n a rather amusing twist, Brooke Pancake has announced Waffle House as her newest sponsor. Pancake, a former All-American at Alabama, will visit Waffle House restaurants throughout the country while traveling on the LPGA and carry the restaurant chain's logo on her bag.
MARIETTA — Marietta Daily Journal’s parent company, Times-Journal Inc., was the successful bidder in a bankruptcy auction for the Rome News Publishing Company on Thursday in Carrollton at the law offices of the debtor.
The relentless drop in oil prices continued Tuesday morning after the energy minister for the United Arab Emirates said Tuesday there are no plans for OPEC to curb production to shore up falling crude prices. The price of oil has slumped 57 percent since June last year as traders have bet that the supply glut will persist.
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks were flat on the final trading day of 2014 on Wednesday, keeping the market on pace for its sixth consecutive year of gains.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,996 as of 12:10 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was unchanged at 2,080 and the Nasdaq composite rose 11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,797.
OIL LAGS, AGAIN: Energy stocks were the biggest decliners as the price of oil fell. Benchmark U.S. crude dropped $1.17 to $52.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil has plunged since June amid abundant supplies and weak global demand.
Oil drillers fell the most. Diamond Offshore, Anadarko Petroleum and Denbury Resources were all down 2 percent. The energy component of the S&P 500 is down 10 percent this year.
ASIA JUMPS: Chinese stocks surged after a weak manufacturing report reinforced hopes for new government stimulus measures as growth in the world's No. 2 economy slows. Manufacturing in China contracted in December, according to an HSBC survey, the latest sign of a slowdown there.
NEW YEAR OUTLOOK: "Heading into 2015, many of the challenges the market has faced this year will be recurring," said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia. Analysts say investors will be preoccupied by the slowdown in China, the economic malaise in Europe and Japan, and the possible timing of the U.S. Federal Reserve's first interest rate hike since the financial crisis. "The beginning part of the year will be dominated by Europe and then we'll switch to the U.S. toward the middle of the year," said Shamu.
DOUBLE DIGITS: The S&P 500 is on pace to close up 12.6 percent for 2014, or 14.9 percent when dividends are included. That's roughly double what strategists expected for the market at the beginning of the year. Most strategists believe the stock market will also rise in 2015, but they expect the gains to be more modest, between 4 percent and 6 percent.
QUIET END: Trading is expected to be light Wednesday since it is New Year's Eve and most fund managers have closed their books for the year. U.S. markets will be closed Thursday for New Year's Day and will reopen Friday.
AROUND THE GLOBE: The U.S. stock market had a great year, but around the world, stocks were mixed.
Europe had a difficult year. While Germany's DAX rose 2.7 percent in 2014, France's CAC-40 lost 0.5 percent and Britain's FTSE 100 fell 2.7 percent. Greece had a terrible year, falling 29 percent.
In Asia, China's Shanghai Composite jumped 53 percent while Hong Kong's Heng Seng rose only 1.3 percent. Japan's Nikkei was up 7.1 percent for 2014.
BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Prices for U.S. government bonds rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged down to 2.17 percent. The euro declined to $1.2103 from $1.2162 late Tuesday. The dollar rose to 119.82 yen from 119.47 yen.
NEW YORK (AP) — Lingering concerns about the political future of Greece pushed U.S. and global stock markets modestly lower on Tuesday.
Trading was slow as most investors have closed their books for 2014. It was the eighth-slowest day of the year on the New York Stock Exchange.
As been the case several times this year, investors turned their eyes to Europe.
Greek stocks stabilized after a volatile day Monday, when the country's government was forced to call elections that could create more economic turmoil. Investors worry that the elections might be won by the left-wing opposition Syriza party, which opposes the austerity measures associated with Greece's international financial rescue deal. The Athens stock market plunged as much as 11 percent on Monday before recovering some of those losses to close down 4 percent that day.
"An election puts all sorts of doubt on the future of the bailout agreement," said Stan Shamu, a market strategist at IG Markets. "Potentially markets had already priced this in, but I would still remain cautious around Greece."
U.S. stocks opened lower and stayed down throughout the day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 55.16 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,983.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 10.22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,080.35 and the Nasdaq composite fell 29.47 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,777.44.
European markets also fell. France's CAC 40 lost 1.7 percent, Germany's DAX declined 1.2 percent and Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 1.3 percent. Greece's stock market fell 0.4 percent.
At this point, most investors are done trading for the year. The market is also expected to be quiet Wednesday ahead of New Year's Day holiday, however oftentimes the last trading day of the year does see a modest burst of trading as some investors shift their portfolios around for tax purposes.
With one more trading day in 2014, the S&P 500 is up 12.6 percent for the year, or 15.4 percent including dividends. That gain is almost double what stock market strategists expected at the beginning of the year.
"There were some negative surprises along the way, including the Ebola scare and increasing social tensions around the globe," Gary Thayer, chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors, wrote in a note to investors. "However, U.S. markets were able to weather these problems as (the U.S. economy) improved."
In other markets, the dollar fell against the euro and yen. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 2.19 percent from 2.20 percent Monday.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose 51 cents to settle at $54.12 a barrel in New York. On Monday, the contract plunged $1.12 to settle at $53.61. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, edged up two cents to close at $57.90 a barrel in London.
In other energy commodities, wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.454 a gallon, heating oil rose two cents to $1.869 a gallon and natural gas fell 10.5 cents to close at $3.094 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold rose $18.50 to $1,200.40 an ounce, silver rose 50 cents to $16.28 an ounce and copper rose three cents to $2.85 a pound.
Youkyung Lee contributed to this story from Seoul, South Korea.
NEW YORK (AP) — For the first half of 2014 the oil market looked just as it had the year before — and the 2 years before that. Oil was over $100 and drivers in the U.S. were paying around $3.50 for gasoline.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Ebola virus and celebrities who died this year dominated search trends in Georgia.
That's according to a report from Google released Tuesday. The search engine reports that "Ebola" was fifth trending search term. It also appeared in lists for news and event searches and top ten definitions in 2014.
Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Maya Angelou also made appearances on the top 10 trending search list.
Georgia is home to the Centers for Disease Control, which continues to play a role in fighting the virus in some west African countries and to Emory University. The first two Americans to be flown home for treatment came to the Emory campus in Atlanta.
TAMPA, Fla. – The year-end holiday season should see the highest travel volume on record (AAA travel data dates back to 2001). AAA projects 98.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of four percent from the 94.8 million people who traveled last year. The year-end holiday period is defined as Tuesday, December 23 to Sunday, January 4.
NEW YORK (AP) — The price of oil has fallen by nearly half in just six months, a surprising and steep plunge that has consumers cheering, producers howling and economists wringing their hands over whether this is a good or bad thing.
The price of a barrel of oil is just under $56, down from a summer high of $107, and lower than at any time since the U.S. was still in recession in the spring of 2009.
So what's going on? A global imbalance of supply and demand that is rippling across the world economy, for better and worse.
SUPPLIES GO BOOM
Years of high oil prices, interrupted briefly by the recession, inspired drillers around the world to scour the earth's crust for more oil.
They found it.
Since 2008 oil companies in the U.S., for example, have increased production by 70 percent, or 3.5 million barrels of oil per day. To put that in perspective, that increase alone is more than the production of any OPEC member other than Saudi Arabia.
As U.S. production was ramping up, turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa reduced supplies from Libya, Iran and elsewhere. A balance was struck: Increasing supplies from outside of OPEC and from Iraq's recovering oil industry helped meet rising demand around the world as other OPEC supplies waivered.
But now those OPEC supplies look more certain despite continuing turmoil, and those non-OPEC supplies have swamped the market. OPEC estimated last week that the world would need 28.9 million barrels of its oil per day next year, the lowest in more than a decade. At the same time, OPEC countries plan to produce 30 million barrels of oil per day next year. That supply surplus is sending global prices lower.
DEMAND GOES BUST
Global demand is still expected to grow next year, but by far less than many thought earlier this year. The economies of China, Japan and Western Europe — the top oil consumers after the United States — all appear to be weakening. Oil demand falls when economic growth stalls.
The U.S. is still the world's largest consumer, but more fuel-efficient cars and changing demographics mean demand for oil and gasoline is not increasing. The Energy Department predicts a slight decrease in gasoline demand next year even though the price is expected to be sharply lower and the economy is expected to grow.
THE HAPPY CONSUMERS
For drivers, shippers, airlines and other consumers of fuel, there's nothing not to like about the drop in oil prices.
The national average gasoline price has fallen for 81 straight days to $2.55 a gallon, its lowest level since October of 2009, according to AAA. It's $1.15 a gallon cheaper than its high for the year, saving U.S. households $100 a month as they shop for holiday presents. "Any time gas prices go down that is a good thing," said Randy Daniels, 30, who was shopping recently at the Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta. "An extra 20 or 30 bucks in my pocket goes far."
Diesel and jet fuel prices have also plunged, helping boost the profits and share prices of airlines and shippers. Heating oil is the cheapest it has been in four years, reducing home heating prices just in time for winter for many in the chilly Northeast.
THE WORRIED ECONOMISTS
Falling fuel prices act like a tax cut and help boost consumer spending, which in turn accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy. But economists are growing concerned that there are other, more troublesome forces at play.
The depth of oil's plunge could be a signal that the global economy is struggling even more than economists think. A weak global economy could hurt the U.S. economy by reducing exports, employment and spending, which together could outweigh the economic benefits of cheaper fuel.
THE PRODUCERS' PAIN
For oil companies, oil-producing states, and oil-exporting countries, the oil price collapse is painful.
Oil companies generally keep producing oil from wells they've already drilled, but lower prices sharply reduce revenue and force them to cut back spending on new exploration projects. BP announced last week it would try to trim $1 billion in spending next year in a move that analysts say could result in thousands of job cuts.
States that rely on taxes from energy production such as Alaska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas will see lower revenues and some have already had to trim budgets.
Major oil exporters such as Iran, Iraq, Russia and Venezuela rely heavily on revenues from state-owned oil companies to run their governments and are struggling under major budget shortfalls. For example, Bank of America estimates that every $1 drop in the global price of oil costs Venezuela $770 million in annual revenue. Current prices are now $46 below last year's average, putting the country on pace for a $36 billion reduction in revenue.
NEW YORK (AP) — Cyber Monday deals are being stretched out this holiday season, crimping sales on the day itself.
Retailers from Target to Amazon have been offering online deals since the beginning of November, and are promising "cyber" deals all week. That seems to have put a dent in Cyber Monday sales. Sales were up, according to estimates. But they weren't as strong as some were expecting.
IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark reported that online sales rose 8.5 percent compared to 2013. That still makes it the busiest U.S. online shopping day of the year so far — a title the date has held since 2010. But it was less stellar growth than last year's Cyber Monday, when online sales jumped more than 20 percent.
"As the holiday shopping season becomes less concentrated on a single day, retailers and marketers took advantage by making it easier for consumers to find the best deals on the go, whenever and wherever they chose to shop," said Jay Henderson, director of IBM Smarter Commerce.
One bright spot was mobile shopping: shopping on a tablet or smartphone accounted for 41.2 percent of all online traffic, up from 30.1 percent last year. Mobile sales reached 22 percent of total Cyber Monday online sales.
Sterne Agee's chief economist Lindsey Piegza said the 8 percent rise fell short of projected expectations of a 13 percent to 15 percent gain.
"With gasoline prices down markedly over the past few months leaving consumers with extra cash in their pockets, many retailers are befuddled over such disappointing spending numbers," she said. The sales figures highlight how fragile the U.S. economy remains, particularly the consumer sector, she said.
A clearer picture of how Cyber Monday sales fared will emerge when research firm comScore reports sales results later Tuesday.
The name Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 by the National Retail Federation's online arm, called Shop.org, to encourage people to shop online. After retailers revved up deals for the day, it became the busiest online shopping day in 2010.
The name was also a nod to online shopping being done at work where faster connections made it easier to browse.
Some retailers painted a rosy picture of the day. Walmart.com said it received the most online orders in its history on Cyber Monday. It added that mobile made up about 70 percent of the traffic to its website between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.
But some shoppers were disappointed by the deals. Preston Neill, 28, from Philadelphia, took advantage of early online deals over the weekend like 40 percent off board games from Amazon and clothing that was 40 percent off from Banana Republic, over the holiday weekend. But he said the deals on Cyber Monday seemed similar to what he had already seen earlier.
"I haven't seen anything that jumps out at me," he said. "I feel like (Cyber Monday) is the Super Bowl of shopping, there is a lot of hype, then it doesn't quite live up."
A renewed plunge in oil prices is a worrying sign of weakness in the global economy that could shake governments dependent on oil revenues. Yet it is also a bonus for consumers as prices fall at the pump, giving individuals more spending money and lowering costs for many businesses.
The latest slide was triggered by OPEC's decision this week to leave its production target at 30 million barrels a day. Member nations of the cartel are worried they'll lose market share if they lower production.
Partly because of the shale oil boom in the U.S., the world is awash in oil but demand from major economies is weak — so prices are falling.
Brent crude, an international benchmark, was at $72.50 a barrel on Friday, down nearly 30 percent in the past three months and at its lowest in four years. U.S. crude oil slid 6.2 percent to near $69 a barrel on Friday and is down 27 percent over three months.
Overall, the slide will come as a boon for consumers in oil-importing regions like Asia and Europe. But there are also some possible negatives.
Many of Europe's economies are net importers of oil, so lower prices are likely to give a welcome, if small, boost to growth. Cheaper energy reduces costs for industry and puts more money in consumers' pockets. That will be particularly useful in the 18-nation eurozone, where unemployment is high.
In Germany, the price at the pump for Super E10 fuel has fallen from 1.53 euros per liter ($7.16 per gallon) at the start of September to 1.42 euros per liter ($6.69 per gallon) this week, according to the ADAC motoring association.
Dropping fuel prices also, however, add to one of the eurozone's biggest headaches: low inflation. Weak inflation makes it harder for troubled economies like Greece to reduce debt. It is also a problem for the European Central Bank, which wants to nudge up inflation from just 0.3 percent currently to around 2 percent.
The few European countries that do produce oil — mainly Britain and Norway in the North Sea — face a drop in revenues that could balance out the positives of cheaper fuel.
Russia gets about 50 percent of its state revenue from oil exports, so the government's concerns are clear. The national economy is already sliding into recession under the impact of Western sanctions and investors are pulling money out.
Officials for the moment are putting on a poker-face — Putin said Friday that "I'm sure the market will become balanced by the middle of next year."
For Russian consumers, the outlook is mixed. Prices at the pump have actually gone up in the past few months, in line with a rise in inflation that has been fueled by the drop in the national currency, the ruble. In local money, 95-octane gasoline costs 35.99 rubles a liter ($2.8 a gallon) in Moscow, up from 35.53 per liter two months ago.
In Japan, which is a net importer of oil, gas at the pump remains relatively high as it takes some time for cheaper crude prices to filter down to consumers. Also, a recent drop in the yen's value will reduce the savings Japan can reap from lower oil prices.
In June, regular gasoline cost $1.40 a liter ($5.29 a gallon) at the Esso filling station in Shimbashi, near the glittering Ginza shopping strip in Tokyo. The price rose to $1.46 a liter ($5.53 a gallon) in July and was $1.44 a liter ($5.44 a gallon) on Friday morning.
Prices are expected to fall but that will complicate the government's efforts to end Japan's deflation.
CHINA, EMERGING ASIAN ECONOMIES
The Chinese government adjusts retail prices in line with the global market. As a result, Beijing has cut prices repeatedly this year. On Friday, highest grade gasoline cost $1.20 a liter ($4.54 a gallon) in the capital, down from $1.35 a liter ($5.11 a gallon) in June. Cheaper fuel would ease financial pressure on manufacturers and small businesses at a time when economic growth has declined steadily over the past two years.
Elsewhere in Asia, the impact is varied. In Indonesia, fuel costs have risen because the government has cut its expensive subsidies, more than offsetting the decline in global oil prices. The higher prices triggered street protests and the latest fall in crude prices may help ease tensions once it flows through to pump prices.
Malaysia is among the few oil-exporting nations in Asia, so the drop is hurting its coffers. But it is also taking advantage of the market drop to cut expensive fuel subsidies.
VIENNA (AP) — Top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia suggested Wednesday there is no need for the cartel to cut its output ceiling despite a plunge in prices that has poorer members of the organization hurting.
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. airlines are saving tens of millions of dollars every week because of lower prices for jet fuel, their largest expense. So why don't they share some of the savings with passengers?
Simply put: Airlines have no compelling reason to offer any breaks. Planes are full. Investors want a payout. And new planes are on order.
In fact, fares are going higher. And those bag fees that airlines instituted in 2008 when fuel prices spiked aren't going away either.
In the 12 months ended in September, U.S. airlines saved $1.6 billion on jet fuel. That helped them post a 5.7 percent profit margin in the first three quarters of this year, robust for the industry but lagging behind the 10 percent average for the Standard & Poor's 500.
In the past six years, airlines have done a great job of adjusting the number of flights to fall just short of demand. As a result, those who want to fly will pay a premium to do so. Airlines are selling a record 85.1 percent of their domestic seats. Thanks to several mega-mergers, four big airlines control the vast majority of flights, leaving very little room for another airline to undercut fares.
With that in mind, here's a closer look at what's going on with airfare and the price of jet fuel:
— The average domestic airline ticket during the first nine months of this year rose 3.1 percent to $374.96, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies. That figure doesn't include another $56.32 in taxes and fees that passengers pay.
— In the 12-month period ending in September, U.S. airlines burned through nearly 16.2 billion gallons of fuel. They paid an average of $2.97 a gallon — down from $3.07 the prior year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That 10-cent drop saved the industry $1.6 billion. Fuel prices have since fallen further. United Airlines estimates it will pay $2.76 to $2.81 a gallon during the last three months of the year.
— Put another way: U.S. airlines burn through 311 million gallons of fuel in a week. Lower fuel prices are saving them $31 million a week.
— Granted, with 751 million passengers carried last year that averages out to a savings of $2.15 for each leg of a trip a passenger takes: $4.30 on a roundtrip non-stop ticket or $8.61 on a roundtrip connecting itinerary.
— Fuel accounts for 34 percent of an airline's operating costs. The non-fuel costs include salaries and benefits, lease payments on airplanes, maintenance and fees for landing at airports. That doesn't include the cost of reservation systems, marketing or food and drinks.
— Airlines are also reinvesting in their planes, airport terminals and computers. In the first nine months of this year, U.S. carriers spent $10.2 billion on capital improvements, according to the industry's trade and lobbying group, Airlines for America. That more than $1 billion a month, the highest pace since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
— Airlines are on the largest jet-buying spree in the history of aviation, ordering more than 10,000 new planes with manufacturers Airbus and Boeing in the past five years. Those orders are for new, fuel efficient planes. A temporary drop in oil prices shouldn't slow that process. New jets last 15 to 20 years and the buying is driven by cheap credit almost as much as high oil prices.
— Money is also going back to investors. American Airlines this year paid its first dividend in 34 years, while Delta Air Lines restored its payout last year. Southwest Airlines, which has paid one for more than 37 years, boosted its payout by 50 percent this spring. The airlines are all also buying back large amounts of their own stock.
— Airlines responded to high fuel prices by limiting the number of flights, giving them the power to charge higher fares. Now, Wall Street analysts are worried that lower oil prices are causing them to recklessly add new routes or extra flights where profits aren't guaranteed. Hunter Keay, an analyst with Wolfe Research, recently wrote in a note to investors that the beauty of high oil prices is that they "force airlines to make hard choices that are almost always good for the long term investability of the space, mainly around capacity decisions and fees."
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.
ATLANTA -- Georgia continues to rank sixth in the nation and third in the Southeast in over-the-year job creation. The state gained 80,000 non-seasonally-adjusted jobs between September 2013 and September 2014, for a growth rate of 2.0 percent. The comparable national job growth rate for the same period was also 2.0 percent.
ATLANTA – Oct. 2, 2014 – Saving money and energy couldn’t be easier this weekend, Oct. 3-5, during Georgia’s annual sales tax holiday featuring energy efficient ENERGY STAR products, as well as water-efficient WaterSense products. Throughout the weekend and across the state, shoppers who make a qualifying purchase are exempt from paying state and local sales tax on a number of household items such as appliances, compact fluorescent light bulbs, doors/windows and thermostats.
A new roof for the detention center, additional personnel and more. Those were some of the budgetary needs for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office as outlined by Sheriff Jeff Shaver and Chief Corrections Officer Harley Lamey as the county approaches fiscal year 2014-2015.
Regional Medical Center, a 276-bed hospital in Anniston, plans to sever its contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama over how much money Blue Cross reimburses the hospital, according to the Anniston Star.
The Cherokee County Commission recently joined Coast2CoastRxCard in a press conference to announce the county’s participation in a program that could result in significant health care savings for local residents.