TODAY

– October 21, 2014

Price of lumber higher on storm's devastation

Lumber prices increased on expectations that demand will go up because of the need to repair or rebuild damaged structures. Lumber prices increased on expectations that demand will go up because of the need to repair or rebuild damaged structures. The price of lumber rose 3.2 percent Wednesday as residents of the Northeast evaluated the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy.

Lumber for January delivery increased $10 to end at $331.20 per 1,000 board feet on expectations that demand will pick up because of the need to repair or rebuild houses and other structures. The process could take months.

"There may be some emotion in (the) futures market resulting from damage from Hurricane Sandy, emphasis on emotional," said Jon Anderson, president of Random Lengths, which tracks cash prices, other market data and issues in the lumber industry. "Any immediate effect on actual consumption is minimal."

Cash prices in the lumber market have increased as the housing market has shown signs of recovery, he said. There has been some tightness in supply. That's typical for this time of year in part because construction slows during the winter.

In other trading, platinum and palladium prices posted gains after General Motors said it sold about 70,000 more vehicles worldwide in the third quarter than it did a year ago. The two metals are used in automobile catalytic converters.

Platinum for January delivery gained $23.40 to finish at $1,577 per ounce and December palladium increased $13.65 to $609.80 per ounce.

Other commodities were mostly higher as floor trading reopened. Investors were limited to electronic trading of commodities during the past two days when the exchanges closed their floors because of the massive storm.

In December contracts, gold rose $7 to end at $1,719.10 per ounce, silver rose 50 cents to $32.316 per ounce and copper gained 1.15 cents to $3.5175 per pound.

Benchmark oil rose 56 cents to finish at $86.24 per barrel, heating oil fell 1.84 cents to $3.0682 per gallon, wholesale gasoline rose 3.3 cents to $2.7618 per gallon and natural gas gained 0.1 cent to $3.692 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In agricultural contracts, December wheat increased 7.75 cents to $8.645 per bushel, December corn gained 14 cents to $7.5575 per bushel and January soybeans ended up 12.25 cents at $15.4875 per bushel.

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Written on 10/21/2014, 10:55 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Harley-Davidson's third-quarter profit fell nearly 8 percent on a planned reduction of motorcycle shipments for the quarter.
Written on 10/21/2014, 10:54 am by MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer
(AP) — Banks will get a break in easier rules for packaging and selling mortgage securities and fewer borrowers will have to make hefty down payments under actions taken by federal regulators. The regulators have dropped a key requirement: a 20 percent down payment from the borrower if a bank didn't hold at least 5 percent of the mortgage securities tied to those loans on its books. The long-delayed final rules unveiled Tuesday by six federal agencies include the less stringent condition that borrowers not carry excessive debt relative to their income. The board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt the rules. The Federal Reserve has scheduled a vote for Wednesday, and four other agencies are doing the same. The rules for mortgage securities will take effect in a year. For other kinds of securities, which don't allow banks an exemption from the 5-percent rule, the effective date is in two years. The rules, proposed in 2011, were mandated by the overhaul law enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The idea is to limit the kind of risky lending that brought on the crisis. If banks have more of their own money invested in mortgage securities — so-called "skin in the game" — they won't be as likely to take excessive risks, the thinking goes. After three years of interagency haggling, the regulators' final, compromise approach was to adopt the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's definition of a "qualified" mortgage. It excludes the kind of risky practices that fueled the crisis, such as mortgages issued without any supporting documents from borrowers. CFPB Director Richard Cordray, a member of the FDIC board, noted at Tuesday's meeting that conditions in the mortgage market have changed since the financial crisis and the time of the enactment of the 2010 overhaul law, when anxiety over reckless lending gripped lawmakers. "Credit has dried up for a long period and (lending) standards have tightened dramatically," he said. FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said the approach strikes a balance between protecting investors and credit markets "while minimizing costs and burden for consumers and market participants." The real estate industry and mortgage bankers lobbied against the original down payment requirement for exemption from the 5-percent rule, saying it could limit the access to mortgages of low- and moderate-income borrowers. Wall Street, looking to revive the market for mortgage securities not backed by government-controlled guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also has been awaiting the final rules. Financial industry interests were quick to claim victory Tuesday. The approach ultimately taken by the regulators was "strongly advocated" by the American Bankers Association, the group's president Frank Keating said in a statement after the FDIC vote. "This will encourage lenders to continue offering carefully underwritten (mortgage) loans, and avoid placing further hurdles before qualified borrowers, allowing them to achieve the American dream of homeownership." Ahead of the crisis, banks packaged and sold to investors bundles of risky mortgages with teaser rates that ballooned after only a few years. The banks had very little of their own money invested. Many borrowers ended up defaulting on the loans when the interest rates spiked. As a result, the value of the mortgage securities plummeted, and banks and investors holding them lost billions. The debacle helped ignite the financial meltdown that plunged the economy into the deepest recession since the 1930s and brought a taxpayer bailout of banks. The new rules will affect only a relatively small portion of the mortgage securities market, regulators say. Loans backed by Fannie, Freddie and the Federal Housing Administration aren't subject to the 5-percent rule . The two companies and the federal agency together stand behind about 90 percent of new mortgages, and own or back more than $5 trillion worth of home loans. On Monday, the head of the agency overseeing Fannie and Freddie announced that the companies have reached an agreement with major banks that could expand lending. Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said the deal clarifies conditions in which banks could be required to buy back mortgages they sell to Fannie and Freddie for misrepresenting the loans' risks. He said the agreement in principle is "a significant step forward" that will help make more mortgage credit available without harming Fannie and Freddie's finances.
Written on 10/21/2014, 10:52 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A second defendant has pleaded guilty in a case alleging that a Northern California slaughterhouse at the center of a massive recall processed and distributed tainted beef. Eugene Corda, an employee of Petaluma-based Rancho Feeding Corp., entered the plea to one count of aiding and abetting in the distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat earlier this month. A co-owner of the slaughterhouse, Robert Singleton, also pleaded guilty to the same charge in August. The two other defendants, co-owner Jesse Amaral Jr. and Felix Cabrera, are still facing charges. They have pleaded not guilty. Federal prosecutors say the owners schemed with employees to slaughter about 79 cows with skin cancer of the eye. The plant's operations were halted in February after a series of beef recalls.
Written on 10/21/2014, 10:51 am by Business Journal staff
Kaiser Permanente will give $500,000 in grants to four community organizations during a food distribution and health event in Mendota on Thursday.  The event will be held at 9:30 a.m. at Rojas Pierce Park, 350 Sorensen Avenue. The distribution and  grant money will assist residents in communities which have been the most impacted by the drought including Mendota, Kerman, Orange Cove, Parlier, San Joaquin, Huron and Firebaugh.  "These grants contribute to Kaiser Permanente's commitment to expanding access to care and healthy foods along with our history of helping people and organizations in need," Jeff Collins, Kaiser Permanente Fresno's senior vice president and area manager, said in a prepared statement.  Representatives from Kaiser Permanente Fresno will be present to distribute the grants. The Community Food Bank will receive $300,000 to help add fresh produce and lean protein to its monthly food distribution events. A $24,500 grant will be given to the American Red Cross to help provide emergency drinking water to residents.  The Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation will receive $75,500 to use for its medical and dental services mobile vehicle and existing Fresno County clinics, and the Marjaree Mason Center will receive $100,000 to offer prevention outreach and support services to domestic violence victims, residents and service providers in the rural communities. 
Written on 10/21/2014, 10:32 am by Business Journal staff
The Fresno Grizzlies organization announced it will host free watch parties for all World Series games except for Game 4 at Chukchansi Park in Downtown Fresno. The series between the San Francisco and Kansas City Royals kicks off tonight at 5:07 p.m., which is the start time for each game in the best-of-seven series. Gate 2 at Chukchansi Park will open at 4:30 p.m. prior to each watch party. Parking is also free in the H Street lot. Those attending tonight's Game 1 watch party can sign up for one free raffle ticket at the sales booth on the first base concourse, with one winner receiving two tickets to Game 3 of the World Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The winner will be chosen after the final out of the game, and must be present to redeem the tickets. The Grizzlies Team Store will be open and stocked with new merchandise. Anyone spending $49 or more will receive their choice of a free Giants World Series Championship Replica Ring. Sales representatives will also be on hand to discuss ticket plans for the 2015 season. People are allowed to sit on the field or in the stadium seats, though no chairs or outside food or beverage is allowed. A concession stand will remain open during each game. All games begin at 5:07 p.m. PT Game 1 | Tuesday, October 21Game 2 | Wednesday, October 22Game 3 | Friday, October 24*Game 5 | Sunday, October 26*Game 6 | Tuesday, October 28*Game 7 | Wednesday, October 29 *If Necessary
Written on 10/21/2014, 10:18 am by Business Journal staff
Rick Whitsell, CEO of Fresno First Bank, has been tapped as a speaker for the 16th Annual International Leadership Association Global Conference. Whitsell joins other top executives as a panelist for a global audience of more than 1,200 attendees in San Diego for the conference running Oct. 30 through Nov. 2. Whitsell will deliver a presentation titled "Banking on Values: How Ownership Builds Trust in the Financial Industry." The presentation will be a part of a larger session where other top executives explore the role of the CEO in creating positive cultures and communicating values to drive strategic results. The conference is a global network of those who practice, study and teach leadership. For more information and to register visit www.ila-net.org.
Written on 10/21/2014, 10:01 am by Business Journal staff
Self-Help Enterprises has been recognized as a NeighborWorks Green Organization for its comprehensive efforts towards sustainable operations. The Visalia-based organization was awarded the designation as a result of its commitment to green business practices. This is the third year NeighborWorks has recognized member groups and to date, 61 organizations have achieved the special designation.  "We are honored to be named a NeighborWorks Green Organization for our commitment to sustainable building practices and our green office culture," Tom Collishaw, CEO of Self-Help Enterprises, said in a prepared statement. "The green strategies we have adopted save families money, improve health outcomes and reduce our environmental impact." Self-Help Enterprises works together with low-income families to build homes and communities using green practices. Homes built are of modest size to reduce land use and Energy-Star appliances and solar panels are often implemented.  All homes and apartment complexes are built to California's CALGreen energy code (Title 24) and most projects exceed it. The Goshen Village II and Viscaya Gardens rental communities in Tulare County both go beyond Title 24 and feature solar energy systems, low-water landscaping and many other energy upgrades.  Self-Help also follows green practices in the office by encouraging employees to recycle and compost, setting printers to default double-sided printing and making bicycles available to staff to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a healthy lifestyle.  NeighborWorks supports a network of more than 240 nonprofits located in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. 
Written on 10/21/2014, 9:27 am by CANDICE CHOI, AP Food Industry Writer
(AP) — McDonald's CEO Don Thompson said Tuesday the company hasn't been keeping up with the times and that changes are in store for its U.S. restaurants. Starting in January, Thompson said McDonald's will "simplify" its menu to make room for restaurants to offer options best-suited for their regions. He also said the company planned to expand its "Create Your Taste" offering that lets people pick the buns and toppings they want on burgers by tapping a touchscreen. The program is currently being offered in Southern California. "We haven't been changing at the same rate as our customers' eating-out expectations," Thompson conceded during a conference call outlining the changes. The remarks came after McDonald's said its profit sank 30 percent in the third quarter, with sales at established locations down 3.3 percent globally and in its flagship U.S. market. In the division encompassing Asia, where a major McDonald's supplier was shown on TV repackaging expired beef, the figure sank 9.9 percent. In the U.S., McDonald's is fighting to hold onto customers amid shifting tastes toward food people consider more wholesome. A day earlier, for instance, Chipotle said its third-quarter sales at established locations surged 19.8 percent. Steve Ells, Chipotle's co-CEO, said the results show people are realizing "there are better alternatives to traditional fast food" and that he expects the trend to continue. McDonald's, meanwhile, has already started trying to improve its image. Last week, the company launched a social media campaign inviting customers to ask questions about its food. It began with frank questions like, "Why doesn't your food rot?" and "Is the McRib made from real pork?", showing just how bad some of the perceptions about McDonald's food can be. Over in China, an undercover TV report this summer showed one of its major suppliers repackaging expired meat. The plant stopped operations and many of McDonald's restaurants in the country were left unable to sell burgers, chicken nuggets and other items. The chain's reputation took a hit as well. McDonald's, which has more than 35,000 locations around the world, said it expects its challenges will continue into the current quarter, with global sales down for October as well. For the quarter, revenue declined to $6.99 billion, short of the $7.23 billion Wall Street expected. Net income declined to $1.07 billion, or $1.09 per share. Adjusted for one-time costs, earnings were $1.52 per share. Analysts expected $1.37 per share. Shares of McDonald's Corp. were down 59 cents at $91 in midday trading.
Written on 10/21/2014, 9:26 am by MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press
(AP) — There's a strict set of standards for organic foods. But the rules are looser for household cleaners, textiles, cosmetics and the organic dry cleaners down the street. Wander through the grocery store and check out the shelves where some detergents, hand lotions and clothing proclaim organic bona fides. Absent an Agriculture Department seal or certification, there are few ways to tell if those organic claims are bogus. A shopper's only recourse is to do his or her own research. "The consumer should not need a law degree to read a label," says Laura Batcha, president of the Organic Trade Association, the industry's main trade group. Concerned about the image of organics, the association is pressuring the government to better investigate organic claims on nonfood items.___FROM SOAP TO T-SHIRTS According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of those nonfood organic products were about $2.8 billion last year, a small share of the overall organic market but growing rapidly. Among the most popular items: household cleaners, cosmetics, gardening products, clothing, sheets and mattresses. USDA doesn't regulate any of those items, though, unless they're made entirely from food or agriculture products overseen by its National Organic Program. That's when they can carry the familiar "USDA organic" seal or other official USDA certification. The rules are murkier when the items have ingredients that aren't regulated by USDA, like chemicals in soaps or makeup. The department doesn't police the use of the word organic for nonfood items, as it does with food. Some examples: —Personal care products. Companies can brand any personal care product as organic with little USDA oversight as long as they don't use the USDA organic seal or certification. Some retailers like Whole Foods Market have stepped in with their own standards requiring organic body care items sold at their stores to be certified. There's also a private certification called NSF/ANSI 305, but most consumers don't know to look for that label. —Clothing, sheets and mattresses made from organic cotton or other organic fibers. Some items are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, a third-party verification organization that reviews how the products are manufactured. Like body care, most consumers don't know about it. —Gardening products. Some gardening products may be approved by USDA for use in organic agriculture, but not be certified organic themselves. There are clear standards for items within the scope of USDA's regulation, says Miles McEvoy, the head of department's National Organic Program. "The areas that are outside of our scope could cause some confusion."___THROUGH THE GOVERNMENT CRACKS The Federal Trade Commission normally investigates deceptive claims. But the agency demurred in its "Green Guides" published in 2012, saying enforcement of organic claims on nonfood products could duplicate USDA duties. The FTC says a claim is only deceptive if it misleads consumers, so it needs to study consumer perceptions of the word organic. The agency has proposed a study, but officials weren't able to say when it might begin. The Organic Trade Association's Batcha says the lack of enforcement could erode confidence in the organic industry as a whole. The industry has similarly been fighting overuse of the word "natural," which has no legal meaning at all. Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that publishes online consumer databases on cosmetics and cleaning, is blunt: "Companies are chasing the consumers and the government is in the rear-view mirror."___ORGANIC DRY CLEANERS Some dry cleaners promote "organic" on their windows and in their stores, but there is no legal definition for that practice. Mary Scalco, CEO of the industry group Drycleaning and Laundry Institute, said some of those businesses may actually be using petroleum-based solutions, which are not generally perceived as organic by the general public. "The difficult part is the scientific meaning of organic and the consumer perception of the word," she says. Scalco says she is telling member companies to make sure their customers know what organic means. "Because there is no real regulation on this right now, you want to make sure you don't mislead the public," she says.___ SMART SHOPPING So what's a consumer to do, especially when organic products are often more expensive and the market is continuing to grow? Right now, retailers are the first line of defense. Four years ago, Whole Foods Market announced strict standards for labeling in the store's well-stocked cosmetics, home cleaning and clothing aisles. The retailer also requires all products to list ingredients. "In areas where there isn't a government regulation, we have stepped up to create our own," says Joe Dickson, global quality standards coordinator for the Austin, Texas-based chain. David Bronner, the president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, has fought for years to get the USDA to expand its powers on organics to include personal care products. He says Whole Foods' standards have helped clean up the market, but there are still less scrupulous companies that stretch the meaning of the word organic to include petroleum-based oils and nonorganic palm and coconut oils that make up the base of many personal care products. Some grocery stores, spas and online retailers have no standards at all. Bronner advises shoppers to read labels carefully and scan lists of ingredients. If you find several unpronounceable ingredients that sound like chemicals, "it's probably not organic," he says.
Written on 10/21/2014, 9:22 am by CANDICE CHOI, AP Food Industry Writer
(AP) — America has rejected the idea of cappuccino-flavored Lay's potato chips. Frito-Lay says Wasabi Ginger won its contest that gives people a chance to create a new flavor, beating out the coffee-flavored chips and the two other finalists — Mango Salsa and Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese. Parent company PepsiCo Inc. says about 1 million total votes were cast online for the Do Us A Flavor promotion, a sales driver it has launched in more than a dozen countries. In the U.S., bags of the four finalist flavors hit shelves in late July and people were able to vote on Facebook and Twitter for their favorites through this past weekend. It was the second year for the U.S. contest, which is designed to send customers to stores in search of the flavors. Last year's winner, Cheesy Garlic Bread, is still on shelves. The winner, Meneko Spigner McBeth, was informed at a dinner for finalists Monday night in New York City. McBeth, a registered nurse from Deptford, New Jersey, will get $1 million or a set percentage of a year in sales, whichever figure is larger. Ram Krishnan, Frito-Lay's chief marketing officer, said this year's winner is evidence Americans want more ethnic flavors, even though the top four Lay's flavors remain Original, Barbecue, Cheddar & Sour Cream and Sour Cream & Onion. He said he couldn't have imagined Lay's selling a Wasabi Ginger flavor when he joined the company eight years ago. "We're kind of getting into a new flavor territory," Krishnan said. "When I went to school, Mexican food was exotic." As for the cappuccino flavor — which was described as "NASTY" and "gross" in some comments on Lay's Facebook page — Krishnan defended its performance, although he wouldn't say how many votes it got. "The fact that it made it out of our selection process to make it to the final four is no small feat," he said. The contest began in the United Kingdom, where Frito-Lay sells chips under the Walkers brand. Since then, it was launched in 14 countries before coming to the U.S. last year. Winning flavors in other countries include Pizza in Saudi Arabia, Shrimp in Egypt, Sunday Roast in New Zealand, Pickled Cucumber in Serbia and Aline's Caesar Salad in Australia. Given its success, Krishnan said the company is looking to launch the contest in other countries as well. Krishnan wouldn't specify how much of a sales lift the contest provides. But in the latest quarter that ended Sept. 6, PepsiCo, based in Purchase, New York, said revenue for its Frito-Lay North America division rose 3 percent, reflecting a 2 percent gain in volume and 1 percent gain from higher prices.

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