TODAY

– April 1, 2015

Stocks close higher on Wall Street; Sonic soars

(AP) — Stocks are closing higher on Wall Street as the market shrugs off a two-day decline.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose eight points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 1,865 Tuesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 91 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,367. The Nasdaq composite rose eight points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,234.

Drive-in restaurant company Sonic jumped 11 percent after posting strong sales gains despite the cold winter weather. Spice maker McCormick rose 6 percent after reporting higher earnings.

Three stocks rose for every two that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Only one of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 index fell.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.75 percent.

Do California's new water restrictions go far enough?

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Written on 03/31/2015, 1:41 pm by 
WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press
(AP) — Morgan Stanley has cut its estimate of the potential U.S. Internet gambling market by nearly half.
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:38 pm by JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press
(AP) — The United States pledged Tuesday to cut its greenhouse gas emissions up to 28 percent as part of a global treaty aimed at preventing the worst effects of climate change, the White House said. The Obama administration's contribution to the treaty, which world leaders expect to finalize in December, codifies a commitment President Barack Obama first made late last year in Beijing, when he announced a joint U.S.-China climate deal that raised global hopes that developed and developing nations can come together to fight climate change. The U.S. proposal has drawn intense interest around the world. Most nations will miss Tuesday's informal deadline to convey their contributions to the U.N. — only the E.U., Switzerland and Mexico unveiled their pledges before the U.S. By announcing its commitment early, the U.S. hopes to dial up the political pressure on other countries to take equally ambitious steps to cut emissions. White House senior adviser Brian Deese said Tuesday that, along with the U.S. pledge, countries that account for more than half of total carbon pollution from the energy sector have submitted or announced what they will do to combat climate change beginning after 2020. "That's a big deal, because truly global challenges demand global solutions," Deese said on the White House blog. "Climate change is real, it is being driven by human activity, and it is not a problem any one country can solve on its own." In the works for years, the treaty is set to be finalized in Paris in December. If successful, it will mark the first time all nations — not just wealthier ones like the U.S. — will have agreed to do something about climate change. As part of its proposal, known to climate negotiators as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, the U.S. is also asserting that its contribution is both ambitious and fair, It was unclear what metrics the U.S. would use to back up that claim. But the proposal is expected to emphasize that the Obama administration has accelerated the rate of emissions reductions nearly twofold. Early in his presidency, Obama committed to cut U.S. emissions 17 percent by 2020; his subsequent goal for 2025 pushes it to between 26 percent and 28 percent. How will the U.S. meet its goal? The Obama administration has avoided putting hard numbers on the size of emissions reductions it expects from specific steps it is taking. In its submission, the E.U. listed specific economic sectors — such as transportation, energy and manufacturing — where it expects major reductions, and named the specific greenhouse gases it plans to cut. In contrast, the U.S. is expected to point broadly to the steps Obama is taking through executive action, such as pollution limits on power plants, stricter vehicle emissions limits, and initiatives targeting specific gases like methane and hydrofluorocarbons. Many of those steps face major legal challenges and intense political opposition, raising the risk that they could be undermined or even discarded once Obama leaves office in 2017. "Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn't even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:35 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — President Barack Obama has vetoed a congressional measure blocking the National Labor Relations Board from streamlining the process for union elections. The labor board finalized a rule last December that eliminates a previous 25-day waiting period between the time when an election is called and when the election is held. Republicans and business groups opposed the rule, arguing that it would limit the ability of businesses to prepare for union elections. They also said workers wouldn't have enough time to make informed decisions about whether to join a union. Obama on Tuesday called the labor board's changes "common sense" and "modest" and he vetoed a measure the Republican-controlled Congress sent him nullifying the rule. The NLRB is an independent federal agency. The rule is set to take effect April 14.
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:32 pm by RANDALL CHASE, AP Business Writer
(AP) — A Delaware bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of assets of RadioShack to hedge fund Standard General LP that will keep more than 1,700 stores open and preserve more than 7,000 jobs. Tuesday's ruling comes after a court hearing that stretched over four days following a disputed auction process last week. In granting the sale, the judge overruled an objection by Salus Capital Partners, a pre-bankruptcy lender whose $150 million claim makes its one of the electronics retailer's largest creditors. He also allowed Standard General to bid using $112 million of credit on debt it is owed, and only a small amount of cash. RadioShack's plan calls for Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier, to operate dedicated "store within a store" shops in most locations acquired by Standard General. At least nine Central Valley RadioShack locations are on the chopping block.
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:30 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stocks slid in late afternoon trading, wiping up much of the market's gain from the day before. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 200 points, or 1.1 percent, to 17,776 Tuesday. The Dow jumped 263 points the day before. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 18 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,067. The Nasdaq composite declined 46 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,900. The price of oil fell $1.08 to close at $47.60 a barrel in New York. Oil lost 4 percent for the month. Kraft Foods had one of the biggest declines in the S&P 500, giving up 4 percent. Luxury watchmaker Movado jumped 11 percent after posting surprisingly strong fourth-quarter results. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.93 percent.
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:22 pm by The Associated Press
A man and a woman in a romantic relationship were found dead after a shooting at a medical office building in downtown Fresno, police in central California said Tuesday. In a chaotic scene, people hid in bathrooms at the Eye Medical Clinic and were seen climbing from the windows of the ground level building as police arrived. Officers heard one gunshot as they arrived, Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez said. To help the 10 to 15 people inside the building get out, police smashed windows and helped people climb to safety, Gomez said. No other injuries were reported, Gomez said. Investigators found a shotgun inside the clinic, Gomez said. It wasn't immediately clear if authorities consider the shooting a murder-suicide, but police were not searching for anyone. Gomez identified the shooter as a 43-year-old man and the victim as a 34-year-old woman. The exact nature of their relationship was not immediately clear. The call came in as a domestic disturbance shortly before 11 a.m., police said. Officers surrounded the building and ordered people to evacuate, Gomez said. A short search of the building led to the bodies. Several nearby businesses and Fresno City Hall were evacuated during the search, but people have since returned to those buildings. Police released few details about the shooting but planned to provide more information at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:20 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno's Reading and Beyond will host an open house April 2 to share plans to expand the Fresno Bridge Academy thanks to a new $12 million grant. The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the Fresno County Department of Social Services the grant as one of ten pilot projects aimed as reducing dependency and increasing work effort under the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The county in 2010 tasked Reading and Beyond with operating the program, which provides employment placement and job training to underserved communities, so far graduating 700 families. The grant is expected to enable the Fresno Bridge Academy to serve an additional 2,300 families through 2019. Another 400 families are currently enrolled. The grant will expand services from two to six urban sites, and from one to three rural sites. Services are currently centered in Southeast Fresno, the Lowell Neighborhood as well as Coalinga. The Thursday open house kicks off at 10 a.m. at the Reading and Beyond office at the Mosqueda Community Center, 4670 E. Butler Ave. in Fresno.
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:02 pm by Business Journal staff
The board of directors of Sierra Bancorp, parent company of Bank of the Sierra in Porterville, announced it has officially appointed Kevin McPhaill as president and CEO effective April 1. On the same day, founding President James C. Holly will officially retire, though he will stay on the board of directors as vice chairman. "I am privileged to have worked with Jim for the past several years and have come to admire his leadership, energy and drive," stated McPhaill. "I congratulate him on an exceptional banking career that spans over 50 years, including nearly 38 years as CEO of Bank of the Sierra. I am honored to move into this role and I am committed to working with our team as we realize our full potential." Related story: Bank of the Sierra's Holly sets retirement date
Written on 03/31/2015, 12:57 pm by chrisrose
(AP) — The virtual streets of Google Maps are being transformed into Pac Man's chomping grounds in celebration of April Fools' Day. Google added the option to convert its popular navigation service into the Pac Man video game on Tuesday morning, around the same day the calendar turned to April 1 in Asia. That ushered in a day when Google shows off its playful side by injecting more fun and humor into its services. The gag on Google Maps enables visitors to click on a Pac-Man symbol in the lower left of the screen to play the video game on whatever location is listed in the address bar. As has been happening for decades, Pac Man eats blinking dots while trying to elude four "ghosts" — Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde.
Written on 03/31/2015, 12:55 pm by MICHAEL LIEDTKE, ANICK JESDANUN, AP Technology Writers
(AP) — Google is releasing its cheapest Chromebook laptops yet, two versions priced at $149 aimed at undercutting Microsoft's Windows franchise and gaining ground in even more classrooms. Various PC manufacturers have been working with Google to design lightweight laptops running on the Chrome operating system since 2011. The newest versions are made by Hisense and Haier. Hisense's Chromebook can be ordered beginning Tuesday at Walmart.com and Haier's version can be bought at Amazon.com. Their arrival coincides with Microsoft's rollout of a lower-priced Surface tablet in an effort to reach students and budget-conscious families. Pre-orders for that device began Tuesday, too. As the prices for tablets and smartphones have been declining, it has forced on PC makers to lower their prices, said International Data Corp. analyst Jay Chou. The success of the Chromebook line is intensifying the PC pricing pressure. "It has been good news for consumers, but not so good for vendors," Chou said. The cheaper version of the Surface Pro 3 sells for $499, compared with $799 to $1,949 for the higher-end models. The discounted version has a slightly smaller screen — 10.8 inches rather than 12 — a slower processor, and less flexible kickstand — just three angles rather than unlimited positions. The Chromebook has served a dual purpose for Google. Like the company's Android software for mobile devices, the Chrome system is set up so users will automatically begin using Google's search engine and other services, such as Gmail and YouTube. Google has used the Chromebooks as a prod to bring down the prices of all PCs, something the company wanted to do because it has more opportunities to show the digital ads that bring in most of its revenue when more people can afford to buy an Internet-connected device. "We cannot be happier that Microsoft is helping drive down the prices of PCs," said Caesar Sengupta, Google's vice president of product management for Chromebooks. "If Microsoft is reacting to (Chromebook's low prices), that's fantastic. We love it." Unlike most computers, Chromebooks don't have a hard drive. Instead, they function as terminals dependent on an Internet connection to get most work done. Despite those limitations, Chromebooks have been steadily gaining in popularity, particularly in schools, as more applications and services made available over Internet connections — a phenomenon known as "cloud computing" that has reduced the need for hard drives. About 6 million Chromebooks were sold worldwide last year, more than doubling from 2.7 million in 2013, according to IDC. In contrast, sales in the overall PC market slipped 2 percent last year, marking the third consecutive annual decline. IDC is projecting 8 million Chromebooks will be sold this year. Besides the $149 laptops, Google also is attacking Microsoft on other fronts. Later this spring, Google and Asus are releasing a hybrid Chromebook that can use used as either a laptop or tablet with a 10-inch screen. Called the Chromebook Flip, it will sell for $249. In the summer, Asus and Google will start selling a new Chrome device that will provide people a cheaper way to upgrade an old PC. The device, called the Chromebit, is a stick loaded with an entire operating system that can be plugged into any HDMI port. The Chromebit's price hasn't been set, Google says it will cost less than $100. Here's what you need to know about the cheaper Surface Pro 3 and new Chromebooks: PROS AND CONS OF THE SURFACE Graphic artists, engineers and finance professionals needing to run complex software might still want the company's higher-end Pro 3, said Dennis Meinhardt, director of program management for Surface. But the Surface 3 should be good for everyday tasks, he said, and brings the Pro 3's premium feel to a device that will be affordable to more people. The new Surface model is thinner and lighter, partly because it gets rid of the fan — similar to Apple's new MacBook laptop. At 214 pixels per inch, the screen resolution is comparable to the Pro 3's. Battery life is promised at 10 hours for video playback. The Surface 3 runs the regular version of Windows 8.1, just like the Pro 3. In the past, Microsoft has used a lightweight version called RT in its cheaper tablets. The Surface 3 also has a USB port, a feature that distinguishes the Surface line from most rival tablets. SIZING UP THE CHROMEBOOKS Both the Hisense and Haier models have 11.6 inch screens, 2 gigabits of memory and run on Rockchip processors. The Hisense machine promises up to 8.5 hours of battery power per charge while Haier is touting up to 10 hours of power per charge on a battery that can be removed for easier replacement.

Latest State News

Written on 03/31/2015, 12:57 pm by chrisrose
(AP) — The virtual streets of Google...
Written on 03/31/2015, 12:55 pm by MICHAEL LIEDTKE, ANICK JESDANUN, AP Technology Writers
(AP) — Google is releasing its cheapest...
Written on 03/31/2015, 10:06 am by KRISTIN J. BENDER, PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press
(AP) — Two former federal agents are...
Written on 03/31/2015, 9:59 am by JULIE WATSON, Associated Press
(AP) — In a move that could heighten...

Latest National News

Written on 03/31/2015, 1:41 pm by 
WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press
(AP) — Morgan Stanley has cut its...
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:38 pm by JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press
(AP) — The United States pledged...
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:35 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — President Barack Obama has...
Written on 03/31/2015, 1:32 pm by RANDALL CHASE, AP Business Writer
(AP) — A Delaware bankruptcy judge has...