Category: Economy

Gas prices expected to drop 50 cents by summer

In this May 5, 2011 photo, the price for one gallon of unleaded regular gasoline is seen on the sign outside a BP gas station in Beachwood, Ohio. Amer

By CHRIS KAHN, AP Energy Writer Chris Kahn, Ap Energy Writer 2 hrs 30 mins ago

NEW YORK – Some relief from suffocating gas prices will likely arrive just in time for summer vacation. Expect a drop of nearly 50 cents as early as June, analysts say.

After rocketing up 91 cents since January, including 44 straight days of increases, the national average this past week stopped just shy of $4 a gallon and has retreated to under $3.98. A steady decline is expected to follow.

It might not be enough to evoke cheers from people who recall gas stations charging less than $3 a gallon last year. But it would still ease the burden on drivers. And it might help lift consumer spending, which powers about 70 percent of the economy. A 50-cent drop in prices would save U.S. drivers about $189 million a day.

Typically, gas prices peak each spring, then fall into a summertime swoon that can last several weeks. This year’s decline should be gradual but steady, said Fred Rozell, the retail pricing director at the Oil Price Information Service.

Some drivers might not notice much of a price drop at first, Rozell cautioned. When average gas prices fluctuate nationally, some areas are affected more than others. In cities with many service stations, for instance, prices can be slower to fall. It’s even possible prices will rise at some stations in coming days even if they decline nationally.

And after the galloping surge in prices this year, many gas station owners are reluctant to lower prices until they see their competition doing the same, Rozell said.

“It’s just the nature of the business,” he said. “They’re going to try to get the most they can.”

Station owners still feel bruised from their own higher costs earlier this year. In some cases, their suppliers raised prices so quickly that station owners couldn’t pass along those higher costs to consumers fast enough. Competition also makes it hard for some stations to raise prices.

“So station owners will be watching each other this summer,” Rozell said. “When one guy drops, so will the other.”

A drop in prices would take some pressure off struggling consumers as well as businesses. As prices soared this year, surveys showed that motorists started to drive less. MasterCard SpendingPulse said this past week that it had recorded its sixth straight week of declining gasoline consumption.

That’s a cautionary sign for the economy, because most drivers conserve fuel only after curbing spending on other discretionary items like furniture, computers and vacations.

Over the past month, gas prices have risen 36 cents a gallon in Columbus, Ohio, to $4.10. Steve Garrett has felt it. He’s scrapped a summer trip to Myrtle Beach, Fla. And the bakery distribution center where he works has begun closing sites and laying off staff to save fuel on bread and pastry shipments.

If prices fall fast enough, Garrett, 43, said he may think about another vacation in August.

“But right now, I’m still just scared about the economy,” he said. “I still might lose my job.”

This past week, a confluence of factors stemmed the rise in gasoline prices.

Oil, which is used to make gasoline, tumbled 15 percent in price. Investors who were worried about rising oil supplies and falling gasoline demand in the United States helped drive down the price. Oil prices were also responding to a rising dollar. Oil is priced in dollars. So a stronger dollar makes oil less appealing to people buying with foreign currencies.

It was the largest weekly drop for oil in two and a half years. Some analysts predict that oil will keep falling in coming weeks — from about $97 a barrel to about $80.

Many U.S. refineries also are expected to boost production after a series of unplanned shutdowns stemming from power outages and other problems. Those refineries would pump more gasoline to gas stations. And the increased supplies should push down prices.

“It’s going to be $3.50 per gallon this summer,” oil analyst Andrew Lipow said. “At the very least, you can expect prices to fall 40 cents or so over the next several months.”

Thirteen states and Washington, D.C., have recorded average prices above $4 per gallon. Prices shot up much higher than that in Hawaii, Alaska and parts of Illinois.

The run-up persuaded U.S. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska to ask residents to post photos of local pump prices because “the rest of the country doesn’t understand” what it’s like to live with gasoline above $4.20 per gallon.

In Illinois, florist Harry Schneider said he had to cut back on shipments from his Melrose Park shop just before Mother’s Day. With Chicago-area gas prices averaging $4.45 a gallon, Schneider said he couldn’t afford to deliver some arrangements.

“I need to make enough to cover the driver’s wages, wear-and-tear on the vehicles and fuel,” Schneider said. “I keep looking at my own bottom line and wonder, `How long do I want to keep losing money?'”

In San Francisco, some top officials have traded their city-owned SUVs for more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. Police Chief Greg Suhr said he and his command staff would switch to Ford Fusion Hybrids. Mayor Edwin Lee opted for the Fusion sedan, which gets an average mileage of 39 miles per gallon.

Elsewhere, some hotel chains are starting to offer discounts to help offset higher gasoline costs.

Those changes may need to stay in place for a while. Even if oil falls steeply in coming months, analysts note that world demand continues to rise. Lipow predicts that oil could return to about $110 a barrel by year’s end.

If that happens, and if any major hurricanes this year disrupt refining operations later this year, expect gasoline prices to once again flirt with $4 a gallon.

“It all depends on the weather,” Rozell said. “Trying to predict anything beyond 30 days is witchcraft.


Associated Press Writers Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Tammy Webber in Chicago and Robin Hindery in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Economy grows at 3.1 percent rate at end of 2010

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger, Ap Economics Writer 1 hr 43 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The U.S. economy grew a little faster at the end of 2010 than the government had previously estimated, boosted by more inventory building and business investment in plants and equipment.

But rising oil prices will likely limit growth this year.

The economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the October-December quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday. That represents an upward revision from last month’s 2.8 percent estimate for the same period.

The quarterly expansion was the best since the start of last year and was driven by 4 percent growth in consumer spending, the strongest gains in four years. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

But many economists say a jump in oil prices has likely cut into that spending and slowed growth in the current January-March quarter.

“Higher oil prices are going to put a bit of a squeeze on consumers,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight.

There is also a concern that the Japanese crisis will disrupt factory production there. That could slow activity at some U.S. companies that rely on Japanese manufacturers for parts, especially in the U.S. auto and electronics industries.

The new uncertainty has led many economists to trim their growth estimates for the current quarter. There is a wide range of estimates, from 2.3 percent to 3.8 percent.

Economists say growth needs to average around 5 percent for a year just to lower the current 8.9 percent unemployment rate by 1 percentage point.

In the final three months, residential construction grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent after plunging at a 27.3 percent rate in the July-September quarter. However, there is concern about the prospects for housing given recent weakness in home sales and construction.

Government spending was shrinking at a rate of 1.7 percent in the final three months of last year. State and local governments are struggling to get budget deficits under control.

Economic growth of 3.5 percent this year would still be the best performance since 2004. Last year, the economy grew 2.9 percent following a 2.6 percent drop in 2006. That had been the biggest decline in more than six decades.

By DAVID RISING, Associated Press David Rising, Associated Press 42 mins ago

BERLIN – A U.S. fighter jet crashed in Libya after an apparent equipment malfunction but both crewmembers were able to eject and were back in American hands with only minor injuries, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The F-15E Strike Eagle jet was conducting a mission Monday night against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses when it crashed at 2130 GMT (5:30 p.m. EDT), said Lt. Cmdr. Karin Burzynski, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Africa Command.

A spokesman for the Libyan opposition, Mohammed Ali, said the U.S. plane went down about 25 miles (40 kilometers) outside of the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.

Britain’s Telegraph newspaper published a series of photographs it said was the wreckage of the plane, showing people milling around the burned-out aircraft in a Libyan field.

One of the jet’s airmen landed in a field of sheep after ejecting from the plane, then raised his hands and called out “OK, OK” to a crowd who had gathered, the Telegraph cited witness Younis Amruni, 27, as saying.

“I hugged him and said: ‘Don’t be scared, we are your friends,'” Amruni told the newspaper, adding that people then lined up to shake the airman’s hand.

“We are so grateful to these men who are protecting the skies,” he said. “We gave him juice and then the revolutionary military people took him away.”

A Marine Corps Osprey search and rescue aircraft retrieved the main pilot, while the second crew member, a weapon systems officer who is also a pilot, was recovered by rebel forces and is now in American hands, a U.S. official said in Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Amruni said the Osprey fired shots to keep locals away, then swooped in and rescued the second crew member.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

The two were separated after ejecting from the crippled jet at high altitude and drifting down to different locations, Africa Command spokesman Vince Crawley said, adding they sustained minor injuries.

The aircraft, based out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, was flying out of Italy’s Aviano Air Base in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. The cause of the crash is being investigated.

The Air Force has said only that B-2, F-15 and F-16 fighters are participating in operations over Libya. The U.S. involvement in Libya is being run by Africa Command, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany.

The air campaign by U.S. and European militaries that began Saturday has rearranged the map in Libya and rescued rebels from what had appeared to be imminent defeat.

On Monday night, Libyan state TV said a new round of strikes had begun in the capital, Tripoli, marking the third night of bombardment.

But while the airstrikes can stop Gadhafi’s troops from attacking rebel cities — in line with the U.N. mandate to protect civilians — the United States, at least, has appeared deeply reluctant to go beyond that toward actively helping the rebel cause to oust the Libyan leader.


Pauline Jelinek in Washington, Cassandra Vinograd in London and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER, Associated Press Susanne M. Schafer, Associated Press Tue Mar 1, 8:54 pm ET

FORT JACKSON, S.C. – Sit-ups don’t make a soldier, the Army has decided. So its 30-year-old fitness requirements are getting a battlefield-inspired makeover.

Soon every soldier will have to run on a balance beam with two 30-pound canisters of ammunition, drag a sled weighted with 180 pounds of sandbags and vault over obstacles while carrying a rifle. Those were just some of the tests the Army unveiled Tuesday as it moves toward making its physical training look more like combat.

Right now soldiers have to complete sit-ups, push-ups and a two-mile run twice a year within times that vary by age and gender. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, the general in charge of the Army’s initial military training, said he has been working to change that test for years.

Hertling said the current test “does not adequately measure components of strength, endurance, or mobility,” or predict how well a soldier would do under fire.

A new annual “combat readiness” test includes running 400 meters — about a quarter of a mile — with a rifle, moving through an obstacle course in full combat gear, and crawling and vaulting over obstacles while aiming a rifle. Soldiers also will have to run on a balance beam while carrying 30-pound ammo boxes and do an agility sprint around a course field of cones.

Soldiers also will have to drag sleds weighted with sandbags to test their ability to pull a fallen comrade from the battlefield. The combat test might be given before deployments as well as annually, but that has not been decided.

The Army will keep elements of its old assessment in a “physical readiness” test, which adds such things as a 60-yard shuttle run and a standing long jump to one minute of push-ups and a 1.5-mile timed run. This might be given every six months, said Frank Palkoska, head of the Army’s Fitness School at Fort Jackson.

Hertling said trials of the new program are starting this month at eight bases and the plan could be adopted Army-wide after reviews later this year.

Click image to see photos of the Army’s new fitness tests

Soldiers who ran the proposed “combat readiness” portion of the test Tuesday told reporters the exercises were tough, even for combat veterans.

Wearing a battle helmet and carrying a rifle, Staff Sgt. Timothy Shoenfelt teetered as he trod the balance beam, holding ammo tins in each hand. His pace slowed a bit as he dragged the green sled behind him, then held his M-4 steady as he strode sideways through the “point-move-aim” portion of the test.

“My quads are on fire!” the 31-year-old from Indiana, Pa., said afterward. “It really made me breathe hard and challenged a lot of muscle groups.”

Wheeled vehicle mechanic and Sgt. 1st Class Cornelius Trammell, 33, of Eufaula, Ala., said it will be important for all soldiers to go through tests, even if their jobs are behind desks. He laughed when reporters commented on his sweaty face.

“You never know when you might need it, whether you are in the infantry or if you’re a mechanic,” said Trammell, who’s been deployed three times.

The tests will be given to all soldiers and officers, including Army Reserves and National Guard, even those recalled soldiers who are now over 60, officials said. Specific gender and age standards are still being worked out, Palkoska said.

The shift follows other Army efforts to overhaul training, improve diets and help older soldiers keep fit. Hertling said the Army is trying to better prepare soldiers for the 40 to 70 pounds of weapons and body armor many of them need to carry in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Soldiers like to be challenged. This will definitely challenge them,” Hertling said.

The Army also is hoping to reduce injuries — both in the field and from repetitive exercises.

“This is about training smarter, not just training more,” Hertling said.

Staff Sgt. Danica Foster, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who pumped through a shuttle run and did push-ups for the “physical readiness” section, said the new tests will require soldiers to work on their upper body strength. Female soldiers will have to work to get them done, she said.

“I honestly believe, though, that if I can do this, anybody can,” she said with a laugh.

Besides Fort Jackson, the program will be tested at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Lewis, Wash.; and at the Army’s military academy at West Point.

who really owns the U.S.

So anyways I was looking on like I normally do when I’m bored and I found this artically about what countries really owns us and here’s what I read.

Ok as many of you may already know we’re 14 trillion dollars in debt, but did you know as of December that 4.4 billion dollars is held by foreign goverments.

So heres a list of the top 10 countries that own us.

1.) Mainland China

We owe them $891.6 billion

2.) Japan

We own them $883.6 bllion

3.) United Kingdom

We owe them $541.3 billion

4.) This is another group but Oil Exporters

Money owed $218 billion

5.) Brazil

Money owed $180.8 billion

6.) Caribbean Banking Centers

Money owed $155.6 billion

7.) Hong Kong

Money owed $ 138.2 billion

8.) Canada

money owed $134.6 billion

9.) Taiwan

money owed $131.9 billion

10.) Russia

We own them  $106.2 billion

Now this really isn’t much of a surprise. I mean we keep hearing about how we’re in debt but many of us proably didn’t know the exact number. So I want to know what you think about this. So please comment.

10 Signs the Economy Is on the Upswing

by Neema Roshania and Jerry Idaszak
Friday, February 18, 2011

There are plenty of indications that the economy is shifting into higher gear. And they are not just buried in economists’ models and spreadsheets, but evident in the day-to-day decisions consumers and business folks make.

So, yes, you can look to the stock market — a classic leading economic indicator, nearing a 100% gain over two years — for reassurance about tomorrow. But you can also read the economic tea leaves on golf greens and in underwear sales.

Sales of Boxers, Briefs Leveling Off

When it’s tougher to find jobs, men wait longer to replace their underwear, and sales — usually very stable — fell nearly 2.5% in 2009. Now they’ve started to stabilize. But, much like the unemployment rate, it’s likely to take a few years to recover to pre-recession levels.

Desserts Are in Again

Apparently what’s good for the economy is bad for the waistline. When the economy is shrinking, restaurant traffic slows, and the diners who do visit full-service eateries hold down their tabs by sticking to entrees and skipping side orders, appetizers and desserts.

But the National Restaurant Association says more customers are splurging on the sweet endings again. That’s a sign that they aren’t as worried about losing their jobs. In fact, the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index is over 60 again, after plunging to a recession low of just 25.

Less Sorrowful Searching

The number of Internet searches for “unemployment benefits,” “Social Security,” “unemployment office” and the like spiked in July 2010 and has been trending down since. First-time claims for unemployment insurance have been declining for months now, signaling that mass layoffs are waning and the economy is healing.

The Venti Latte Makes a Comeback

One of the first things consumers cut out of their budgets when they’re feeling pinched is a jolt of high-priced caffeine served up by their local barista. It’s also one of the first little luxuries that consumers find worth shelling out for when they start to feel more comfortable with the direction of the economy. So it’s telling that Starbucks’ net revenues increased 9.5% in 2010, after falling 6% in 2009.

Box Rebound Reflects Rising Demand

Because almost everything consumers buy at one point or another was packed in a cardboard box for shipping, higher prices for boxes and other shipping needs point to more consumption. The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of bulk shipping costs, hit a 22-year low in December 2008. Though still far from pre-recession levels, it’s on the rise again.

In fact, orders of durable goods — appliances, furniture and other products with a life span of more than three years — are improving. If you don’t count airplanes and defense goods — typically big-ticket items with tremendous month-to-month volatility — durable goods orders have climbed in four of the past five months.

Fewer Urban Dwellers Are Hoofing It

During recessions, more folks in cities resist the urge to hail a cab, opting to walk or take public transit to their destinations. But in recent months, business has started looking up for cabbies. Car sales are up, too — for those who prefer to drive themselves.

Duffers Returning to the Greens

As the economy picks up, golfers, good and bad, dust off their clubs and head back to the courses they shun during recessions. There are still fewer rounds being played than before the downturn, but the number of visits to golf courses stopped declining in 2010 and even increased in the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

Faces, Other Parts Getting a Lift

Few folks actually need a more finely sculpted nose, a tummy tuck or a more buxom figure. So when money is tight, elective cosmetic surgery takes a dive. But take heart, docs, demand is reemerging. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says the number of patients who chose to undergo the knife for a better look last year rose by more than 13 million.

More Willing to Play Their Hand

Even gamblers get more risk-averse when the economy is in a slump. By 2009, commercial casino revenues had dropped nearly 10% from their 2007 peak. The house’s take increased slightly last year and will head higher this year as consumer spending racks up about a 3% gain this year.

More Couples Are Calling It Quits

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says its members suffered a 37% drop in divorce cases in 2008 and a 57% decline in 2009. But the trend has begun to turn around, with many divorce lawyers saying they’ve got more business than they can handle — a backlog of pent-up demand. In part, that’s because credit has started to loosen up.


During the recession, spatting spouses had a tough time arranging the financing to buy out their partner’s stake of businesses and homes, as required by property divisions, so they stuck it out. Even couples without Beverly Hills mansions or multimillion dollar companies to divvy up often delay divorce when they’re worried about maintaining two households and the possibility of an ex being unable to find a job.

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