TODAY

– April 20, 2014

S&P 500 closes above 1,700 points for first time

(AP) — The stock market roared back to record highs on Thursday, driven by better news on the economy.

The Standard & Poor's 500, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Russell 2000 index set all-time highs. The S&P broke through 1,700 points for the first time. The Nasdaq hit its highest level since September 2000.

The gains were driven by a steady flow of encouraging, if incremental, reports on the global economy.

Overnight, a positive read on China's manufacturing helped shore up Asian markets. Then, an hour before U.S. trading started, the government reported that unemployment claims fell last week. At mid-morning a trade group said U.S. factories revved up production last month. And while corporate earnings news brought both winners and losers, investors were able to find enough that they liked in companies including CBS, MetLife and Yelp.

"It's just a lot of things adding up," said Russell Croft, portfolio manager of the Croft Value Fund in Baltimore. "It's hard to put your finger on why exactly, but basically it's a bunch of pretty good data points coming together to make a very good day."

Overall, analysts said, the news was good but not overwhelmingly so. Enough to suggest that the economy is improving, but not enough to prompt the Federal Reserve to withdraw its economic stimulus programs.

Earnings results covered a wide range. Boston Beer, which makes Samuel Adams, and home shopping network operator HSN rose after beating analysts' estimates for earnings and revenue. Kellogg, health insurer Cigna and cosmetics maker Avon were down after beating earnings predictions but missing on revenue.

It's becoming a familiar template this year. Stock indexes have been setting record highs even while the underlying economy is more often described as decent, but hardly going gangbusters.

Take company earnings, the most important thing for stock investors. Earnings at S&P 500 companies are up 4.3 percent this quarter, and revenue is down 0.4 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ. In previous eras, that hardly would have been considered encouraging. In the second quarter of 2007, before the financial crisis imploded, earnings rose 8.7 percent and revenue was up 5.8 percent. But compared with the second quarters of 2008 and 2009, when earnings plunged more than 20 percent each time, this year's results look positively cheery.

Other economic indicators have been following a similar fashion of not too good, not too bad. While layoffs are steadily declining, companies aren't hiring as quickly as they did before the crisis. The economy is growing, but not fast enough to drive significant job growth. The Commerce Department reported this week that the U.S. grew at a tepid annual rate of 1.7 percent in the second quarter.

"They're not great numbers, but they're positive and they're continuing to grow," said Tim Courtney, chief investment officer of Exencial Wealth Advisors in Oklahoma City. "That's about all the market needs to hear."

The S&P 500 index rose 21.14 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,706.87. The Dow rose 128.48 points, or 0.8 percent, to 15,628.02. The Russell 2000 of small-company stocks rose 14.62 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,059.88.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 49.37 points, or 1.4 percent, to 3,675.74, in line with the daily gains of other indexes but not near its record. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, briefly veered above 5,000 points in March 2000, just before the Internet bubble burst.

Investors said Thursday that the S&P's crossing over 1,700 points might give consumers a psychological boost, but they were hardly crowing about a new era in stocks. Turns out it's quite common for indexes to hit records. Since 1950, the S&P has hit a new high about 7 percent of the time, or an average of about every 15 days, Courtney said. The S&P's last record close was not so long ago, on July 22.

"You've got a disconnect here between the real economy and ... the stock markets," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass. McMillan noted that while many companies were beating earnings expectations, they've also been trimming staff and lowering their own estimates.

The S&P made the jump from 1,600 to 1,700 in less than three months. The index first traded above 1,600 on May 3. The previous 100-point gain took much longer to achieve: The S&P first closed above 1,500 in March 2000.

The market's sharp advance Thursday was a stark contrast with the previous two days, when the S&P 500 moved less than a point each day. On Tuesday, investors didn't want to make big moves ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy announcement the next day. On Wednesday, the Fed didn't make much news after all. The central bank said, unsurprisingly, that the U.S. economy was recovering but still needed help. The Fed didn't give any indication of when it might cut back on its bond-buying program, which has been supporting financial markets and keeping borrowing costs ultra-low.

Among the economic and corporate news that investors digested Thursday:

— China's purchasing managers' index — a gauge of business sentiment — rose to 50.3 in July from 50.1 in June. Analysts had expected a modest decline below 50.

— The Labor Department said that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell 19,000 to 326,000. That was the fewest since January 2008.

— The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said its index of manufacturing jumped to 55.4 in July, up from 50.9 in June. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

— Auto companies reported healthy sales gains for July. Ford, Chrysler and Nissan each reported U.S. sales growth of 11 percent compared with the same month a year ago.

An index of transportation stocks also rose sharply. Many investors see that sector as a leading indicator for the economy since freight and shipping companies tend to get busier as the economy improves.

The Dow Jones Transportation average jumped 208.26 points, or 3.2 percent, to 6,670.06, led by a surge in Con-way, a Michigan-based freight company that reported earnings Thursday that were far higher than investors expected. Con-Way rose $4.34, or 10.5 percent, to $45.79.

The price of crude oil rose $2.86, or 2.7 percent, to $107.89 a barrel. Gold slipped $1.80 to $1,311.20 an ounce. The dollar rose against the euro and the Japanese yen.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose sharply, to 2.72 percent from 2.58 percent late Wednesday. That means investors were selling U.S. government debt securities, which are seen as ultra-safe, in anticipation that the economy would pick up and as they moved money into higher-risk assets like stocks.

Among stocks making big moves:

—Sprouts Farmers Markets more than doubled on the company's first day of trading, jumping $22.11 to $40.11 — another sign that investors are becoming more comfortable taking on risk.

—Yelp soared $9.70, or 23.2 percent, to $51.50. The consumer review website continued to lose money, but it sold more ads and drew more visitors.

—Dell rose 29 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $12.96. Its shareholders are scheduled to vote Friday on an offer by CEO and founder Michael Dell to buy the company.

—Exxon Mobil fell $1.02, or 1.1 percent, to $92.73, after reporting lower earnings as oil and gas production slipped. Profit margins on refining oil also fell.

Web Poll

Should cap-and-trade revenue be used for high-speed rail construction?

Blogs

gordonwebstergordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebstergordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 04/18/2014, 3:26 pm by chuckharvey
It may be a David versus a double Goliath clash, but recent startup company Fresno Coupons expects to hold its own against coupon giants Groupon and...
Written on 04/18/2014, 3:24 pm by ben
Floating in a sensory deprivation chamber — a trend that has fallen out of popularity over the last few decades — is slowly coming back into the limelight and that may be good news for one Fresno business.Sensory deprivation chambers, known to many as “isolation” or “float” tanks where one floats on salt water in a pitch-black chamber, didn’t catch on quickly after neuroscientist John C. Lilly developed his first makeshift unit while working for the National Institutes of Health in 1954. The practice grew in popularity in the ‘60s and ‘70s when counterculture figures began using the coffin-like devices to expand their minds in an environment completely free of light, sound and other stimuli. Following years of relative obscurity, float tanks have resurfaced in mainstream circles, helped by notions of health and well-being and the podcast insights of comedian and athlete Joe Rogan.For Sean Carter, a Fresno resident working in the construction industry, floating was a life changer ever since his first experience around five years ago during a trip with friends to Venice Beach in Southern California.Then one of the few well-known isolation tanks open to the public in the state, Carter happened to come at a time when the owner was selling and he decided to bring his newfound hobby back home to Fresno.But more than just a hobby, Carter soon realized he could help others looking to reach their physical and mental potential or simply relieve a little pent-up stress.“You get in there after working out, or you’re like a business person and you’re so stressed from working all the time, you need a place to shut it all off and have pure, quiet rest, that solitude. And that’s what it’s really for,” Carter said.Years later, Carter and his wife Carolina still operate the only sensory deprivation business in the Central Valley, with now two float tanks in their home at 1112 N. Vagedes Ave near Fresno’s Tower District.For $50, customers can get two hours in one of the dark, soundproof chambers, floating weightlessly in 200 gallons of water filled with Epsom salt.First-time floaters pay just $30, while students and military members pay $40 per float. A membership plan extends four, two-hour floats for $149 per month.Float Fresno also offered a Groupon deal recently letting people try the chambers for half the regular price.Even though the promotion didn’t bring in as many new clients as hoped, Carter said it did result in a little extra exposure to at least start the conversation besides just Float Fresno’s Facebook page and website at www.floatfresno.com.“It takes time to build your clientele in something like this. People aren’t just going to come floating because they hear about sensory deprivation tanks,” said Carter, who still performs mold remediation and other work during the day for his father’s construction business in Fresno. “But once they do a little research, they eventually start to come and it’s pretty consistent once they jump into it.”For longtime floaters, Carter said, the chance to close out the world for a few hours is something they can’t get anywhere else as many of the closest businesses have shut down over the years due to the high expenses of maintaining a storefront.However, it’s the newcomers that seem to get the most out of the experience.“There are a lot of people that are a little apprehensive, a little anxiety,” he said. “But actually, when they get out you can just see the smiles. They don’t even really have to say anything. They just come out and say ‘Oh man. I needed that.’”For those concerned about hygiene, Carter said the tanks are flushed before and after each float with the water going through three stages of filters as well as UV lights and an ozone generator to remove impurities.After the whole process is done seven times over, the water runs back into the tank where it’s heated to just about body temperature so most people can’t really tell the water’s there at all.Plus, Carter said the tanks and filtration equipment designed by Float Lab Technologies of Venice Beach are certified by a national foundation and highly regarded throughout the health industry.  He added that the magnesium and sulfate in the Epsom salt serve as a natural exfoliant for the skin and have other health benefits like reducing inflammation and helping muscle and nerve function.But it’s really the opportunity for calm self-reflection that draws most, he said, with some describing dream states in which a flood of visions and eye-opening ideas comes pouring in.“Once you get in there you’re almost forced to meditate. It’s just quiet and you have a better environment for mediation,” Carter said. “Research shows learning can improve in there too.”For Carter, who still floats himself about once or twice a month, there’s really nothing mystic about it. In fact, he said, the isolation tank was just a small piece of the puzzle when he set out to improve his health in his early 20s after seeing his father suffer heart problems.“There’s a whole wellness thing,” Carter said. “You shouldn’t be always floating. You should float and also be physically active and if you have a spinal cord injury, maybe see a chiropractor to kind of adjust you, and then float again. “Eating is a main part too. “If you’re not eating right and doing all these things, everything’s out of balance.” Ben Keller  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3465 or e-mail ben@thebusinessjournal.com
Written on 04/18/2014, 3:21 pm by Leah
Fifteen Valley companies are in the running for the 2014 California Family Business Award with the winner to be honored at an April 24 dinner in Fresno.Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the California Family Business Award goes to the top family business in the region, as ranked by expert judges on criteria including growth and development, incorporating family into the business, succession planning and community involvement. Last year’s winner was the Stefanopoulous family of Stamoules Produce in Mendota, a fourth-generation Westside grower.Fred Ruiz, founder of Ruiz Foods, will be the featured speaker of the April 24 event, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at Pardini’s Catering & Banquets. The event is hosted by The Institute for Family Business at Fresno State’s Craig School of Business and The Business Journal.The following businesses have been nominated for the award and have been interviewed by members of a selection committee. Finalists and the California Family Business Award winner will be announced at the dinner, as well as a new “Rising Star” award recipient.The nominees include:• Fresno-based Agri-Valley Irrigation (Rompal family)• Tulare-based BMI Mechanical, Inc. (Brott family)• Reedley-based David’s (Melville Family)• Fresno-based Don Boam Carpet and Flooring (Boam family)• Fresno-based Elbow Room (Shirinian family)• Visalia-based Frank’s Appliance (Torres family)• Fresno Neon Co. (Kratt family)• Harley Davidson of Fresno (Miller family)• Clovis-based Jan Thomas Swim School (Thomas family)• Selma-based Marco Landscape Maintenance (Quevedo family)• Fresno-based Pickett & Sons Construction (Pickett family)• Fresno-based The Garabedian Group (Garabedian family)• Selma-based The Nelson Group (Nelson family)• Fresno-based Triangle Burner (Ahmed family)• Madera-based Salter’s Distributing, Inc. (Salter family)For more information, visit the ticket page or call (559) 490-3400. — The Business Journal staff
Written on 04/18/2014, 3:07 pm by Leah
PresidentCentral Valley Community Bank What we do: Central Valley Community Bank opened its doors in 1980 as a full-service community bank providing personalized service to business and personal banking customers in the Fresno and Clovis region. Built upon a foundation of strength and security, the Bank has successfully operated for over 34 years, never losing sight of the founding values of integrity, trustworthiness, caring, loyalty, leadership and teamwork. Today, CVCB operates 21 full-service offices spanning seven San Joaquin Valley counties, with nearly 300 employees and has grown to over $1.1 billion in assets as of year-end 2013. The Bank operates commercial, real estate, SBA and agribusiness lending departments. Investment services are provided by Investment Centers of America and Central Valley Community Insurance Services, LLC, provides financial and insurance solutions for businesses and individuals. CVCB is dedicated to investing in relationships with their special brand of personalized service, competitive financial products and services and professional advocacy for customers.   Education: I graduated with honors from the University of Oregon in 1980 with a Bachelors of Science in Management and Pacific Coast Banking School in 1992. Age: 55 Family:  My wife, Sandie, our four adult children and one precious grandson. Tell us a little about your career path up to Central Valley Community Bank.My 34-year banking career began in 1980 in the management training program with First National Bank of Oregon (later renamed First Interstate Bank), where I held various management positions over 17 years, through the bank’s acquisition by Wells Fargo Bank. I then moved to Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was later recruited to the family-owned Union Safe Deposit Bank in Stockton, California, where I ultimately served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Union Safe Deposit Bank was later sold to Bank of the West, where I served for two years in the Regional Banking Group in Walnut Creek, California as Executive Vice President of Planning and Development. In 2006, I moved back to Oregon to join PremierWest Bank, ultimately as its President and CEO.  In mid-2013, PremierWest Bank was sold to AmericanWest Bank, which allowed me to pursue the opportunity to join Central Valley Community Bank, a bank that I’ve admired and followed for many years. I have gained valuable experience throughout my career and I am particularly proud to serve Central Valley Community Bank as their third president since opening 34 years ago – a timeline which exactly matches the span of my banking career to date.          Has Dan Doyle been showing you the ropes, so to speak?Dan Doyle is a quintessential leader who along with the entire CVCB team has made my first couple months on the job fantastic! Dan’s retirement transition as CEO through 2014 and his decision to remain a member of CVCB’s Board of Directors, in addition to support from our entire Board, were critical in my decision to join Central Valley Community Bank. The Board, Dan, our Senior Management and our dedicated team of banking professionals are an integral part of the success of CVCB’s past and its future. I am so pleased to be associated with such a respected and successful organization.   Some of your past board service has included Southern Oregon University and the University of Oregon Alumni Association. Talk about the importance of higher education, and do you plan to serve on any local boards?I was raised in a family who taught me the value of giving back and throughout my career I have been fortunate to have learned from great mentors who valued community involvement. My association with several university boards in Oregon, along with all the other boards I have had the privilege to serve over the years, has been fulfilling in so many ways. I plan to continue the level of community service that Dan and our Board have established and to have involvement in the banking industry both statewide and nationally to ensure that the community banking message is clearly heard by regulatory agencies.       As for higher education, I look forward to getting to know all the universities serving our next generation throughout the Valley. I believe that lifelong learning is a privilege, whether in the classroom or on the job and certainly a cause worth supporting. Not to mention, I love college sports and look forward to wearing red this fall! Which is Central Valley Community Bank’s most important competition? Other local community banks or national banks?In today’s environment, a competitor bank no longer needs to be next door or down the street to be considered competition. From local and national banks to non-banks with exclusive online service delivery, the landscape of the financial services industry is evolving. I believe that Central Valley Community Bank is doing a great job in all categories including delivering superior customer service with convenient locations throughout the Valley, in addition to ATMs and online banking for business and personal banking preferences. But what truly differentiates CVCB from other financial organizations is our unique brand of personalized service and customer advocacy. Our experienced banking professionals live and work in the local community and have a deep understanding of the marketplace. CVCB is committed to doing the right thing for our customers, employees, shareholders and our community each and every day.    What is the best advice you ever received?Work hard and assume nothing will be given to you. I learned from an early age that hard work and determination would ultimately lead to success, if not immediately.   What do you like to do on your spare time?I enjoy golfing, traveling, reading, college football and spending time with my family and our dog.   What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?My first job was doing chores around the house. I learned quickly that efficiently completing my chores led to satisfaction and more time for fun! My first paying job was picking green beans in the fields where I learned the value of hard work and showing up to work on time (or the bus left you behind!). During high school I worked in a restaurant, a paper/pulp mill during college and repaired typewriters at one point. Each job experience taught me the value of hard work and the joy of working with others toward a common goal. 
Written on 04/18/2014, 2:53 pm by chuckharvey
Irrigation tech firms promise water, money savings Drought and concern about future water shortages has boosted investment in high-tech methods of retaining ground moisture, conserving water and recycling water.More agricultural processing plants are recycling grey water onsite for authorized reuses including irrigation. “They are working towards that,” said Lee Ann Eager, president and chief executive officer of Fresno County’s Economic Development Corporation. Eager said the corporation is working with Fresno State’s WET (water, energy and technology) Center to ensure that when new processing companies come to Fresno, they will have the latest in water-saving technology available to them. And they need to be in a position to recycle grey water, she said.The rewards can be substantial.Cargill has been able to save 40,000 gallons of water a day by installing water reclamation tanks in its meat processing plants. Woolf Farming of Fresno has a tomato processing system in which water is salvaged when tomatoes are mashed up for canning or freezing. The water is saved for reuse in the fields.The WET Center can help in the water-saving process. It provides guidance, direction, and technical assistance to help commercialize technologies and grow businesses including agricultural processing plants.The WET Center is directed by a board of local industry leaders, regional academic institutions, business associations and financial institutions with the common goal of cultivating innovation and economic prosperity in the San Joaquin Valley. Water savings on the farmModern water conservation methods are also helping farmers get through another dry year with the prospect of receiving little or no imported water.Eager said that thanks to new water-saving technologies, new nut processing plants scheduled to take root in the Valley have not been detoured by the drought.In addition, the drought has had the positive effect of encouraging water technology companies to come to the Valley. Eager said she could not yet name the water technology companies because agreements have not been finalized.But several are on the way, she said.Water-saving technology is helping Fresno and other San Joaquin Valley cities maintain economic development at a time when agriculture farming and processing jobs are under threat by inability to obtain adequate groundwater supplies. Keeping the turf greenNew moisture control methods could also lead to some rethinking by school, sports field and playground operators that replaced natural grass with artificial turf.Irrigation experts insist that artificial turf creates added heat and extra upkeep. Also, its production and disposal add to pollutants in the air and soil.And real grass can be maintained — with the right equipment, soil moisture and monitoring — at a lower per square foot cost than purchasing and maintaining a large amount of artificial turf.Synthetic turf costs between $4 and $5 per square foot to install. Live turf casts between 62 cents and $1.18 a square foot to install.Of course water and fertilizer must be added in to the live turf cost. Artificial turf must be brushed, aerated, raked and swept.The solution for saving on live turf costs, including regular watering, is to better monitor plant and ground moisture and use drip irrigation whenever possible.And injection of hydro-gels to hold water has worked well in tests.“Synthetic turf only goes so far,” said Tom DeLany, founder and inventor of Fresno’s Aqua Cents that utilizes a mobile machine to inject water-holding hydro gel into the soil. DeLany said that having hydro gel injected into lawns costs between 25 cents and 35 cents per square foot.Glen Bennett, general manager of Aqua Cents, said that if maintenance costs were truly taken into account, sports practice facilities, which cover large expanses, would be the first to be converted back to live grass.DeLany said some playgrounds installed artificial turf as a replacement for grass. When the artificial turf wore out, they replaced it with sand. That didn’t work well so they brought in pelletized rubber, DeLany said.He believes that with the right planning and equipment, including soil moisture monitors and drip systems, both grass and farm crops can survive with much reduced water output. Loans and grantsWestlands Water District in Fresno encourages the use of high-tech water saving equipment and methods. In February, the district approved measures to expand a loan program for its growers to install real-time soil moisture monitors in an effort to help farmers be even more efficient with their water.PureSense Environmental Inc., a Fresno based company supplying proprietary irrigation and field moisture monitoring solutions to agriculture since 2006, applauded Westland Water District’s action.Using PureSense, growers can access timely data for scheduling irrigation of crops. PureSense also offers customized alerts such as frost, heat and wind that enable growers to make fast decisions based on in-field conditions.PureSense technology was recently tested in an independent filed trial by Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology. The trial found that by using the moisture monitoring system, water used efficiency for almonds increased by 5 percent.A 6 percent increase in almond revenue per acre was gained.In addition, the trial determined that July Flame peach production could be increased by 7 percent along with a 13 percent increase in July Flame peach size.David Termondt, chief executive officer of PureSense, said following the trial that such technology will help farmers become better insulated from shortages caused by the current drought.Overall, farmers have embraced high-tech tools to save water. They are using integrated computer systems and advanced field technologies to help make better judgments about water needs.Research by the state found that California farmers invested more than $3 billion in irrigation technology between 2003 and 2013.That trend should continue. Along with help from water districts, farmers can obtain federal assistance in improving water technologies and management. In February, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture would make available $6 million in grants this year and $30 million over the next five years to help farmers and ranchers develop water management practices, technologies to improve water resource quantity and quality. Fresno State cuts water usageTo play its own part in conserving water, Fresno State has begun a water conservation plan to cut campus water usage by 20 percent or 59.8 million gallons in the next year.The plan calls for reducing water usage by 7.5 million gallons per month through the growing season from March to October.The university identified three areas of major water use: irrigation of the main campus and university farm; domestic water for sinks, toilets and water coolers; and chilled water used for cooling buildings.In addition to its ongoing water technology research, the university has enacted a number of water-saving measures including limiting irrigation to one inch per week during the growing season, transitioning to low-flow sprinkler heads, expanding electronic monitoring of flow in irrigation pipes to determine areas of inefficiency and changing the fertilizer to help turf thrive with less water.Fresno State has the advantage of being home to major water-related organizations including California Water Institute, International Center for Water Technology and Center for Irrigation Technology.The University has reduced its water usage by more than 40 percent in the past five years. Orchards are watered with micro-sprinklers, rotating mini sprinklers that operate a low pressure and vineyards and vegetable crops are irrigated using drip irrigation.Many of the areas farms have followed in the footsteps of what Fresno State is doing and it has likewise reduced water usage.“It’s important to serve as example in the community on ways we can all conserve water,” said Bob Boyd, Fresno State’s associate vice president for facilities management.The university has been open to new ideas including the Aqua Cents system of injecting hydro-gels into the soil. It partnered with the Aqua Cents water management team to test the system in areas of campus that require large amounts of water.The hydro-gels are formulated to improve absorption of water and nutrients, reducing the amount and frequency of water and fertilizers. “It’s a matter of teaching our lawns to drink differently,” Boyd said.The Aqua Cents system is currently being used on turf, but is expected to be modified for use on farms in the future.
Written on 04/18/2014, 2:04 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno County's unemployment rate for March was 13.8 percent, with the professional and business services sector posting the largest year-over-year jobs boost, according to a new report from the state Employment Development Department. Professional and business services added 3,600 jobs compared to March 2013, when the unemployment rate was 14.5 percent. February's unemployment rate was 13.5 percent. The farm industry posted the largest year-over-year decline in jobs for March, with 1,600 jobs disappearing in the last year. Tulare County had a 15.6 percent unemployment rate in March, compared to 15.1 percent in February and 15.7 percent a year ago. Government saw the largest year-over-year job loss with 1,400 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities had the largest increase with 1,300. The March unemployment rate in Madera County was 12.6 percent, up from 12 percent in February but down from 13.1 percent in March 2013. The farm industry lost 900 jobs in the last year, while manufacturing saw the largest year-over increase with 200 positions. Kings County's March unemployment rate was 14.7 precent, doom from 14.9 percent in February and below 15.3 percent last year. Manufacturing saw the largest year-over-year decline with 300 jobs, while three other industries — trade, transportation and utilities, educational and health services and leisure and hospitality — added 300 jobs each in the last year.
Written on 04/18/2014, 11:26 am by Business Journal staff
United Security Bancshares, parent of Fresno-based United Security Bank, announced net income of $908,000 for the first quarter, down from $1.075 million for the same quarter in 2013. Annualized return on average equity for the three months ended March 31 was 4.77 percent, compared to 6.20 percent for the same period last year. Annualized return on average assets was 0.55 percent for the three months ended March 31, compared to 0.68 percent last year. On a year to date comparative basis, changes in income were the result of an increase of $722,000 in non-interest expense, partially offset by a $148,000 decrease in interest expense, an increase of $198,000 in non-interest income, and a $57,000 increase in total interest income. Dennis R. Woods, president and CEO, stated: "We continue to see improving trends with growth in loan demand, positive net earnings, increased capital, and reductions in non-performing assets. During the first quarter of 2014, we have grown our loan portfolio by $16.4 million and look forward to strengthening our core earnings during the remainder of 2014." Shareholders' equity at March 31, 2014 was $77,440,000, up $897,000 from shareholders' equity of $76,543,000 at December 31, 2013."
Written on 04/18/2014, 11:12 am by gabrieldillard
Sierra Bancorp, parent company of Porterville's Bank of the Sierra, announced a regular quarterly cash dividend of 8 cents per share to be paid on May 15. The dividend will be paid to shareholders of record as of May 1. Bank of the Sierra has paid regular cash dividends to shareholders every year since 1987. The dividend reflects "capital strength, robust net income, and a favorable trend in nonperforming assets" for the quarter ended March 31, according to a news release.
Written on 04/18/2014, 9:40 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno developer and property manager Lance-Kashian & Co. has earned LEED Platinum certification for the second time for the Offices at Palm Crossing in north Fresno. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, established by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1998, recognizes buildings with features that reduce energy consumption, offset waste and accomplish other eco-minded goals.   Earning platinum certification under its new construction rating system, the Offices at Palm Crossing scored more than 80 points out of a possible 110—84 total—for a number of built in strategies related to water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.   Located at 677 W. Palmdon Drive at the corner of Palm and Herndon avenues in Fresno, the 40,000 square-foot building was constructed using local materials, much of them from recycled sources.   Low-impact paints and coatings were applied to the walls, while large windows and a number of other day-light strategies help cut down on energy use.   Motion sensors in all the offices reduce energy usage by turning lights on and off automatically and a solar array over the parking lot generates power for all common areas of the building.   An extremely efficient air conditioning system was installed as well and a water conserving fixture installation results in a dramatic reduction in water use in the building, which also reduces the burden placed on the local water treatment facility.   Lance-Kashian also purchases power from a wind farm, earning carbon credits to offset some of the building’s environmental footprint.   "Lance Kashian & Company has always been concerned about the environment and its tenants, so it only made sense to pursue Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification for our office building and reduce our overall impact", said Tracy Kashian, vice president of marketing and public relations for Lance-Kashian, in a release.   The latest certification follows another LEED Platinum award to the company for the Tower in The Village at River Park office building last July under the existing building: operation and maintenance rating system.   Fresno’s Tutelian & Company also earned LEED Platinum certification under the commercial interiors rating system last April for the General Services Administration center housed in the Park Place office building in north Fresno.
Written on 04/18/2014, 8:33 am by MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer
(AP) — A new Obama administration privacy policy released Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites, and it clarifies that online comments, whether tirades or tributes, are in the open domain. "Information you choose to share with the White House (directly and via third party sites) may be treated as public information," the new policy says. The Obama administration also promises not to sell the data of online visitors. But it cannot make the same assurances for users who go to third-party White House sites on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. There will be no significant changes in actual practices under the new policy. But legal jargon and bureaucratic language has been stripped out, making it easier for readers to now understand that the White House stores the date, time and duration of online visits; the originating Internet Protocol address; how much data users transmit from WhiteHouse.gov to their computers; and more. The administration also tracks whether emails from the White House are opened, forwarded or printed. The updates were needed because "Our old privacy policy was just that - old," blogged Obama's digital director Nathaniel Lubin. After coming to office in a campaign lauded for its online savvy, President Barack Obama's White House has quickly adapted to online engagement since taking office in 2008, embracing using the Internet in all of its manifestations. The first administration with an Office of Digital Strategy, Obama's online strategy now includes a We the People petitions platform, live online chats and more than a dozen social media sites including Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, MySpace and seven different Facebook pages including La Casa Blanca and Education to Innovate. Visitors who link to those social media sites are advised: "Your activity on those sites is governed by the third-party website's security and privacy policies," which frequently allow those companies to sell users' data. In addition, the White House archives Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus content to comply with the Presidential Records Act. The policy says Obama will keep some information — automatically generated email data, Mobile App use data and some cookie data — until the end of the current administration. The White House is also explicit about what it doesn't do, including collecting geolocation information from mobile-app users or sharing information for commercial purposes. The policy is being released at a time when the administration is facing unprecedented criticism over disclosures from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that expose sweeping U.S. government surveillance programs. The policy aims to address at least some of those concerns. White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said they also do not give third parties, including the political organization Obama for America or the U.S. National Security Agency, access to their email database or other systems. "Within the White House, we restrict access to personally identifiable information to employees, contractors, and vendors subject to non-disclosure requirements who require access to this information in order to perform their official duties and exercise controls to limit what data they can view based on the specific needs of their position," the policy says. For example, if someone gives the White House a telephone number or email address, staffers might respond to the message or petition, providing information or even services if appropriate. They might also take messages, comments, Twitter replies and Facebook comments to use for public advocacy, like promoting Obama's health care overhaul. If a user asks the White House a question that is really about homeland security, the user's information may be shared with that agency. And if someone is trying to report a federal crime, or threatening someone, that person's information may be passed on to law enforcement. Lehrich said that when people share comments or sign online petitions through the We the People platform, it's with the understanding that it is public information. Reviews from privacy experts — who have been watching the privacy-policy revisions closely — were mixed. The biggest problem, said Jeramie Scott, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., is not what happens when users are on WhiteHouse.gov, but when they click onto the White House's third-party social media sites that don't abide by Obama's own privacy rules and may sell personal data they glean from users. "Interacting with the White House and its different sites is inherently political, and that type of thing shouldn't be used for commercial gain," Scott said. Mark Jaycox, a legislative analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, said the new policy underscores the administration's ongoing interest in collecting data. "You see it across the board. You saw it in the campaign. You see it in the White House petitions. This is just one more step toward amassing more information," he said. Jaycox said the new policy is not explicit enough about what the White House does with information it gathers. "The onerous thing is we don't know what they're doing on the back end with all of this data," he said. But several privacy experts praised the new policy as more explicit and understandable. "It's a nice gesture by the White House," said Federation of American Scientists secrecy expert Steven Aftergood in Washington. "I think the move reflects a heightened public awareness of privacy concerns, which is commendable." Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director John Simpson said that in terms of pure disclosure, "this seems to be one of the better policies, a model perhaps for others."

Latest State News

Written on 04/18/2014, 8:28 am by FENIT NIRAPPIL, 
JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press
(AP) — Most of the 911 calls from...
Written on 04/17/2014, 1:54 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — A late surge of sign-ups pushed...
Written on 04/17/2014, 1:52 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Two members of a San Diego...
Written on 04/17/2014, 1:51 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Workplace safety officials have...

Latest National News

Written on 04/18/2014, 8:33 am by MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer
(AP) — A new Obama administration...
Written on 04/17/2014, 2:08 pm by MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer
(AP) — The government's latest report...
Written on 04/17/2014, 2:06 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Stocks are mostly higher on Wall...
Written on 04/17/2014, 1:50 pm by 
STACY A. ANDERSON, Associated Press
(AP) — First lady Michelle Obama says a...