Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Consumer confidence plunged,
the wholesale inflation rate soared,
the number of homes being foreclosed jumped,
home prices fell sharply and
a report predicts big increases in health care cost...
And yet the Dow is at +100 for the day...
Of course on the other side of the coin the dollar is tanking down to 74.88, silver has spiked back to over 18.50, gold is at 946+, and oil is over 100/bbl again...
Yup...this is interesting alright!
Monday, February 25, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The front door to the old abandoned Lutheran church at Davis and Church Streets in McKinney...early morning...110mm, 5x7 paper neg, F220...minor contrast and levels tweeks in photoshop...
Monday, February 18, 2008
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Its not that this is a great image cause its not...in fact by my own standards it stinks...
Its all about the method and way it was taken...this is one of the first images taken with my new 110mm 5x7 pinhole camera, F220, on a paper neg (pending the arrival of film)...and then scanned instead of contact printed to save time...basically because it was shot at F220 on a paper negative the exposure for this was a little over 14 min in heavy overcast conditions...these cameras have no viewfinder, no shutter, or control over the aperture (its built in), your only control is in the amount of time of exposure...you wing it and hope for the best...but after shooting it for awhile I am sure I will be able to gauge fairly accurately what will be exposed before I ever pull the slide out...
I am really looking forward to further explorations with this camera...I can see it has real potential...the original lenseless camera...very old school...very cool!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Goodbye dollar hegemony!!!
Iran to launch oil and gas exchange on Feb. 27
Gholam-Hossein Nozari told Iran's Press TV satellite channel the opening ceremony of the Oil Bourse would be attended by Minister of Economy and Financial Affairs Davoud Danesh Jaafari, who will head the bourse.
He said earlier the Oil Bourse will be located on the Persian Gulf island of Kish and that all financial settlements will be made in Iran's national currency, the rial.
The minister said his country's oil revenue will reach $63 billion by the end of this Iranian year, which ends on March 20.
He said oil sales reached $55 billion in the first 11 months of the year, and that "if crude prices stand at the current level, next year's oil revenues will be the same as this year."
Nozari announced last week that Iran's crude oil production had reached 4.184 million barrels per day, the highest level since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
|PIPE nightmare: Issuers face major stock dump |
New SEC rule means more than $35 billion in small-company shares could be unloaded Friday. "A shock to the system,' one expert predicts.
| Smaller companies that issued unregistered securities last year may be in for a bumpy ride this week. That's because on Friday, changes that the Securities and Exchange Commission made to Rule 144, which governs unregistered securities, go into effect, which could lead investors to dump billions of dollars worth of shares and send some companies' daily trading volumes to never-before-seen levels.|
Last December, the SEC halved the period that investors must hold securities issued under Rule 144 before they can sell, from one year to six months. On Friday, any unregistered security issued last year between Feb. 15 and Aug. 15 becomes eligible for resale.
That means more than $35 billion in shares could suddenly become available on Friday, estimates Barry Silbert, founder and CEO of Restricted Stock Partners, which manages the Restricted Securities Trading Network, the largest online marketplace for restricted securities in the country. In all of 2006 (the last year for which data are available), the total value of Rule 144 issuance amounted to $71 billion.
“I think there will be a shock to the system in quite a few companies,” Mr. Silbert said, adding “but ultimately it will lead to some buying opportunities.”
The companies most likely to be affected by the rule change, said Mr. Silbert, will be smaller companies with market caps of less than $1 billion that issued restricted stock through PIPE, or private investment in public equity, transactions.
Mr. Silbert examined 300 PIPE deals that occurred last year in which companies issued unregistered stock. Of those companies, 66% will have securities equal to more than three months of their average daily trading volume becoming salable on Friday. Some of those companies could see 100 or more times their average daily trading volume potentially available for sale in one day, he predicted.
Industry watchers expect many investors to head for the exits come Friday—simply because they can.
“Stockholders who held shares are going to go ahead and sell,” said Anna Pinedo, a partner at Morrison & Foerster who specializes in securities law. “They are going to watch the market, but they will sell if they can.”
Aside from any volatility come Friday, Ms. Pinedo and others believe the changes the SEC made last December ultimately are positive for smaller companies, since the relaxed holding rules will make it easier for them to raise capital.
Ms. Pinedo, who sat on the advisory committee that the SEC convened prior to the rule changes, said one motivation for the changes was the perception that Sarbanes-Oxley compliance had made capital-raising especially onerous for smaller companies.
One of the principal ways in which smaller companies raise capital is through private placements and PIPE transactions, she said, and reducing the holding period for restricted securities makes them more liquid, and therefore more attractive to institutional investors.
In addition to the changes to Rule 144, in December the SEC also made it easier for smaller companies to register securities through a so-called S-3 filing, which allows for less stringent disclosure than a typical S-1 registration. Previously, companies had to have at least a $75 million float to register as an S-3.
“Some small companies have a reason to do a private registration, and some a public registration,” said Michael Littenberg, a partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel. “Taken together, the changes support capital formation.” FW
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
PARIS (AFP) - World stockmarkets lost 5.2 trillion dollars (3.6 trillion euros) in January thanks to the fallout from the US subprime crisis and fears of a global economic slowdown, Standard & Poor's said Saturday.
"If investors thought the market could only go up, January's wake-up call pulled them back into reality," the independent credit ratings' provider said.
Standard & Poor's said the world's equity markets lost a combined 5.2 trillion dollars as emerging markets fell 12.44 percent and developed markets lost 7.83 percent to register one of the worst starts to a new year.
"There were few safe havens in January as 50 of the 52 global equity markets ended the month in negative territory, with 25 of them posting double-digit losses," said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&Ps.
All 26 developed equity markets posted negative returns in January, with 16 losing at least 10 percent of their value.
The January declines negated all previous market gains, leaving all of the developed markets in the red for the trailing three month period.
In Paris, the stock exchange lost 12.27 percent over the course of January, 15.27 percent over the past three months, more than wiping out its gains over the last 12 months -- down 0.74 percent).
The situation was even worse in London -- down 8.85 percent in January, down 16.54 percent for the past three months and down 2.22 percent over 12 months -- and in the US, which was down 6.07 percent in January, down 10.78 percent over three months and down 2.42 percent over 12 months.
The story was similar in Japan, where the market lost 4.47 percent in January, 10.31 percent over three months and down 10.44 percent over the past 12 months.
In Germany, in contrast, although the stock exchange lost 13.72 percent in January and 13.84 percent over three months, it was up 13.43 percent over the year.
Equity markets in emerging countries also suffered heavy losses in January, apart from Morocco which gained 10.17 percent and Jordan, which was up by 3.11 percent. Turkey was the most affected with January losses reaching 22.70 percent, followed by China on 21.40 percent, Russia on 16.12 percent and India at 16 percent.
But only Argentina and Taiwan slipped into negative territory for the 12-month period.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Dallas, Texas - February 7, 2008
The Cameron Gallery Opening on Dragon Street
The Cameron Gallery is pleased to announce it's opening at 1414 Dragon Street, in the heart of the Dallas Design, Arts & Antiques district, located on the west side of Stemmons Freeway, at Oak Lawn Avenue.
Owner and resident artist, Carrie Cameron, has owned and operated a fine arts gallery, Galleria d'Arte, in McKinney, Texas for the past two and one-half years. Moving from her hometown of McKinney to Dallas is an exciting and challenging opportunity but one Cameron is embracing.
"Joining the other wonderful, world-class galleries, such as Craighead-Green Gallery, Gerald Peters Gallery, and Banks Fine Art, is so thrilling for us. My partners, Kristi and Steve Cameron, and I cannot wait to open our doors so we can bring our many wonderful and unique works of art to the Dallas art scene."
Specializing in a technique called 3-D oil sculpture, Carrie's paintings are a study in light, with a strong emphasis on color combined with multidimensional effect. Carrie's use of rich colors and thick textures reflects the artist's unique view of the complex beauty in her world. Her paintings are a study in light; the textures and colors creating a vibrancy that draws the eye and gives the work a life of its own. Carrie's art stems from a love of nature and a desire to realize and to maximize the beauty in all things. She lists the works of Cezanne and Van Gogh as major influences as well as her close friend and mentor, JD Miller, owner and principal artist of Reflection Fine Art. (www.relfectionfineart.com)
In December, 2007, Carrie was a featured guest artist at Reflection Fine Art Gallery, where contemporary artists are setting new standards by advancing the traditional techniques of the classic masters. As the impressionists strove to capture the beauty of the fleeting effects of light, reflectionists strive to capture the fleeting beauty of the moment in its entirety.not just record the impression of physical light, but record the full impact of each experience on mind, body, and spirit.
Justin Hunt is a master of the ancient technique of reverse glass painting. One of Galleria d'Arte's most successful and collectible artists, The Cameron Gallery welcomes Hunt's works at their new Dragon Street location. Using glass as his canvas and original window panes as his frames, Hunt's creations capture unparalleled attention to detail while simultaneously providing a voyeuristic experience for the viewer.
The Cameron Gallery will also specialize in one-of-a-kind works of art, including pottery, jewelry, and paintings. Of particular prominence will be the stunning glass creations by MarrsArt Glass. Focused on hand-blown glass objects ranging from platters and vases to hanging ornaments, Ron and Chris Marrs, a father and son glass artist team, has over 20 years experience at various cooperative studio locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and have been working together continuously for 9 years.
Inga Adams, William Kirkham, and Theresa Hollister are The Cameron Gallery's jewelry artists extraordinaire. Sterling silver and gold, precious and semi-precious gems, and natural stones and fossils are among the elements found in each of their unique designs. A combined 65+ years of making and designing jewelry is immediately evident in each piece offered by these talented professionals.
The Cameron Gallery will open in early March and will host monthly exhibitions for an eclectic group of artists, as well as special events, bringing to Dallas the signature trademarks of spirit and excitement in the visual arts from Carrie's Galleria d' Arte in McKinney. The gallery will also host a Grand Opening Gala benefiting the Love Life Foundation as it's first official exhibition debuting Carrie's newest creations, date to be announced.
"Euros Accepted" signs pop up in New York City
Wed Feb 6, 12:11 PM ET
In the latest example that the U.S. dollar just ain't what it used to be, some shops in New York City have begun accepting euros and other foreign currency as payment for merchandise.
"We had decided that money is money and we'll take it and just do the exchange whenever we can with our bank," Robert Chu, owner of East Village Wines, told Reuters television.
The increasingly weak U.S. dollar, once considered the king among currencies, has brought waves of European tourists to New York with money to burn and looking to take advantage of hugely favorable exchange rates.
"We didn't realize we would take so much in and there were that many people traveling or having euros to bring in. But some days, you'd be surprised at how many euros you get," Chu said.
"Now we have to get familiar with other currencies and the (British) pound and the Canadian dollars we take," he said.
While shops in many U.S. towns on the Canadian border have long accepted Canadian currency and some stores on the Texas-Mexico border take pesos, the acceptance of foreign money in Manhattan was unheard of until recently.
Not far from Chu's downtown wine emporium, Billy Leroy of Billy's Antiques & Props said the vast numbers of Europeans shopping in the neighborhood got him thinking, "My God, I should take euros in at the store."
Leroy doesn't even bother to exchange them.
"I'm happy if I take in 200 euros, because what I do is keep them," he said. "So when I go back to Paris, I don't have to go through the nightmare of going to an exchange place."
(Reporting by Angela Moore, writing by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Published: Wednesday, 6 February, 2008, 02:16 AM Doha Time
DUBAI: Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be forced to revalue their currency pegs this year following the dollar's declines and the Federal Reserve's interest-rate cuts, Bear Stearns has said.
Five Gulf nations lowered interest rates last week in step with the US to keep their links to the dollar even as inflation accelerates. When Saudi Arabia left rates unchanged after the Fed's Sept. 18 reduction, the riyal rose to a 20-year high.
It's going to be very difficult for central banks in the region to have adequate control of monetary policy, and hence inflation, when the Fed is slashing rates left, right and centre and the dollar is slumping, Steven Barrow, chief currency strategist in London at Bears Stearns, wrote in a client note yesterday.
Inflation accelerated to records in all GCC, states last year as the oil-rich nations sought to preserve their dollar links. The regional average was 6.3% in 2007, compared with 0.3% in 2001, according to Merrill Lynch & Co
The Fed cut its target rate for overnight bank lending by 1.25 percentage points in January to prevent the housing slump from pushing the world's biggest economy into a recession.
The US Dollar Index traded on ICE Futures in New York, which tracks the currency against six major counterparts, dropped 0.7% last week to 75.45. It was at 74.48 on Nov. 23, the weakest level since the gauge started in 1973.
The only way out, unless the Fed reverses course soon or the dollar soars, is to adjust the currency regime with either a free float, revaluation or the adoption of a currency basket, Barrow wrote.
Speculation of a Gulf-wide revaluation is rising before a meeting between Saudi Arabia's advisory council, the Shura, and the finance ministry and central bank, according to Barrow. Saudi Arabia is blocking other Gulf states, such as the UAE and Qatar, from revaluing their currencies, he said.
The meeting will take place on February 17, a newspaper reported at the weekend. The authorities do not have to act on recommendations from the council and, of course, the council might not even recommend any currency change, Barrow wrote.
Kuwait became the first GCC state to drop its currency peg to the dollar in May, linking it to a basket dominated by dollars but including the euro, yen and British pound.
Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, cut its benchmark rate for deposits by half a percentage point to 3% on January 31, while Kuwait and the UAE lowered their repo rates by the same amount to 3.5% and 3%, respectively.
Qatar and Bahrain reduced their deposit rates by half a point to 3%. Oman cut its repo rate 0.18 percentage point to 4.14% today, Dow Jones reported.
Traders see a 74% chance the Fed will lower its target for overnight bank lending by half a percentage point to 2.50% at its March 18 meeting, futures on the Chicago Board of Trade show. That compares with 70% yesterday and 14% a week ago.
Central banks can take other measures to try to limit the damage, such as raising reserve requirements, but we are skeptical that this works and we are also concerned that such tactics can adversely affect the banking sector,Barrow said.
Divided spoils in Democratic race
By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer 9 minutes ago
John McCain earned himself a super Wednesday, a day to savor coast-to-coast primary victories that ratified him as the Republican front-runner, while Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama dug in after a night of divided spoils in a Democratic presidential contest that could stretch to the spring.
McCain, whose campaign once verged on collapse, piled up more delegates than his two rivals combined, pushing over the halfway mark on what's needed to clinch the nomination. His victories stretched from New York to California, the biggest prize. Still, Mitt Romney in the West and Mike Huckabee in the South proved to be go-to candidates for conservatives, and they vowed to press forward.
Clarity of any sort eluded the Democrats as campaigns turned to the next rounds. On Saturday, Louisiana and Washington state hold two-party contests while Nebraska Democrats and Kansas Republicans make their picks. Then comes a larger series of two-party primaries in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia on Tuesday.
More than 168 Democratic delegates are at stake Tuesday, a sizable prize in two states and a district that are normally afterthoughts in nomination contests. Clinton has been endorsed in Maryland by Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Barbara Mikulski; Obama is backed by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine,and is expected to do well in the largely black district.
"Senator Clinton has a lot of friends in Virginia," Kaine said in an interview, but "we're feeling pretty good" about Obama's Virginia chances. Republicans will award 116 delegates in the trio of races dubbed the Potomac Primary.
Huckabee, who posted five Southern victories after being practically counted out of the contest, demurred when asked Wednesday if he'd be an irresistible running mate for McCain, the opponent he likes. "I still want to be the irresistible choice to be the president," he said on CBS' "The Early Show."
Despite his strong night, Huckabee trails both McCain and Romney in the delegate count. Other contenders took a pass for once on the morning-after talk shows.
Obama won 13 Super Tuesday states; Clinton, eight plus American Samoa. Clinton scored the advantage in delegates, bring her total to 845 to Obama's 765, by the latest accounting. The road ahead was long for the Democrats: It takes 2,025 delegates to claim their nomination.
Delegate tabulations continued Wednesday, possibly longer, and the victor in one race remained unsettled — the Democratic caucuses in New Mexico.
Clinton won the biggest state, California, capitalizing on backing from Hispanic voters. Obama scored victories in Alabama and Georgia on the strength of black support, and won a nail-biter in bellwether Missouri.
McCain's own victory in California dealt a crushing blow to his closest pursuer, Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.
"We've won some of the biggest states in the country," the Arizona senator told cheering supporters at a rally in Phoenix, hours before California fell his way. An underdog for months, he proclaimed himself the front-runner at last, and added. "I don't really mind it one bit."
In the competition that counted the most, the Arizona senator had 613 delegates, to 269 for Romney and 190 for Huckabee in incomplete counting. It takes 1,191 to win the GOP nomination.
Neither Democrat could plausibly claim an overall victory and didn't try.
"I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debate about how to leave this country better off for the next generation," Clinton said.
Obama told a boisterous election night rally in Chicago, "Our time has come. Our movement is real. And change is coming to America."
Polling place interviews with voters suggested subtle shifts in the political landscape.
For the first time this year, McCain ran first in a few states among self-identified Republicans. As usual, he was running strongly among independents. Romney was getting the votes of about four in 10 people who described themselves as conservative. McCain was winning about one-third of that group, and Huckabee about one in five.
Overall, Clinton was winning only a slight edge among women and white voters, groups that she had won handily in earlier contests, according to preliminary results from interviews with voters in 16 states leaving polling places.
Obama was collecting the overwhelming majority of votes cast by blacks — a factor in victories in Alabama and Georgia.
Clinton's continued strong appeal among Hispanics — she was winning nearly six in 10 of their votes — was a big factor in her California triumph, and in her victory in Arizona, too.
McCain, the early Republican front-runner whose campaign nearly unraveled six months ago, won in California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Missouri, Delaware and his home state of Arizona — each of them winner-take-all primaries. He also pocketed victories in Oklahoma and Illinois.
Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, won a series of Bible Belt victories, in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee as well as his own home state. He also triumphed at the Republican West Virginia convention, and told The Associated Press in an interview he would campaign on. "The one way you can't win a race is to quit it, and until somebody beats me, I'm going to answer the bell for every round of this fight," he said.
Romney won a home state victory in Massachusetts. He also took Utah, where fellow Mormons supported his candidacy. His superior organization produced caucus victories in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Alaska and Colorado, and he, too, breathed defiance. "We're going to go all the way to the convention. We're going to win this thing," he told supporters in Boston.
Democrats played out a historic struggle between two senators: Clinton, seeking to become the first female president, and Obama, hoping to become the first black to win the White House.
Clinton won at home in New York as well as in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arizona and Arkansas, where she was first lady for more than a decade. She also won the caucuses in American Samoa.
Obama won Connecticut, Georgia, Alabama, Delaware, Utah and his home state of Illinois. He prevailed in caucuses in North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Idaho, Alaska and Colorado. His Missouri victory was so close in the vote total that there was no telling whether he or Clinton would end up with a majority of the state's 72 delegates.
New Mexico shut its vote counting operation until 11 a.m. EST, with Obama holding a slim lead.
The allocation of delegates lagged the vote count by hours. That was particularly true for the Democrats, who divided theirs roughly in proportion to the popular vote.
Nine of the Republican contests were winner take all, and that was where McCain piled up his lead.
Alabama and Georgia gave Obama three straight Southern triumphs. Like last month's win in South Carolina, they were powered by black votes.
Democrats and Republicans alike said the economy was their most important issue. Democrats said the war in Iraq ranked second and health care third. Republican primary voters said immigration was second most important after the economy, followed by the war in Iraq.
The survey was conducted in 16 states by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for The Associated Press and television networks.
Tornadoes rip through South, killing 47
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ, Associated Press Writer 31 minutes ago
Crews went door-to-door Wednesday searching debris for more victims of deadly tornadoes that ripped the roof off a shopping mall, pummeled mobile homes and blew apart warehouses as they tore across five states. At least 47 people were killed throughout the South.
The victims included 24 people in Tennessee, 13 in Arkansas, seven in Kentucky and three in Alabama, emergency officials said. Among those killed were Arkansas parents who died with their 11-year-old in Atkins, about 60 miles northwest of Little Rock. Hundreds more were injured.
The family died from trauma when their home "took a direct hit" from the storm, Pope County Coroner Leonard Krout said.
"Neighbors and friends who were there said, 'There used to be a home there,'" Krout said.
Ray Story tried to get his 70-year-old brother, Bill Clark, to a hospital after the storms leveled his mobile home in Macon County, about 60 miles northeast of Nashville. He died as Story and his wife tried to navigate debris-strewn roads in their pickup truck, they said.
"He never had a chance," Nova Story said. "I looked him right in the eye and he died right there in front of me."
The twisters, which also slammed Mississippi, were part of a rare spasm of winter weather that raged across the nation's midsection at the end of the Super Tuesday primaries in several states. As the extent of the damage quickly became clear, candidates including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee paused in their victory speeches to remember the victims.
Before dawn Wednesday, the system moved on to Alabama, bringing heavy rains and gusty winds, causing several injuries in counties northwest of Birmingham. Three people were killed when a reported twister struck Aldridge Grove, in the northern part of the state near Decatur, said Brenda Morgan, deputy emergency management director in Lawrence County.
An apparent tornado damaged eight homes in Walker County, Ala., and a pregnant woman suffered a broken arm when a trailer home was tossed by the winds, said county emergency management director Johnny Burnette.
"I was there before daylight and it looked like a war zone," he said.
Northeast of Nashville, a spectacular fire erupted at a natural gas pumping station northeast of Nashville that authorities said could have been damaged by the storms. An undetermined number of people were reported dead.
Power was knocked out and the local hospital was running on generators. Only the emergency room had lights on.
Eight students were trapped in a battered dormitory at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., until they were finally freed. Tornadoes had hit the campus in the past, and students knew the drill when they heard sirens, said Union University President David S. Dockery.
At least two dormitories were destroyed. Dockery told NBC's "Today" that the drills and planning "saved those lives."
He said about 51 students were taken to the hospital and nine stayed through the night, but added "there are positive days ahead for them."
Well after nightfall Tuesday, would-be rescuers went through shattered homes in Atkins, a town of 3,000 near the Arkansas River. Around them, power lines snaked along streets and a deep-orange pickup truck rested on its side. A navy blue Mustang with a demolished front end was marked with spray paint to show it had been searched.
Outside one damaged home, horses whinnied in the darkness, looking up only when a flashlight reached their eyes. A ranch home stood unscathed across the street from a concrete slab that had supported the house where the family of three died.
Gov. Mike Beebe planned to tour Atkins on Wednesday.
In Memphis, high winds collapsed the roof of a Sears store at a mall. Debris that included bricks and air conditioning units was scattered on the parking lot, where about two dozen vehicles were damaged.
A few people north of the mall took shelter under a bridge and were washed away, but they were pulled out of the Wolf River with only scrapes, said Steve Cole of the Memphis Police Department.
In Mississippi, Desoto County Sheriff's Department Cmdr. Steve Atkinson said a twister shredded warehouses in an industrial park in the city of Southaven, just south of Memphis.
"It ripped the warehouses apart. The best way to describe it is it looks like a bomb went off," Atkinson said.
At the W.J. Matthews Civic Center in Atkins, a shelter was empty except for American Red Cross volunteers and a single touch-screen voting machine. The civic center had hosted an election precinct earlier Tuesday. Traffic was snarled on nearby Interstate 40, with tractor-trailers on their sides.
Officials do not know what started a fire at the Columbia Gulf Natural Gas pumping station near Green Grove, about 40 miles from Nashville. The blaze could be seen in the night sky for miles around, with flames shooting "400, 500 feet in the air," said Tennessee Emergency Management spokesman Donnie Smith.
The couple killed with their adult daughter were in their mobile home near Greenville in western Kentucky when a tornado went through their trailer park.
On Jan. 8, tornadoes were reported in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Two died in the Missouri storms.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Ryan Lenz in Greenville, Ky., Jon Gambrell in Atkins, Ark., Holbrook Mohr in Jackson, Miss., and Woody Baird in Memphis, Tenn.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Fri, 04 Jan 2008 20:45:41
The long-awaited Iranian Oil Bourse, a place for trading oil, petrochemicals and gas in various non-dollar currencies, will soon open.
Iran’s Finance Minister Davoud Danesh-Jafari told reporters the bourse will be inaugurated during the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution (February 1-11) at the latest.
“All preparations have been made to launch the bourse; it will open during the Ten-Day Dawn (the ceremonies marking the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran),” he said.
The Minister had earlier stated that the Oil Bourse is located on the Persian Gulf island of Kish.
Some expert opinions hold inauguration of the bourse cold significantly devalue the greenback.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Friday, Feb. 1, 2008
Experts are predicting pump prices, which jumped by almost a dollar a gallon in each of the last two springs in many parts of the United States, will spike again this year as refiners and gas stations switch from winter- to summer-blended fuels.
The increases, starting as early as February in southern California, could push the average national price to a record $3.50 a gallon or more by June.
That would be 17 percent higher than today's average of just under $3 a gallon, which already is about 80 cents a gallon higher than year-ago levels thanks to the surge of crude oil that took futures prices briefly to $100 a barrel. Prices in urban areas on each coast could approach $4 a gallon.
And the reason for the spring price shocks? Analysts say it's linked to a shortage of alkylate, a little-known and expensive gasoline additive that some in the industry are calling "liquid gold." It has become a must-have ingredient since refiners stopped using MTBE two years ago when the potentially cancer-causing additive was found to be seeping into ground water.
The alkylate shortage has become the most important driver of summer gas prices, said Doug Leggate, an analyst at Citigroup Global Markets. "Supply of (alkylate) will set the price of summer gasoline — not inventory levels," he said.
Oil companies deny they are purposely limiting production of alkylate, which like gasoline, jet fuel and asphalt is a byproduct of the oil refining process. But only recently have some started studying how they can boost output, and alkylate prices today are more than 15 percent higher than spot gasoline prices. That means overall costs will jump when it is added in larger quantities to summer-blend fuel.
Without additives, gasoline doesn't burn completely, increasing tailpipe air pollution. And untreated gas evaporates more quickly in hot weather, potentially causing vapor lock when it changes from a liquid to a gas and blocks fuel lines.
The federal government long ago required refiners to boost the oxygen content of summer-blend gasoline to make it burn more completely, a problem that was solved by adding MTBE and, more recently, ethanol.
But ethanol also has a high evaporation rate, so refiners increasingly have turned to alkylate, which Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J., calls the "magic bullet" in making summer gasoline.
Alkylate and other gasoline additives don't raise the same safety issues as MTBE because they don't bond with water as effectively as MTBE did, analysts say.
Demand for alkylate changes with the seasons, falling in autumn and rising in the spring. On average, alkylate makes up about 10 percent of a gallon of gas, though that rises to as much as 15 percent in summer. But making more of it is not as simple as throwing a switch since the underlying chemical properties of oil limit how much of any one refined petroleum product can be produced.
On average, about 44 percent of each barrel of oil ends up as gasoline, 22 percent as diesel fuel and heating oil, 9 percent as jet fuel, and about 4 percent each as heavy fuel oil and liquefied petroleum gas, according to the Energy Department. The remainder is comprised of smaller products and additives.
The refining process is loud, hot and smelly. Boilers separate, or "crack," oil into new substances by subjecting it to high temperatures and pressure. As different products are boiled out, pipes carry them to other boilers or vessels where they're further refined, mixed with other substances or cleaned of pollutants and toxins.
Alkylate is made via a chemical reaction sparked when olefin fluids and isobutane — two of the smaller byproducts of the main gasoline producing unit — are mixed with acid.
"As opposed to the (gasoline unit) that cracks big components into small, this one takes two components and basically combines them," said Mark Fligner, director of planning and economics at Valero Energy Corp.'s refinery in Paulsboro, N.J., across the Delaware river and just south of Philadelphia.
Owners of about two-thirds of U.S. refineries have invested the $100 million or more it takes to add an alkylate unit. The rest have to buy alkylate on the spot market if they want to use it as additive in their gasoline supplies.
Refiners aren't gaming the system, purposely limiting alkylate production to boost gas prices, said John Auers, senior vice president at Turner Mason & Co., a Dallas consultancy. "They're not because they can't," he said. "You can't make more alkylate than you have feedstocks."
But there are tradeoffs that every refiner must weigh. For example, olefins and isobutane are in high demand for use in producing other lucrative products like plastics. Refiners can tweak their main gasoline producing unit to make more olefins and isobutane, but that would cut the gasoline output.
Alkylate prices have jumped from 77 cents a gallon in the summer of 2001 — when MTBE was still in use — to nearly $3 a gallon at points over the past two summers. Wednesday's price on the spot market was $2.72 a gallon, 40 cents more than the spot price of gasoline, according to Platts. Retail prices for gas are higher because things like state and federal taxes are added. In recent summers, that spot market differential has jumped as high as 60 cents.
Refiners place the blame for spring gas price increases on crude costs, environmental regulations that have increased the overall cost of refining, and their inability to expand or build new refineries fast enough to keep up with gasoline demand.
John Pickering, vice president and general manager at the Paulsboro refinery, said Valero makes enough alkylate to meet its needs, but concedes that there is a national shortage of the additive in the spring and summer.
Other refiners contacted by The Associated Press said they are reluctant for competitive reasons to talk about how they blend gasoline, or whether they face alkylate shortages.
What is known, however, is that refiners are hiring companies such as UOP LLC of Des Plaines, Ill., to determine whether they can increase the capacity of their existing alkylation units. "In the last year or so, there has been a significant uptick (in business)," said Ashis Banerji, director for refining at UOP, which licenses alkylation technology to refiners.
And the 36 percent of domestic refineries that don't have alkylation units are looking at adding them.
"Our impression is that refineries are moving as fast as they possibly can to add alkylation capacity," said Jim Pawloski, business director at UOP competitor DuPont Clean Technologies, a unit of DuPont Co. He said his unit's business has jumped five-fold over the past five years and will likely double again this year.
The steep jump in summer alkylate prices has also caught the attention of at least two companies that used to produce MTBE. Enterprise Products Partners LP and Texas Petrochemicals Inc., both of Houston, say they're closely studying whether to convert idled MTBE plants into alkylate factories.
That also highlights the conundrum that is alkylate: If too many refiners decide to spend big bucks to crank up production, the premium prices now enjoyed by alkylate makers could disappear.
Refiners have to weigh the cost of such an investment against the incremental cost of simply buying the extra alkylate they need. "I'm not sure that it would be economical," said Jeff Hazle, technical director at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.
But if production doesn't rise, American motorists will be faced with big jumps in spring gas prices for years to come.