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August 30, 2008

Advertiser, unions to dump HMSA for Summerlin

Filed under: technology — Tags: , , — Professor @ 1:09 pm

Six unions representing employees at The Honolulu Advertiser said they have reached an agreement with the company on health insurance costs that involves switching from the Hawaii Medical Service Association to Summerlin Life & Health Insurance Co.

The tentative deal on health coverage breaks a year-long stalemate between the newspaper and the unions, which have been working under contract extensions while talks continued.

The Advertiser had insisted that any contract enable the company to cut its health insurance costs, either by having workers pay more than the 10 percent of medical premiums or scaling back benefits.

In a statement issued Friday, the Hawaii Newspaper and Printing Trades Council said workers will continue to pay 10 percent of the premium and “receive benefits nearly identical to current ones,” but that HMSA will be dropped for Summerlin.

Coverage by Kaiser Permanente, Hawaii’s largest HMO, will continue to be offered, but the union said workers “who choose to keep Kaiser will pay a substantially higher premium that will be based on the cost difference between Summerlin and Kaiser rates."

The unions say the switch will save the newspaper $164,000 a year.

If workers approve the deal at a meeting Sept. 14, the unions will then move forward on other contractual issues, including pay.

"I'm pleased we've reached this juncture and I agree that we have more work to do," said Lee Webber, the Advertiser's president and publisher.

In another development, the unions said the Advertiser had agreed to share information about its finances, something the newspaper, owned by Gannett Co., Inc payday loans. (NYSE: GCI), has never done before.

The newspaper recently fired 54 workers and last week announced the layoffs of 27 more, all part of an effort to cut costs as its advertising revenue has declined. Company-wide, Gannett’s print advertising revenue plunged 17 percent in July from the previous year.

Once one of Gannett’s most profitable newspapers, the Advertiser “recently said it has been losing money,” the statement by the printing trades council said. An auditor hired by the unions will review the company’s financials.

The deal with the Advertiser and its 600-plus employees marks a big win for Las Vegas-based Summerlin, which came into Hawaii in 2004 and has aggressively gone after customers of HMSA and smaller insurers.

HMSA, a licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is Hawaii’s largest insurer.


August 29, 2008

King-Shaw to head All-Med Services

Filed under: term — Tags: , , — Professor @ 12:30 pm

Ruben Jose King-Shaw Jr. has been named chief executive officer of Miami-based All-Med Services of Florida and Clinical Medical Services, the company's Puerto Rico-based operations.

King-Shaw will be responsible for leading the durable medical companies’ strategic growth while addressing changing market conditions and patient demand.

Raul Rodriguez, who founded both companies, will serve as executive chairman.

King-Shaw has more than 20 years of experience in health care, including a two-year stint as deputy administrator and chief operating officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services between 2001 and 2003.

Prior to joining the Bush administration, King-Shaw was the secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

"All-Med Services and Clinical Medical are top-tier organizations with a wealth of opportunities for growth," King-Shaw said faxless payday loan. "It's a great responsibility, and I am excited for the opportunity to lead the companies moving forward."


August 27, 2008


Filed under: technology — Tags: , , — Professor @ 2:53 pm

Earnings at Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-insured banks tumbled by more than 86 percent in the second quarter, while its list of troubled banks swelled to its largest since 2003.

Financial institutions posted net income of $5 billion in the quarter ended June 30, compared to $36.8 billion during the same period last year - a $31.8 billion decline, according to the FDIC.

Also, the bank regulator's "problem list" grew to 117 banks within a three-month period, compared to 90 at the end of the first quarter. Total assets of problem institutions increased to $78 billion, compared to $26 billion. At least $32 billion was attributed to the failure of California-based IndyMac Bank in July, the press release said.

"More banks will come on the list as credit problems worsen," said FDIC Chairwoman Sheila C. Bair. "Assets of problem institutions also will continue to rise."

Financial institutions experienced "another rough quarter," after a number of banks were forced to increase their loan loss provisions to cover soured loans amid the housing slump and the economic downturn, Bair said.

More than half of all financial institutions reported a dip in earnings in the latest quarter cash advance today.

On top of that, non interest income at banks waned as trading and securitization services slowed. Expenses for goodwill impairment and other charges to intangible assets were also significantly higher than last year, according to the press release.

As more banks continue to fail across the country, the FDIC announced plans to replenish its Deposit Insurance Fund, which took a hit after IndyMac went under.

The restoration plan "likely will include an increase in the premium rates that banks pay into the fund," Bair said. "And we'll be proposing changes to the current assessment system that will shift a greater share of any assessment increase onto institutions that engage in high-risk behavior to encourage and reward safer behavior."


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August 22, 2008

Central Bankers at Retreat May See Few Options to Fix Economy

Filed under: finance — Tags: , , — Professor @ 10:56 am

The world's top central bankers gather at their annual U.S. mountainside symposium today with a sense there's not much more they can do to repair credit markets and rescue the global economy.

Reports in the last week showing a surge in inflation reinforce expectations that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will have to keep U.S. interest rates on hold. Similar conditions in Europe are paralyzing his counterparts at the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.

“All the central banks can provide now is time for the banking system to heal,'' Myron Scholes, chairman of Rye Brook, New York-based Platinum Grove Asset Management LP and a Nobel laureate in economics, said in an interview. “What more they have to offer is now very limited.''

Bernanke may discuss his strategy when he opens the conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with a speech on financial stability at 10 a.m. New York time. His audience comprises a who's who of central banking, including ECB President Jean- Claude Trichet, Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura and central bank officials from about 40 other countries.

The event, ending tomorrow, has been hosted by the Kansas City Fed in Grand Teton National Park since 1982.

In the U.S., borrowing premiums for banks and corporations are at their highest in months, prolonging the drag on growth. That's after Fed policy makers cut the main interest rate this year at the fastest pace in two decades, introduced three emergency-lending programs and helped Bear Stearns Cos. avert bankruptcy.

`Hope and Pray'

“There isn't a lot they can do'' now, said former Fed Governor Lyle Gramley, senior economic adviser at Stanford Group Co. in Washington. “The Fed really has to hope and pray that credit markets begin to heal by themselves.''

Europe's biggest central banks have refused to jeopardize their price stability mandates by lowering rates and have warned about the danger of bailing out investors.

Trichet's ECB raised its benchmark rate in July by a quarter point to 4.25 percent and the Bank of England is refusing to ease credit even with the U.K. near a recession.

“Many central banks around the world have been in a position where they have been focused on inflation, and they didn't have the same intensity of the slowdown that we saw in the U.S.,'' said former Fed governor Laurence Meyer, vice chairman at Macroeconomic Advisers LLC in Washington, in an interview at Jackson Hole.

`Considerable Stress'

The Fed, while leaving the benchmark interest rate unchanged for its last two meetings, says financial markets “remain under considerable stress.'' One gauge watched by the Fed, the premium for banks to borrow for three months over a measure of the future overnight lending rate, averaged 0.77 percentage point last week, the highest since April no qualifying payday advance.

The Fed's rate cuts also have failed to pass through to the housing market. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 6.47 percent last week, about where it was a year ago.

“Higher mortgage rates and sharply tightening credit standards in mortgages have gummed up a key channel through which monetary easing is supposed to stimulate aggregate demand,'' said Mickey Levy, New York-based chief economist at Bank of America Corp., who is attending the symposium.

Pushed the Limits

Apart from lowering rates, Bernanke has pushed the limits of the Fed's powers to ease the crisis in credit markets. In December, he started auctioning 28-day loans to commercial banks. He followed that in March with a $200 billion program to auction Treasuries to investment banks in exchange for mortgage-backed securities and other debt. Bernanke also offered cash loans to other bond dealers that trade with the Fed.

With all these programs in place, Fed officials may be reluctant to do more without assurance that it will ease the credit crisis and not do more harm.

“They have done a lot, and at some point they simply have to give the markets the time needed to heal,'' said former Fed researcher Brian Sack, senior economist at Macroeconomic Advisers.

At the same time, investors are looking to the Treasury Department, not the Fed, to bail out mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac using newly granted authority.

European policy makers, meantime, have refused to be as activist as their U.S. counterparts, arguing that they can't be seen to bail out investors who made risky bets. Trichet says the ECB's “collateral framework has served us pretty well.''

While the Bank of England in April followed the Fed in agreeing to swap damaged mortgage-backed securities for government bonds, Governor Mervyn King has resisted calls from lenders for it to buy securities outright.

Some, such as former Bank of England policy maker Willem Buiter, who will address the meeting tomorrow, argue that the Fed's actions to date store up trouble for the future.

“There will have to be a lot of soul searching about whether central banks, in their rush to forestall a financial disaster, have created moral hazard and perverse incentives on an unprecedented scale,'' Buiter said.


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August 19, 2008

Hawaii farm employment steady

Filed under: management — Tags: , , — Professor @ 9:17 am

Hawaii’s farm work force totaled 10,500 in July, roughly the same as last year.

The work force reported for the week of July 6-12 was flat when compared to the same survey week in July 2007, according to the latest report from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Self-employed farm operations workers were up 3 percent and unpaid workers were even.

Hawaii’s hired farm workers totaled 6,200 workers for the survey week, down 2 percent from a year ago.

The average wage paid to all hired workers during the survey week was estimated at $13.33 per hour, up 4 percent from a year ago. The combined average wage for field and livestock workers was approximately $11.21 an hour, up 3 percent form July 2007 faxless cash advance.

Hawaii farms employing one to nine workers paid an average of $11.86 per hour and the combined average wage for field and livestock workers was $11.10 an hour.


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August 18, 2008

U.K. House Prices Fall Most Since at Least 2002, Rightmove Says

Filed under: technology — Tags: , , — Professor @ 10:56 am

U.K. house prices posted the biggest annual decline in August since at least 2002 as reduced mortgage lending deepened the property slump in London, Rightmove Plc said.

The average asking price for a home fell 4.8 percent from a year earlier to 229,816 pounds ($426,929), Britain's most-used property Web site said in a statement today. On the month, home values fell 2.3 percent, the most since December, led by London.

“The lack of mortgage finance is central to the problem,'' Miles Shipside, commercial director of Rightmove, said in the statement. “London, in particular, appears to be having its own special summer sale, with over 21,000 pounds off in a month.''

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said last week that the housing market faces “a significant adjustment'' as banks ration loans for homebuyers. Falling prices may exacerbate the economic slowdown as the threat of a recession looms and unemployment rises the most in 16 years.

Prices in London fell 5.3 percent on the month and 3.8 percent from a year earlier. Each of the 32 districts in the capital showed a decline, and the biggest drop was in the southwest area of Wandsworth, where values fell 7.9 percent. Hackney, in east London, was the best performer, with a 0.6 percent decline.

The stock of unsold property per real estate agent rose for a seventh month to 78, from 77 in July. The number of transactions may reach the lowest since 1959, Rightmove said.

Market `Standstill'

Banks have starved the market of loans after more than $500 billion in losses and writedowns worldwide from the U.S. mortgage market collapse. U.K. mortgage approvals fell to the lowest since at least 1999 in June, the Bank of England said July 29. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said last week that the housing market is at a “virtual standstill.''

King said on Aug internet payday loans. 13 that “there is a feeling of chill in the economic air'' and that “the British economy is going through a difficult and painful adjustment'' that “cannot be avoided.''

Weakness in the housing market may “amplify'' the impact of the lending squeeze on household spending, the central bank said last week. Retail sales probably fell for a second month in July, dropping 0.2 percent, according to the median forecast of 32 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The government's statistics office will release that data on Aug. 21.

Britain's gross domestic product will either stagnate or contract in the next two or three quarters, meaning the economy may fall into a recession, the British Chambers of Commerce said in forecasts released today.

Company Confidence

Confidence on business prospects fell to the lowest level in at least 6 years, according to a survey of more than 200 companies released by Lloyds TSB Group Plc today. The index of sentiment on the next 12 months fell to 22 in July, the lowest since the survey began in 2002, from 32 in June.

The economy probably grew 0.1 percent in the second quarter, less than previously estimated and matching the slowest pace since the aftermath of the last recession in 1992, the median forecast of 34 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News shows. The statistics office will publish the figures on Aug. 22.

The central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 5 percent on Aug. 7 for a fourth month, as policy makers weighed the risk of accelerating inflation against the threat of a recession. Minutes of their meeting, showing how the panel voted, will be released on Aug. 20.


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August 14, 2008

Global Confidence Climbs From 10-Month Low as Crude Oil Slides

Filed under: news — Tags: , , — Professor @ 12:33 pm

Confidence in the global economy rose from a 10-month low in August as the retreat in oil prices made Americans less pessimistic, a survey of Bloomberg users on five continents showed.

The Bloomberg Professional Global Confidence Index climbed to 14.1, from 10.3 in July, which was the lowest reading since the survey began in November. This increase was led by a 5.5- point increase to 18.2 among U.S. respondents, while the Western European measure rose 3.4 points to 12.9. A reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment.

The $30 drop in crude-oil prices in the past month is easing pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and leaving consumers with more cash just as the impact of tax rebates fades. But the outlook the remains bleak as expansions in the U.K. and euro region stall, while Japan's economy contracts.

“As oil prices come off, people just feel a bit better about the outlook for economic growth, and it's positive for consumer confidence,'' said Prakriti Sofat, an economist at HSBC Holdings Plc in Singapore, who participated in the survey. “We still do think the external environment has become less favorable and exports in a lot of the Asian economies are feeling the pressure.''

Confidence in the global economy was lower in Asia than in Europe and North America, with the index almost unchanged at 8. The survey, conducted between Aug. 4 and Aug. 8, collated the responses of about 3,000 Bloomberg users around the world. It included questions about the outlook for participants' own economies and their regions, as well as for bonds, currencies, stocks and interest rates over the next six months.

Spanish Housing Slump

Respondents in Japan were the most pessimistic about the global outlook. Participants in Spain, where second-quarter growth was the weakest in 15 years because of a housing slump, were the gloomiest about their economy, with a reading of 2.4, followed by the U.K. Participants in Brazil remained the most optimistic about their economy, at 60.4.

Faltering economic growth in Europe has prompted participants in the region to erase expectations of an interest- rate increase. The gauge in Germany fell to 42.7 from 61.6, signaling respondents in Europe's biggest economy now anticipate that the European Central Bank may cut its key rate in the coming six months. The gauges also declined in France, Italy and Spain.

By contrast, users in the U.S. say the Federal Reserve's next move is more likely to be an increase than a cut, with the index unchanged at 57.3.

Trichet's Prediction

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said last week that euro-area growth will be “particularly weak'' through the third quarter. The economy probably contracted in the second quarter for the first time since the creation of the euro, according to a separate survey of economists guaranteed payday loan.

In the U.K., the index for the Bank of England's benchmark rate fell to 46 from 51.2, also indicating participants expect a reduction in interest rates there.

The U.S. slowdown is aggravated by the credit crisis triggered by the worst homebuilding slump in a quarter century. More banks made it harder for businesses and consumers to borrow money as defaults and delinquencies on home loans soared, the Fed's quarterly Senior Loan Officer Survey showed this week.

Fed policy makers, who kept the benchmark rate at 2 percent Aug. 5 after cutting it at a record pace between September and April, said “markets remain under considerable stress.''

A separate Bloomberg survey of 50 economists published on Aug. 11 forecast U.S. growth will average an annual 0.7 percent from July through December, half the pace of the first six months.

Dollar Sentiment Reversal

As the outlook for ECB rates changes, participants in the U.S. and Europe reversed their predictions of a dollar decline. In the U.S., the index rose to 57.5, while the euro gauge dropped below the 50 breakeven point in Germany and France.

The euro has fallen 6 percent in the last three weeks and declined below $1.50 this week for the first time in more than five months.

“It's no longer the case that the U.S. is slowing down in isolation,'' said Paresh Upadhyaya, who helps oversee about $50 billion in currencies as a senior vice president at Putnam Investments in Boston. “Markets are pricing in weaker global growth and the possibility of other central banks joining the Fed in the easing cycle. The fundamentals are in place for a gradual improvement in the dollar.''

Weakness in Japan

Respondents in Japan became more pessimistic about their own economy. The world's second-largest economy contracted in the second quarter, bringing the country to the brink of its first recession in six years, the Cabinet Office in Tokyo said yesterday. The government this month said the economy is “deteriorating,'' acknowledging for the first time that the country's longest postwar expansion has probably ended.

“While the Americans may be doing the dance of joy around a cheaper tank of oil, the rest of the world has a lot more to worry about,'' said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB-GK Securities Pte. in Singapore. “Asian policy makers are more concerned that weakening energy and commodity prices are a reflection of slower economic growth momentum, implying a deteriorating outlook.''

The next survey will be conducted Sept. 8 to Sept. 12.


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August 12, 2008

WEAVE breaks ground on new safehouse

Filed under: marketing — Tags: , , — Professor @ 7:27 pm

WEAVE, a service provider to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, broke ground Monday on a larger and improved safehouse in the Sacramento area. When complete, it will be the second largest domestic violence shelter in California, more than doubling the number of beds available to victims of domestic violence in region.

The location is kept secret to protect victims attempting to free themselves from violent relationships, though some members of the public and the media were invited to the ground-breaking event instant payday loan.


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August 11, 2008

Australia Central Bank Says Room to Cut Interest Rate

Filed under: term — Tags: , — Professor @ 9:06 am

Australia's central bank says it will have more room to cut interest rates because a “significant moderation'' in domestic demand will slow inflation, cut economic growth by half and drive up unemployment.

“Economic growth will be fairly slow in the period ahead,'' the Reserve Bank of Australia said in its quarterly policy statement released in Sydney today. Gross domestic product will probably expand 2 percent this year compared with 4.3 percent in 2007 and less than the 2.25 percent forecast in May.

Today's statement suggests Governor Glenn Stevens will ignore a spike in the inflation rate to prop up an economy buffeted by weaker domestic spending and falling house prices. Stevens, who left the benchmark rate unchanged at a 12-year high 7.25 percent last week, says consumer prices will peak in the fourth quarter, before falling below 3 percent by mid-2010.

“It confirms there's scope for an easing cycle to begin, most likely in September,'' said Su-Lin Ong, senior economist at RBC Capital Markets Ltd. in Sydney. “I don't think there's anything in there that suggests a more aggressive move.

“Part of the reason there isn't a green light for a 50- basis point cut is that the inflation forecast numbers have been revised up for the near term.''

The Australian dollar dropped to 88.65 U.S. cents at 1:02 p.m. in Sydney from 88.72 cents before the statement was released. The two-year government bond yield fell 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 5.92 percent.

Scope to Cut

The currency has declined 10 percent against its U.S. counterpart since reaching a 25-year high of 98.49 cents on July 16 on speculation the Reserve Bank will cut borrowing costs as soon as next month.

“On the assumption that the subdued demand conditions are likely to continue, scope to move to a less restrictive monetary policy stance in the period ahead is increasing,'' the bank said today. Stevens expects a “significant reduction in inflation over time.''

Inflation is forecast by the bank to peak at 5 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with the 4.5 percent predicted in the May statement, before slowing to 2.75 percent in 2010.

The bank aims to keep annual gains in consumer prices between 2 percent and 3 percent on average. They rose 4.5 percent in the second quarter.

Today's statement said “demand pressures in the economy now appear to be easing'' and it expects a “significant period'' of slower growth.

Bank's Dilemma

“The Reserve Bank is grappling with high inflation and weakening growth,'' said Tom Kenny, chief economist at Nomura Australia Ltd. in Sydney “Growth is slowing a bit faster than they anticipated three months ago.''

There are risks to the bank's inflation forecasts “in both directions,'' today's statement said.

While the second-quarter consumer prices index report suggested “quite tentative'' evidence inflation pressures may no longer be rising, income from Australia's trade boom could stimulate domestic spending and leave “inflation expectations entrenched at unacceptably high levels,'' the statement said.

Demand for coal and iron ore from China has boosted Australia's terms of trade, a measure of export income, by 20 percent this year, taking the increase in the past five years to 65 percent, the bank said. “The income gains from this source continue to represent a significant stimulus to the economy.''

Policy makers raised the benchmark interest rate in March, February, November and last August amid concern the lowest unemployment in more than three decades would drive up wages and inflation.

Consumer Confidence

Stevens and his board will cut the overnight cash rate target by at least 25 basis points to 7 percent when they meet on Sept. 2, according to 18 of 25 economists surveyed by Bloomberg last week. Five predict a 50 basis point reduction and seven expect no change.

The economy will probably grow 2.5 percent in 2009 and 2.75 percent in 2010, today's statement predicts. It expanded 0.6 percent in the first quarter, the slowest quarterly pace in almost two years. Second-quarter gross domestic product figures will be released on Sept. 3.

Consumer confidence slumped in July to the weakest level in 16 years and home-loan approvals tumbled in June to a four-year low.

The bank also said “any further deterioration in the outlook for global growth would present a significant downside risk'' to Australia, “particularly if it led to a marked slowing in growth in China and India.''

Market Turmoil

“In addition, the ongoing turmoil in capital markets could exacerbate the slowing in domestic growth by further reducing the availability of credit to households and businesses,'' it said.

The Reserve Bank said investment in the housing market is “expected to contract over the next year.''

House prices fell in the second quarter for the first time in almost three years.

Demand for labor will continue to ease, the bank said. Australia's jobless rate was 4.3 percent in July, up from 3.9 percent in February, which was the lowest since 1974.


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August 8, 2008

Costco decides to post mercury advice about seafood

Filed under: management — Tags: , — Professor @ 11:57 pm

Costco Wholesale Corp. has agreed to post Food and Drug Administration advice about mercury at seafood counters in stores nationwide.

The Issaquah company’s (NASDAQ: COST) decision is a response to member requests and the advocacy efforts of ocean conservation group Oceana, said a release from Oceana. Mercury is a known neurotoxin most commonly consumed in contaminated fish, the release said.

Oceana, based in Washington, has been in negotiations with grocery chains around the country about posting the FDA advice. Kroger, Safeway and Supervalu are participating, and Wal-Mart is the only holdout nationally, Oceana said

In a new report entitled Super Markets, Oceana plans to release a national and state ranking of grocery chain efforts relating to warnings about mercury.


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