Bonnie Petrie

Business Watch – Tuesday March 20, 2012

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Photo: Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

Brent Clanton

-Gas Prices-
The price of gasoline is up nearly four cents from a week ago at $3.87 cents a gallon. The Department of Energy says this is the highest price recorded in March and up 30 cents from a year ago. senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan expects prices to peak in May between $3.75 to as much as $4.15 cents.
“There is some room for prices to gain before we expect that peak to occur,” says DeHaan. DeHaan also notes the continued progression toward Summer gasoline phase-in occurring in several areas of the country:”As we phase in to Summer gasoline, there’s continued speculation behind the supply and availability of Summer gas.”

-Apple, Inc.-
Apple’s announcement Monday to pay out some of its nearly $98 billion dollars in cash to shareholders could help raise corporate and consumer confidence.
Chief economist with Moody’s Capital Market Group, John Lonski, says it will likely be a signal to other companies that have been holding on to the two trillion dollars since the beginning of the recession. “As US corporations become more confident in the longer term outlook for the world economy they are likely to disperse part of this mountain of cash,” says Lonski. Investor reaction Monday to Apple’s announcement was positive, with stock prices closing higher than the cost of the latest version of the iPad. Stock prices closed at $604/share.

TaxMasters is dodging The “Man” in bankruptcy court nearly a year after an ABC News investigation. TaxMasters promised help for people having trouble with the IRS by taking an upfront fee and never delivering what was promised, according to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. Just as Tax Masters was about to face trial on charges of deceptive practices, the firm filed for bankruptcy protection. TaxMasters said it owes thousands of creditors millions of dollars.

-Banks and Foreclosure-
Eight more banks are being fined by the Federal Government for improperly foreclosing on homeowners. EverBank, Goldman Sachs Group and six other banks were not part of an earlier settlement over alleged foreclosure abuses. The nation’s five biggest lenders last month agreed to a $25 billion settlement, agreeing to reduce mortgages for about one million homeowners, and sending $2,000 to homeowners improperly foreclosed upon.

-Ben Bernanke-
Former college professor-turned-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke returns to the classroom today with plans to discuss the history of the Federal Reserve to a group of about 30 students at George Washington University in Washington. It is a first for Bernanke. None of his predecessors ever helped teach college students while serving as chairman. You can watch the lectures streamed live from the Fed’s website by CLICKING HERE.

-Wall Street-
A flood of housing data hits Wall Street this week and hopes are high that further signs of improvement will be seen for the sector. The first of those data points was mixed with the NAHB/Wells Fargo housing market index showing sentiment among homebuilders remaining static at its highest level since June 2007, but short of expectations for a modest improvement.
The Dow gained a fraction of a percent to 13,239.
The S&P 500 added four-tenths percent to 1,409.
The Nasdaq added eight-tenths percent to 3,078.
Crude futures finished at a two-week high, up $1.03 at $108.09 per barrel.
Gold added $11.50 to land at $1,667.30 an ounce.

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