TODAY

– January 26, 2015

Stocks slip below records; FMC falls 


(AP) — Stocks fell for the first time in seven days, ending a run that had pushed the indexes to all-time highs, as investors assessed corporate news.

Chemical company FMC fell the most in the Standard & Poor's 500 index after cutting its earnings forecast for the second quarter due because its Agricultural Solutions unit performed worse than expected in the period. General Electric and Wisconsin Energy both dropped after announcing acquisitions.

The stock market has climbed steadily in the last two months amid signs that the economy has recovered its momentum after being disrupted by an unusually harsh winter. Stronger growth should translate into higher corporate profits.

"The market has had a good run and it needs to pause," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

The S&P 500 fell a fraction of a point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,962.61. The index closed at a record 1,962.87 on Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 9.82 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 16,937.26. The Nasdaq composite index edged up 0.64 point, or less than 0.01 percent, to 4,368.68.

FMC dropped $3.65, or 4.9 percent, to $71.10 after the company lowered its earnings forecast for the second-quarter, saying that the impact of the cold winter had been much stronger than it had originally anticipated.

Investors were also watching deal news that produced both winners and losers.

General Electric dropped 29 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $26.68 after agreeing to acquire most of the power generation business belonging to Alstom, a French company. Wisconsin Energy fell $1.62, or 3.5 percent, to $45.27 after the company said that it was buying Integrys Energy for $5.8 billion.

Intergrys was among the winners. The company's stock jumped $7.40, or 12.1 percent, to $68.35 on the news.

Micros Systems also gained on deal news. The software company's stock rose $2.21, or 3.4 percent, to $67.98 after Oracle said it was buying the company for about $5.3 billion.

The stock market may be heading for a summer lull after its latest record-setting run, as investors wait for more confirmation that the economic outlook is improving, said Scott Wren, a senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. The S&P 500 is up 6.2 percent for the year after trading mostly sideways for the first three months of the year.

"After the big run we've had over the past couple of months, a week or two of consolidation isn't anything out of the ordinary," said Wren.

In government bond trading, prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves in the opposite direction to its price, rose to 2.62 percent.

The price of oil fell 66 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $106.17 a barrel.

Among other stocks making big moves:

Lululemon rose $1.02, or 2.5 percent, to $41.25 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the company's founder was working with Goldman Sachs to shake up the yoga clothing company's board. Lululemon's stock is down 30 percent this year as the company works on improving its business since pulling one of its popular yoga pants from stores last spring because they were too sheer.

Latest Local News

Written on 01/26/2015, 1:18 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — The U.S. stock market is finishing with tiny gains as investors weigh corporate earnings, mergers, and the implications of an election victory in...
Written on 01/26/2015, 12:32 pm by Business Journal staff
The Friant Water Authority is searching for a new chief executive as part of reorganization designed to manage increased workload due to the drought. The Friant Water Authority board has approved splitting the general manager's job into two positions — a chief executive to focus on strategic and policy issues and be the face of the authority and a general manager to engage with the authority's key initiatives. The chief executive will report to the board, while the general manager will report to the chief executive. Current General Manager Ron Jacobsma will maintain this role, while a search is being launched to hire a chief executive. The board also formed three new board-level committees to develop recommendations for the Friant Water Authority's reorganization, an interim water supply committee to focus on water supply issues until the reorganization is complete and a search committee to find the new chief executive officer.
Written on 01/26/2015, 12:19 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Standard & Poor's rating agency on Monday downgraded Russia's credit grade by one notch to junk status, citing a weakened economic outlook. The agency dropped the rating to BB+ from BBB- as it sees the country's financial buffers at risk amid a slide in the country's currency and weakening revenue from oil exports. "In our view, the Russian Federation's monetary policy flexibility has weakened, as have its economic growth prospects," it said. Russia's economy has been hit hard by the double impact of weaker prices for its energy exports as well as Western sanctions. The Russian currency tumbled on the downgrade, dropping nearly 7 percent to 68.5 rubles to the dollar. Standard & Poor's said that Russia's financial system is weakening, limiting room for maneuver for Russia's Central Bank. It said the bank "faces increasingly difficult monetary policy decisions," while also trying to preserve incentives for growth. The Russian economy is expected to contract by 4 to 5 percent this year for the first time since President Vladimir Putin took the helm in 2000. Capital outflows, which averaged $57 billion annually during 2009 to 2013, soared to $152 billion last year. "Stresses could mount for Russian corporations and banks that have foreign currency debt service requirements without a concomitant foreign currency revenue stream," the rating agency said. There was no immediate comment to the downgrade by the Russian government, which have sought to play down the anticipated move. Prior to the announcement, Putin had a meeting with Cabinet members on anti-crisis measures. He said the government should focus on cutting spending, keeping inflation under control and making sure that the country doesn't waste its hard currency reserves.
Written on 01/26/2015, 12:18 pm by 
JOSH LEDERMAN, JOAN LOWY, Associated Press
(AP) — A small drone flying low to the ground crashed onto the White House grounds before dawn Monday, triggering a major emergency response and raising fresh questions about security at the presidential mansion. A man later came forward to say he was responsible and didn't mean to fly it over the complex. The man contacted the Secret Service at midmorning after reports of the crash spread in the media. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said the man had been interviewed by Secret Service agents and was cooperating with the investigation. "Initial indications are that this incident occurred as a result of recreational use of the device," Leary said. He added that investigators were interviewing others to corroborate the man's story, as well as examining evidence from the scene. A U.S. official said the man is a Washington resident and that investigators don't currently have any reason to doubt his story. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity. Although President Barack Obama was not at home, the security breach prompted a lockdown of the entire complex until officials could examine the drone. The White House later said it did not pose a threat. The drone crashed on the southeast side of the White House grounds just after 3 a.m., Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said. The device was described as a two-foot-long quadcopter — a commercially available unmanned aircraft that is lifted by four propellers. Many small quadcopters are essentially sophisticated toys that can also be useful for commercial operations like aerial photography and inspections. Often weighing only a few pounds, they sell for as little as a few hundred dollars or less, and were popular Christmas gifts last year. The president and first lady Michelle Obama were traveling in India, but their daughters, Sasha and Malia, may have been at home. White House officials declined to comment on the daughters' whereabouts Monday, but ahead of the president's trip aides had said the daughters would remain in Washington so as not to miss school. "The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House," said presidential spokesman Josh Earnest. Still, the incident was likely to reinvigorate a long-running public debate about the use of commercial drones in U.S. skies — as well as White House security. The Secret Service is still recovering after a string of breaches that raised questions about whether the president is adequately protected. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a chief critic of Secret Service leadership, said the agency has been working for some time to figure out how to deal with the threat posed by unmanned aircraft. He said a wake-up call came in 2013 when a camera drone crashed in front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a campaign event in Germany. "Any time you can breach the White House perimeter, it's deeply concerning," Chaffetz said in an interview Monday. "You don't know if it's some guy in a van down by the river controlling the drone or somebody who has some very nefarious intentions." Although remote-controlled airplanes and related toys have been available for decades, White House aides could not recall any similar incidents having occurred in the past. The incident comes just as policymakers are, for the first time, grappling seriously with how to integrate unmanned aircraft into the nation's skies. The recent proliferation of inexpensive drones has prompted growing fears about potential collisions with traditional aircraft. Technological advances have also made it easier to equip drones with advanced capabilities such as cameras, raising privacy issues as well as concerns that such devices could carry weapons. Industry experts said that to carry and fire a weapon, a drone would need more engines and more propellers than most commercially-manufactured quadcopters. At the urging of the drone industry, the Obama administration is on the verge of proposing rules to permit commercial flights by small drones, but no date has yet been set for release of the proposal. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration bans commercial drone flights — with some exceptions — and hobbyists are barred from flying drones above 400 feet in altitude or within 5 miles of an airport. Airspace around the White House is heavily restricted to protect the president and other sensitive sites in the vicinity. Yet Monday's crash wasn't the first time police have responded to reports of drones in the area. Last August, District of Columbia police reported the arrest of a person who got stuck in a tree while trying to retrieve a small drone lodged in the branches. And in July, U.S. Park Service police investigated reports of a small quadcopter in the vicinity of the Lincoln Memorial, according a compilation of recent incidents by the FAA. The response from emergency officials to Monday's crash was swift and intense. Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed the White House, and the entire perimeter was locked down for about two hours. After daylight, more than a dozen officers fanned out to search the lawn with flashlights, and there was a heavier-than-usual presence of Secret Service agents on the roof of the White House. The agency recently has faced persistent questions about its effectiveness and ability to protect the president. Four high-ranking executives were reassigned this month, and former Director Julia Pierson was forced to resign last year after a Texas man armed with a knife was able to get over a White House fence and run into the executive mansion before being subdued. ___Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler contributed to this report.
Written on 01/26/2015, 12:16 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Kaiser Permanente nurses in California have approved a new contract that boosts pay and improves patient care along with health and safety protections for nurses, a union official said. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners who work at 21 hospitals and 65 clinics across Northern and Central California voted last week to approve the new three-year deal, the California Nurses Association said Monday. About 18,000 Kaiser nurses in the state went on a two-day strike in November, and another walkout was planned for last week but an agreement was reached. The California Nurses Association represents the Kaiser nurses. Those workers are part of the National Nurses United organization. Under the new contract, roughly 540 registered nurse positions will be added, which nurses say should substantially improve the quality of care for hospitalized patients. It also signals a "renewed commitment" to training and employment opportunities for new graduates at a time when many hospitals have frozen hiring, the union said. The new contract includes a 14 percent pay raise over three years, the union said. Under the contract, a new committee of nurses will work with management to address concerns nurses have about care standards at Kaiser facilities. The contract also includes paid time for 25 registered nurses annually to participate in the union's disaster-relief program, which has dispatched hundreds of nurses to help with medical services following disasters from Hurricane Katrina to the Haiti earthquake to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The union appreciates the commitment Kaiser's leadership made to address concerns, Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. A Kaiser representative did not have an immediate comment Monday. The union said it is now committed to helping mental health workers finalize a contract. About 2,600 psychologists, counselors and therapists held a two-day strike earlier this month to bring attention to what they say are inadequate staffing and long wait times for appointments.
Written on 01/26/2015, 11:29 am by Hannah Esqueda
Centerpoint Athletic Club was recently acquired by local fitness chain Sierra Sports Clubs.  The central Fresno gym is one of five sports clubs now owned by the group. Robert and Juli Mitchell purchased the gym from Mark Geis earlier this month and club members have already been notified.  "It worked out great for [Robert Mitchell] and it worked out great for me," Geis said. "The sale just makes sense for both of us." Tina Naffziger will serve as the club's new manager once Geis, who purchased the club in 2003, transitions to his new role as director of corporate wellness and sales with Sierra Sports Clubs. In the new position, he will work with local businesses and corporations to develop health and fitness incentive programs for employees and help companies meet new requirements under the Affordable Healthcare Act. In addition to Centerpoint, Sierra Sports Clubs owns four other fitness locations throughout Fresno: Sunnyside Fitness and Tennis in southeast Fresno, Shapemakers in northeast Fresno, Sierra Athletic Club on Blackstone Avenue near Shaw Avenue and Sierra Sport and Racquet Club in northwest Fresno. Geis said he estimates total membership to be around 10,000 between all five locations.  For now, Centerpoint is expected to keep its name and current club members will have the option of upgrading their plans to allow for usage of all five facilities.  "The idea is that once they're in the Sierra Sports Club family, they can go anywhere," he said. Having access to the other four facilities will be a plus for current members as they will now have access to more in-house trainers, exercise classes, handball and racket sport courts, pools and banquet and catering services, Geis said.  "They're pretty well located all over Fresno so now our club members will have a choice to go to five different athletic clubs," he said. 
Written on 01/26/2015, 11:10 am by Business Journal staff
Robert Keenan, the longtime director of the Building Industry Association of Tulare and Kings Counties (BIATKC) announced earlier this month that he plans to retire at the end of January. Keenan, 68, took the reins of the influential association in 1990 and has been affectionately known as “BIA Bob” for his aggressive and enthusiastic advocacy for home building and development-related issues across the South Valley. “Bob’s influence has extended far beyond the local chapter level and includes significant contributions to the legislative and regulatory environment statewide,” said Mike Knopf, president of Quad Knopf in Visalia.   “His extensive knowledge of the building industry, combined with his passion, steadfast focus and tireless determination have caused Bob to be recognized across California as a warrior for the building industry,” Knopf added. Keenan, who survived a cancer scare in 2005 that required the removal of part of his jaw bone, said he plans to remain in Visalia, where he lives with his wife. “We’re going to do some traveling,” he said. “And my wife has a honey-do list that should last ‘til I’m 90.” A retirement party will be held for Keenan at the Lamp Liter Inn in Visalia on Feb. 6. Mike Lane, a former member of the Visalia Planning Commission and past president and CEO of Lane Engineers Inc., has been hired to replace Keenan. His first day on the job will be Tuesday. Established in 1989, the Building Industry Association of Tulare and Kings Counties is a nonprofit organization that represents builders, developers, subcontractors and associated building-related businesses.
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:59 am by NEDRA PICKLER, 
JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press
(AP) — A small drone flying low to the ground crashed onto the White House grounds before dawn Monday, triggering a major emergency response and raising fresh questions about security at the presidential mansion. Although President Barack Obama was not at home, the security breach prompted a lockdown of the entire complex until officials could examine the drone. The White House later said the drone did not pose a threat. The Secret Service launched an immediate investigation into the origins of the drone, which crashed on the southeast side of the White House grounds just after 3 a.m. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said officials were also working to identify any suspects and determine what their motive might have been. The device was described as a two-foot-long quadcopter — an unmanned aircraft that is lifted by four propellers. Many small quadcopters are essentially sophisticated toys that can also be useful for commercial operations like aerial photography and inspections. Often weighing only a few pounds, they sell for as little as a few hundred dollars or less, and were popular Christmas gifts last year. The Secret Service said the drone discovered Monday was of the commercially available variety. The president and first lady Michelle Obama are traveling in India and were not present for the incident, but their daughters, Sasha and Malia, may have been at home. White House officials declined to comment on the daughters' whereabouts Monday, but ahead of the president's trip aides had said the daughters would remain in Washington so as not to miss school. "The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House," said presidential spokesman Josh Earnest. Still, the incident was likely to reinvigorate a long-running public debate about the use of commercial drones in U.S. skies — as well as White House security. At the urging of the drone industry, the Obama administration is on the verge of proposing rules for drone operations that would replace an existing ban on most commercial flights. Although remote-controlled airplanes and related toys have been available for decades, the recent proliferation of inexpensive drones has prompted growing fears about potential collisions with traditional aircraft. Technological advances have also made it easier to equip drones with advanced capabilities such as cameras, raising privacy issues as well as concerns that such devices could carry weapons. White House aides could not recall any similar incidents occurring at the complex.Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed the White House just after the crash, with several clustered near the southeast entrance to the grounds. The White House was dark and the entire perimeter was on lockdown until around 5 a.m., when those who work there were allowed inside. After daylight, more than a dozen Secret Service officers fanned out in a search across the White House lawn as snow began to fall. They peered down in the grass and used flashlights to look through the large bushes that line the driveway on the south side of the mansion. It was not immediately clear that the Secret Service could have done anything to prevent the incident. Yet the episode joins a string of recent security breaches at the White House that have fueled questions about the agency's effectiveness and ability to protect the president. Four high-ranking executives were reassigned this month, and former Director Julia Pierson was forced to resign last year after a Texas man armed with a knife was able to get over a White House fence and run into the executive mansion before being subdued. An independent panel that investigated the agency's leadership and practices after that September incident, and the disclosure of a previously unreported security breach, recommended hiring a new director from outside. That report was the second critical review of the agency responsible for protecting the president. In November, the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Secret Service, released an internal investigation about the fence-scaling incident that found poor training and staffing and a series of missteps led to the breach. Homeland Security investigators found, among other things, that uniformed agents patrolling the White House grounds the night of Sept. 19 mistakenly assumed that thick bushes near the mansion's front door would stop the intruder.___Associated Press writer Joan Lowy contributed to this report.
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:56 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court is ordering lower courts to take a new look at a dispute over a chemical company's efforts to cut costs in its health plan for retired workers. Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday wrote the court's opinion that threw out a judgment in favor of the retirees of the Point Pleasant Polyester Plant in Apple Grove, West Virginia. M&G Polymers USA LLC is the current owner of the facility. Lower courts ruled that some retirees had been promised lifetime, cost-free health benefits. The Supreme Court did not decide whether the courts came to the right conclusion, only that they employed faulty legal reasoning in interpreting a 15-year-old agreement dealing with retiree pensions and other benefits. The case is M&G Polymers USA LLC v. Tackett, 13-1010.
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:49 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — Power was being restored Sunday to tens of thousands of people who lost electricity in Southern California after fierce Santa Ana winds gusting as much as 89 mph toppled trees and power poles. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said Saturday's outages affected more than 54,000 customers — mostly in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Spokeswoman Terry Schneider said crews worked through the night to restore power, leaving only about 1,500 without power Sunday morning. The Santa Ana winds downed numerous trees and power poles across the region. The damage included a large billboard that blew down in Burbank, while a big tree fell into the kitchen of a house in Van Nuys. Scattered outages also left 1,700 Southern California Edison customers without power in Fontana and Ontario east of Los Angeles. Also in Ontario, the winds helped fuel a fire at a green waste recycling facility.Ontario deputy fire chief Mike Pelletier said crews were working through the night to ensure that the blaze was contained to the property. No one was injured and just a barn and two sheds were damaged. Pelletier said no homes were immediately threatened. Crews hoped to have the blaze knocked down by dawn. The National Weather Service says a gauge in the mountains near Julian in San Diego County registered a gust of 89 mph at 7:30 a.m. An 82 mph wind gust was recorded in the Malibu hills Saturday afternoon. The winds kicked up Friday night and were expected to continue Sunday, though they were expected to be somewhat weaker, the National Weather Service said. The Santa Ana winds are generated during cooler months when westward currents reach fierce speeds as they squeeze through Southern California mountain ranges and buffet coastal areas. The winds lower humidity and making vegetation susceptible to fire. Meanwhile, a high-surf advisory warning of up to 11-foot-high surf was in effect through Sunday. Authorities said the winds blew two kayakers out to sea off the coast of Malibu. They were reported missing for about an hour before Los Angeles County Fire Department lifeguards helped them paddle back to shore.

Latest State News

Written on 01/26/2015, 9:49 am by The Associated Press
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Latest National News

Written on 01/26/2015, 1:18 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — The U.S. stock market is...
Written on 01/26/2015, 12:19 pm by The Associated Press
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Written on 01/26/2015, 12:18 pm by 
JOSH LEDERMAN, JOAN LOWY, Associated Press
(AP) — A small drone flying low to the...
Written on 01/26/2015, 9:59 am by NEDRA PICKLER, 
JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press
(AP) — A small drone flying low to the...