TODAY

– September 16, 2014

Stocks edge higher; Dow boosted by McDonald's

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15 points with a strong report from McDonald’s. The S&P was flat; the Nasdaq rose 9 points. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15 points with a strong report from McDonald’s. The S&P was flat; the Nasdaq rose 9 points. (AP) — Stocks edged higher Monday on Wall Street after a strong sales report from McDonald's offset concerns about the surprise resignation of Italy's prime minister. Investors also waited for developments in crucial U.S. budget talks.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14.75 points to 13,169.88. The index traded within a narrow range of just 56 points throughout the day. The Standard and Poor's 500 finished 0.48 point higher at 1,418.55. The Nasdaq composite ended up 8.92 points at 2,986.96.

McDonald's rose 93 cents to $89.41. A key sales figure rose in November as U.S. customers bought more breakfast offerings and limited-time Cheddar Bacon Onion sandwiches.

Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Palm Beach, Fla.-based Banyan Partners, said the company's strength was encouraging. McDonald's, one of the 30 stocks in the Dow, was trading as high as $100 at the beginning of 2012.

The pickup in McDonald's sales, he said, gave investors something positive to focus on as Italy's sudden political turmoil sent a jolt through European markets.

Hewlett-Packard rose 36 cents to $14.16 and also helped push the Dow higher. The company's stock has been battered the past two months following a weak earnings forecast and a public spat with the founder of Autonomy, a company it acquired for $10 billion last year.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who has been credited with restoring confidence in the nation's economy, announced that he would step down after former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party dropped its support for his government.

Italian government bond yields, a critical measure of how much the country has to pay to borrow, jumped. Concern that the European debt crisis was enveloping Italy, one of the euro region's largest economies, helped stymie markets around the world earlier in the year.

Investors were also following developments in budget talks in Washington. Tax increases and federal spending cuts start Jan. 1 unless a deal is reached to reduce the U.S. budget deficit. Economists say the measures, if implemented, could eventually push the economy back into recession.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell 1 basis point to 1.62 percent.

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met at the White House on Sunday while rank-and-file Republicans stepped forward with what they called pragmatic ideas to break the stalemate. The Obama-Boehner meeting was the first between just the two leaders since Election Day.

"There's a pretty good belief that the 'fiscal cliff' can be avoided," said Craig Johnson, a technical market strategist at Piper Jaffray. "Anytime somebody is talking, it's a good thing."

Other stocks making big moves:

— Priceline.com fell $33.14, or 5 percent, to $625.96 after Deutsche Bank cut its recommendation on the stock to "hold" from "buy" and lowered its price target to $710 from $800.

— Phillips 66, the refining and pipeline company, gained $1.24, or 2.4 percent, to $53.58 after saying late Friday that it was raising its quarterly dividend to 31.25 cents per share from 25 cents. The company also said it had approved the repurchase of another $1 billion in company stock, after approving the repurchase of $1 billion during the first quarter.

— Intermec, a maker of barcode printers and radio frequency identification products, jumped $1.85, or 23.2 percent, to $9.83 after it agreed to be acquired by Honeywell for about $603.4 million in cash.

— AIG fell 74 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $33.36 after the insurer said late Friday that it will take $1.3 billion in losses related to Superstorm Sandy, more than other major insurance companies have reported so far. UBS said in a client note that AIG's Sandy-related losses were above his estimate and cut his price target to $35 from $36.

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Written on 09/16/2014, 2:24 pm by 
LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer
(AP) — The number of American men and women with big-bellied, apple-shaped figures — the most dangerous kind of obesity — has climbed at a startling rate...
Written on 09/16/2014, 2:16 pm by Business Journal staff
Former San Francisco 49er Tory Nixon has been appointed to head up California Bank & Trust's Northern California division. California Bank & Trust's Fresno banking center, as well as banking centers in the Bay Area and Sacramento, will be under Nixon's leadership, as well as 15 community branches in the region. A cornerback who was a member of the 49ers' 1998 Super Bowl championship team, Nixon will also maintain his position as head of the bank's San Diego division — a position he has held for seven years. “Tory has a firm understanding of the banking needs of California businesses and how to deliver financial solutions to support growth," said David E. Blackford, chairman, president and CEO of California Bank & Trust, in a statement. " By combining these qualities with his close ties and understanding of Northern California, he will help California Bank & Trust expand its presence in the region and leverage best practices throughout the state.” A native of Oregon, Nixon has been a resident of California for the last 27 years. He is a 25-year veteran of the banking industry.
Written on 09/16/2014, 1:57 pm by Business Journal staff
More than 103,000 attended the Tulare County Fair earlier this month, surpassing last year's attendance by 59 percent. The fair kicked off its 95th year Sept. 10-14 featuring new exhibits, an expanded carnival, musical guests, food vendors. the antique tractor parade and a tractor pull. As well, visitors saw Buttercup the Cow made from 500 pounds of butter, toured the Walk on the Wild Side exotic animal display and caught a motorcycle thrill ride and demolition derby. The fairgrounds saw 103,594 pass through the gates this year compared to about 61,000 in 2013. Besides the spike in attendance, including 3,000 school children who toured the fair on School Days, food and beverage revenue was up 23 percent The Dairy Replacement Auction and Junior Livestock Auction together grossed $965,285 and the Garrett Bragg Memorial Livestock Auction netted an additional $24,500 to support the family of the Redwood High School student who was killed in a car accident Aug. 23 while on his to help at the fair. Tulare County Fair's CEO Pamela Fyock said the fair was a great success despite a hotter summer and a cut in state funding for California's 76 county fairs for the third year in a row. "I don't anticipate the return of state funding so the funfundraising and belt-tightening continues, but we were able to put on a fantastic fair that celebrates agriculture and delivered great value for families,” Fyock said in a release. “I’m grateful to the sponsors and proud of the volunteers and staff who made this possible.” Those interested in donating or volunteering to the Tulare County Fair can find out more by visiting www.tcfair.org/foundation.php or calling (559) 686-4707.
Written on 09/16/2014, 1:29 pm by DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press
(AP) — Radio host Ira Flatow and his "Science Friday" show that airs on many National Public Radio stations have agreed to pay nearly $146,000 to settle civil claims that they misused money from a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, federal officials said Tuesday. Flatow and the show did not admit any wrongdoing, but they agreed to not participate in federal grant programs for one year, in the settlement announced by Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly and Inspector General Allison Lerner of the National Science Foundation. "This settlement sends a clear message that recipients of federally funded grants must strictly adhere to the regulations applicable to those grants," Daly said in a statement. "If recipients fail to do so, they risk significant consequences." The agreement follows previous similar civil settlements with public broadcasters or affiliates over how they tracked the spending of grants from the foundation. In 2010, a subsidiary of WNET in New York agreed to a $950,000 settlement, and in 2012 WGBH in Boston settled for $300,000. "I disagree with the conclusions of this investigation," Flatow said Tuesday. "I spent the money exactly how I said I would, delivered the show exactly how I said I would. "We've agreed to disagree," he said. "How much is it going to cost to disagree, that's what we're talking about here. I've been successfully receiving grants for 40 years. ... Why am I suddenly being penalized for conforming to the same standards I have for four decades?" The National Science Foundation, based in Arlington, Virginia, said in a statement that the settlement stemmed from a routine grant compliance review. Authorities declined to release specific details of the allegations against Flatow involving the $998,554 grant, which was aimed at boosting the show's reach to younger listeners through social media and other methods. Officials said the show and Flatow violated the federal False Claims Act and common law. According to the settlement document, investigators with the National Science Foundation found that the show "inappropriately used grant money to cover unallowable and unsupported costs" and submitted false documents to the federal government. Flatow and Science Friday Inc., a for-profit corporation based in Stamford, committed the violations while managing the grant and producing the show from August 2009 to July 2011, federal officials said. "Science Friday," which was created by Flatow in 1991, is now produced by the nonprofit Science Friday Initiative Inc. in New York City and distributed by Public Radio International. Flatow, who received a public service award from the National Science Foundation in 2005, said he didn't expect the settlement to affect the show. NPR officials declined to comment on the settlement and said individual stations decide which shows they air. Julia Yager, a senior vice president at Public Radio International, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, also declined to comment on the settlement. She said the allegations dated back to before PRI began distributing "Science Friday" in January, and the company has no plans to change its distribution of the show.
Written on 09/16/2014, 1:27 pm by The Associated Press
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Written on 09/16/2014, 1:26 pm by The Associated Press
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Written on 09/16/2014, 1:25 pm by JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — Corinthian Colleges is being sued by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for what it calls a "predatory lending scheme." The CFPB is seeking more than $500 million for borrowers who used the for-profit education company's private student loans. Corinthian misled students about their job prospects, in some cases paying employers to offer temporary jobs to graduates, the agency said Tuesday. Corinthian charged as much as $75,000 for a bachelor's degree and pushed students into private loans with interest rates of roughly 15 percent, more than double the rate for a federal loan, the CFPB said. More than 60 percent of Corinthian students with those loans defaulted within three years. "We believe Corinthian lured in consumers with lies about their job prospects upon graduation, sold high-cost loans to pay for that false hope, and then harassed students for overdue debts while they were still in school," said CFPB director Richard Cordray. Kent Jenkins, a Corinthian spokesman, disputed the claims made by the CFPB. Jenkins said the suit is based on "isolated incidents" at Corinthian's campuses regarding job placement. He said that the interest rate on its private loans averages 9 percent, instead of the 15 percent cited by the government. Corinthian requires that students repay the loans while attending class, having them pay an average of $35 a month. "We ask students to make payments while in school to help them develop the discipline and practice of repaying their federal and other loan obligations," Jenkins said. Shares of Corinthian Colleges Inc. dropped 4 cents, or 30 percent, to 10 cents in late trading following the lawsuit announcement. The entire for-profit education sector has come under intense government scrutiny. The Department of Education put into place new regulations that cut off federal aid if too many students default on loans or fail to earn enough money after graduation to repay them. Earlier this year, the Obama administration proposed even tighter regulations.The CFPB action is the latest blow to Corinthian. The company already plans to close a dozen of its U.S. campuses under an agreement with the Education Department, which also placed Corinthian under an independent monitor, former federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The Santa Ana, California-based company also plans to sell up to 85 of its branch campuses. The company owns Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech schools.As of March, 74,000 students were enrolled at the company's campuses.
Written on 09/16/2014, 12:59 pm by Business Journal staff
The Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce (FMBCC) will host a free informational session on Covered California tomorrow from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Downtown Business Hub.  The event is open to all small business owners and will be co-sponsored by small business advocacy group Small Business Majority and Health Law Guide for Business.  "We believe it's important for business owners to learn more about the healthcare law and how it affects them," Tate Hill, president and CEO of FMBCC said in a statement.  Small Business Majority's Central California Outreach Manager Mark Hebert will lead a discussion on the topic including how the marketplace functions for self-employed business owners, small business tax credits, wellness grants and cost containment provisions. A question and answer forum will follow the discussion.  "These interactive dialogues are a great way for small business owners to get the information they need to take advantage of and comply with key provisions of the new law and for us to get feedback on their thoughts and concerns," Hill said.  The Downtown Business Hub is located at 1444 Fulton St. in Fresno. Small business owners can register for the event at www.fmbcc.com or call (55) 441-7929 for more information. 
Written on 09/16/2014, 12:40 pm by Business Journal staff
A Fresno Vallarta Supermarkets location raised the most money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals during the Southern California-based chain's recent four-week donation drive. All together 44 Vallarta locations participated in the drive, raising more than $200,000 for hospitals including Children's Hospital Central California. The location at 4831 N. Cedar Ave. in Fresno raised the most with more than $19,000 in donations. It's not the first time the store has been recognized for donation drives. In June it raised $16,535 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 30 days.
Written on 09/16/2014, 11:15 am by 
TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer
(AP) — Early demand is so high for General Motors' new small pickup trucks that the company is hiring more workers to build them even before one is sold to the public. Nearly 100,000 prospective buyers have gone online to customize a Chevrolet Colorado or a GMC Canyon pickup and get a price. That, and 30,000 advance orders from dealers, is a sign of strong demand, GM said Tuesday. GM plans to add 750 workers around March to staff a third shift at its plant in Wentzville, Mo., west of St. Louis. The factory already employs 2,600 people who build the Colorado and Canyon as well as the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans. Strong sales would justify GM's gamble on a diminished part of the market. In the 1990s, Americans bought more than 1 million small pickups every year, attracted by their lower prices, reasonable gas mileage and ability to haul light loads. Then the bigger pickups, such as the Ford F-150, caught up in fuel economy. Last year, Americans bought only 227,000 small trucks, 14 percent fewer than in 2012. Sales are down 3 percent more so far this year. GM stopped selling the Colorado and Canyon in 2012, and Ford halted sales of its Ranger small pickup in 2011. Currently the only two competitors are the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier with older models. In reviving the pickups, GM is aiming the Colorado at outdoorsy buyers on the coast, while the Canyon targets a more upscale clientele. The company said 97,000 people have built and priced the trucks on a GM website. That's far higher than just before an average new vehicle is launched, and "shows pretty good intent (to buy) when they go right through the process to configure and price," said Alan Batey, GM's North America president. The interest justifies hiring the new workers, he added. Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for the Cars.com auto website, said GM has good reason to bring on the workers. Big pickup sales grew 9 percent in August and are up 5 percent for the year, Toprak said. Indexes that measure small-business confidence are at the highest since the Great Recession, and that normally translates to bigger truck sales, he said. The smaller trucks have wide appeal, Toprak said. People in rural areas who don't need to haul heavy loads like them, and drivers and businesses in big cities buy them because of their maneuverability and gas mileage, he said. GM says the Colorado will start around $21,000. The Canyon will cost more. Trucks with a V6 engine will get an estimated 26 miles per gallon on the highway. The four-cylinder gas mileage hasn't been announced, but it's expected to be around 30 mpg highway. Chevrolet's full-size truck, the Silverado, gets up to 24 mpg on the highway. The new workers at the Wentzville plant should earn around $16 per hour to start, less than the $28 per hour earned by longtime factory employees. GM already has added about 1,300 jobs and invested $513 million at Wentzville to build the new trucks.

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Written on 09/16/2014, 1:25 pm by JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — Corinthian Colleges is being...
Written on 09/16/2014, 10:59 am by Associated Press
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Written on 09/16/2014, 8:59 am by 
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Latest National News

Written on 09/16/2014, 2:24 pm by 
LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer
(AP) — The number of American men and...
Written on 09/16/2014, 1:29 pm by DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press
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