the Math and Science Program at Fresno Pacific in the early 1980's. For more information about the AIMS Center, visit www.aimsedu.org.
Written on 01/30/2015, 10:13 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno tech firm Aplos announced it has appointed Eric Nasalroad as chief operating officer. The cloud-based software company specializing in nonprofit accounting and donor management expands its executive team as it prepares to release new Web-based donor relations software in February. Raised in Reedley, Nasalroad has started more than a dozen small businesses in the last decade, and is also a published author, consultant and educator. He will remain a tenured facility member and director of the Reedley College Entrepreneurship Center and a faculty member of Fresno State's Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Starting companies can be a thrilling ride, but Aplos is exciting because as this company grows — which it undoubtedly will — it also means we are helping more nonprofits and churches accomplish their missions,” Nasalroad said in a statement. “I love being a part of a team where every member is driven to make a positive impact on the world and knows our work here can help make that happen on a grand scale.” Donor Relations is the name of the upcoming solution that includes an enhanced donor database and email solution. Aplos said more than 10,000 organizations have used its products in the past two years. It was founded in Fresno in 2009.
Written on 01/30/2015, 10:03 am by Business Journal Staff
The Central California Women's Conference (CCWC) has named television and movie actress Viola Davis as the keynote speaker for the organization's 28th annual event in September.  CCWC is the region's largest women's event and this year's theme is Ignite Your Body and Spirit. Davis has won several major industry awards including the Screen Actoro's Guild, Tony and People's Choice awards and currently starts in ABC's How to Get Away with Murder. Davis will join more than two dozen other national and local speakers who will discuss important topics for women at the daylong event.  Davis's speech will focus on her fight against hunger and she is expected to share her own life story and efforts to eradicate the local and national hunger issue.  "I will use my 15 minutes of fame to draw attention to the fact that one out of every five people in this country are food insufficient and three out of five children go to school hungry," she said in a prepared statement.  Conference attendees will choose three breakout sessions to attend throughout the day. Topics include business and entrepreneurship, health and fitness, money and finance, family and parenting, spirituality and courage, service and activism, and strength and change.  The keynote luncheon will be held in the Fresno Convention Center New Exhibit Hall. This year's event is expected to sellout quickly and early bird tickets will be sold for $100 from April 1 through May 31.  Regular priced tickets of $110 will go on sale June 1. Tickets include a continental breakfast, all seminars, celebrity keynote speaker luncheon and afternoon reception. Tickets are limited to the first 3,500 attendees.  The day's events will be from 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 22. at the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center. For more information on CCWC visit www.CCWC-Fresno.org. 
Written on 01/30/2015, 8:59 am by STEVE PEOPLES, Associated Press
(AP) — After a three-week flirtation with a new campaign for the White House, Mitt Romney announced Friday that he will not seek the presidency in 2016. "After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee," Romney told supporters on a conference call. Romney's exit comes after several of his former major donors and a veteran staffer in the early voting state of Iowa defected to support former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would have served as Romney's most likely rivals for the support of the Republican Party's establishment-minded voters. In his call with supporters, Romney appeared to take a swipe at Bush, saying it was time for fresh leadership within the GOP. "I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee," Romney said. "In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case." The former governor of Massachusetts, who is 67, had jumped back into the presidential discussion on Jan. 10, when he surprised a small group of former donors at a meeting in New York by telling them he was eyeing a third run for the White House. It was a monumental change for Romney, who since losing the 2012 election to President Barack Obama had repeatedly told all who asked that his career in politics was over and he would not again run for president. On Friday, Romney said he had been asked if there were any circumstance under which he would again reconsider. That, he said, "seems unlikely." "Accordingly, I'm not organizing a PAC or taking donations," he said. "I'm not hiring a campaign team." The exit of Romney from the campaign most immediately helps those viewed as part of the party's establishment wing, including Bush, Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The more conservative side of the field is largely unchanged, with a group of candidates that will likely include Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike HuckabeeIn the three weeks since the meeting in New York, which caught several in attendance off-guard, Romney made calls to former fundraisers, staff members and supporters, and gave three public speeches in which he outlined his potential vision for another campaign. "I'm thinking about how I can help the country," he told hundreds of students Wednesday night at Mississippi State University. In that speech, and what amounted to a campaign stop a few hours before at a barbecue restaurant with Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen in tow, Romney sounded every bit like a politician preparing to run. "We need to restore opportunity, particularly for the middle class," Romney said then. "You deserve a job that can repay all you've spent and borrowed to go to college." But as Romney sounded out his former team about putting together a new national campaign, he discovered that several of his past fundraisers had already made plans for 2016 and were now committed to Bush. Several key former Romney donors told The Associated Press this week that in Bush they see someone who can successfully serve as president, as they believe Romney could. But they also think Bush has the personality and senior staff needed to win the White House, something the former Massachusetts governor could not bring together in his two previous presidential campaigns. "I've got great respect for Gov. Romney, and I busted my buns for him," said Chicago investor Craig Duchossois, whose wife contributed $250,000 to a pro-Romney super PAC while he collected tens of thousands more for Romney's last campaign. "But I have turned the page." Romney also lost one of his most trusted political advisers on Thursday when David Kochel joined Bush's team. Kochel, who led Romney's campaign in Iowa in 2008 and 2012, is in now line to play a senior role in Bush's campaign should he run. Romney's decision against running clearly pained him, and he took no questions from supporters on Friday's call. "You can't imagine how hard it is for Ann and me to step aside, especially knowing of your support and the support of so many people across the country," Romney said. "But we believe it is for the best of the party and the nation."
Written on 01/30/2015, 8:57 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A federal appeals court said Friday that many advertising claims for POM Wonderful juice were deceptive in asserting that it curbs the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction and is clinically proven to work. In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a conclusion reached earlier by the Federal Trade Commission that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims. The ads appeared in national publications, on Internet sites, bus stops, billboards, newsletters and on tags attached to the products. POM Wonderful LLC produces a number of pomegranate-based products. "We see no basis for setting aside the commission's conclusion that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims about POM products," wrote appeals judge Sri Srinivasan, an appointee of President Barack Obama. The Federal Trade Commission Act does not allow, "and the First Amendment does not protect — deceptive and misleading advertisements," Srinivsan wrote. The other two judges in the case were chief appeals judge Merrick Garland and appeals judge Douglas Ginsburg. Garland was nominated by President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg by President Ronald Reagan. The court upheld the commission's requirement that POM gain the support of at least one randomized, controlled, human clinical trial before claiming a causal relationship between consumption of POM products and the treatment or prevention of any disease. Ruling against the FTC on one point, the appeals court said it found inadequate justification for the commission's blanket requirement of at least two such studies as a precondition to any disease-related claim.

Latest State News

Written on 01/30/2015, 10:56 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Slumping sales of Barbie did...
Written on 01/30/2015, 10:50 am by DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
(AP) — California reached a...
Written on 01/30/2015, 10:47 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Hundreds of people gathered in...
Written on 01/30/2015, 8:57 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A federal appeals court said...

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