Archive for October, 2013

Oct. 17, 2013

NEW YORK–Crude-oil futures prices fell 1.6% Thursday to a 3 1/2-month low near $100 a barrel amid signs of rising U.S. oil inventories and weaker demand.

Analysts said the short-term solution reached by Congress and approved by President Barack Obama to reopen the government and suspend the debt until early February does little to reassure the market that the U.S. economy will rebound, pulling up demand for oil.

A government forecast for above-normal temperatures across much of the U.S. in November through January added to pressure on prices, dealing heating-oil futures prices their biggest one-day loss in a month.

Light, sweet crude oil futures for November delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 1.6%, or $1.62, lower at $100.67 a barrel, the lowest level since July 2. The drop was the biggest one-day decline in dollar and percentage terms since Oct. 9.

The contract traded down to an intraday low of $100.03 a barrel and market participants said it is only a matter of time before prices break below the century mark.

ICE Brent crude oil for December delivery settled $1.48 lower at $109.11 a barrel. That was Brent\’s biggest drop since Sept. 19 and put it at the lowest level since Oct. 9.

A fall below $100 a barrel for U.S. crude would set the stage for a drop to as low as $88 a barrel in the near term, said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.

\”The $100 level is psychological more than anything. It\’s likely to fall in coming days. The trend is negative, we\’ve got ample inventories right now and demand is not great,\” he said.

The American Petroleum Institute, a trade group, said late Wednesday afternoon that U.S. crude-oil stocks rose 5.9 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 11, compared with estimates calling for a rise of 1.7 million barrels. The API also said refinery operations dropped by 0.8 percentage point, to 86% of capacity, compared with expectations for a 0.2-point drop. Refinery processing of crude oil was at its lowest level since April, the API said.

Government workers returned to their offices on Thursday, but the Energy Information Administration said it isn\’t yet clear when it will resume publication of its widely watched weekly data on U.S. oil supply, demand and inventories.

Market players normally watch the data from the API for a hint of what the broader-based government report will show.

\”The API show a big rise in stocks. The market is really focused on supply and demand now and its looks like it\’s getting ready to roll over and die,\” said Mr. Flynn. \”If we don\’t get a cold winter, we could be looking at new range from $88 to $100 at the top.\” A drop to the low end of that range would put prices back to where they last traded in April.

U.S. crude-oil prices above $100 a barrel are a relatively short-term event in the longer-term trend. When crude settled above $100 in early July, that marked a 14-month high in prices. Flare-ups in Mideast tensions from Egypt to Syria to Libya, which have all turned relatively quiet, helped ignite a price surge to $110.53 a barrel six weeks ago, a 28-month high.

But analysts said rising U.S. oil output and a quieter tone in the Middle East oil patch, including Iran\’s cooperative attitude in negotiations regarding its nuclear program, are erasing a fear premium in prices.

Prices also face pressure on the demand side from a potential warm winter. Above-normal temperatures are likely across much of the U.S. in November through January, government forecasters said Thursday. The outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows New England as one of the areas, with the greatest likelihood of above-normal temperatures in the early winter period.

About 25% of homes in the Northeast rely on heating oil and 80% of the nation\’s heating oil users are in the region, according to EIA.

November-delivery heating-oil futures prices posted their biggest one-day decline in a month, falling 1.6%, or 4.93 cents, to $2.99 a gallon, the lowest price since Oct. 1.

via Crude-Oil Futures Settle Down 1.6% at Lowest Level Since July 2 – WSJ.com.

Oct. 16, 2013

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced yesterday that the state, local communities and Amtrak have reached an agreement to keep the Hoosier State passenger-rail service operating between Indianapolis and Chicago.

After contracts are signed, monthly payments will renew the existing service for one year, with an option for an additional four months. Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Rensselaer, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and Beech Grove are partnering with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to fund the service, INDOT and Pence administration officials said in a joint statement.

\”This agreement will make Hoosier jobs more secure and preserve an important transportation link for Indiana,\” said Pence.

The agreement also allows state and local partners to monitor ridership on the service, as well as explore improvements \”to ensure long-term viability,\” said INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning.

\”The communities that are contributing funding will have a vested interest in improving performance and ensuring accountability for the tax dollars being invested,\” he said.

States with state-supported Amtrak service have been renegotiating their contracts with the national intercity passenger railroad as required under a 2008 federal law that called for an end to federal support for Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles. That includes the Hoosier State service, which operates four days a week between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Federal funding will continue for Amtrak\’s long-distance Cardinal service, which operates along the route the remaining three days per week between Cincinnati and Chicago via Indianapolis.

via Rail News – Amtrak, Indiana reach agreement for Hoosier service funding. For Railroad Career Professionals.

Oct. 17, 2013

With the state of Indiana now on board, Amtrak has negotiated contracts with 19 state transportation departments and other entities to increase state control and funding of 28 current passenger-rail routes.

The railroad is now \”poised to move forward with state partners to further expand and improve the intercity passenger rail network,\” Amtrak officials said in a press release.

\”We thank these state leaders who have sent a strong message in favor of Amtrak service and the need to offer multiple mobility options for the traveling public across their regions,\” said President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman.

States with state-supported Amtrak service have been renegotiating their contracts as required under a 2008 federal law that called for supporting Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles. Earlier this week, the Indiana DOT — the last of the 19 state DOTs to complete negotiations — announced an agreement, which secured continuing service on the Amtrak Hoosier State line operating between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Also signing agreements were public entities in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

\”These state-supported services are vital links in the Amtrak national network that bring value, connectivity, economic development and jobs to states and local communities,\” said Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia.

via Rail News – Amtrak, 19 states reach agreements to preserve rail routes. For Railroad Career Professionals.

Oct. 16, 2013

OAKLAND — Another day, another BART strike delayed: Union leaders said late Wednesday that trains would keep running Thursday but that negotiations had once again failed to seal a deal.Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, stepped in to avert an AC Transit strike that had been set for Thursday. As he did with the BART talks in August, Brown declared a seven-day bus strike delay and could later use his powers to postpone any AC Transit shutdowns for another two months.For BART, Thursday marks 200 days since negotiations opened, another frustrating milestone for Bay Area commuters. Even Congress — yes, the Congress with a 5 percent approval rating — put aside its differences and reached a deal Wednesday to reopen the federal government.BART and its unions, however, were back at it all day Wednesday. For the fifth time in the past week, they declared late at night that trains would operate the following day, making the announcement this time at 10:30 p.m. — or a half hour later than union leaders had promised.It was not immediately clear whether unions would renew their strike threat for Friday.\”For the good of the public interest, trains will be running for the day\” Thursday, federal mediator George Cohen said in a brief statement. Management and unions did not attend the announcement.Earlier, Josie Mooney, chief negotiator for the local Service Employees International Union, said unions sympathized with the uncertainty riders feel every evening but that they must keep a strike threat on the table to ensure BART management negotiates fairly.\”We have to put some pressure on them,\” she said.A gag order remained in effect and it wasn\’t clear how talks were going, though both sides continued to at least sound optimistic.\”Like I say every morning, I feel good,\” Antonette Bryant, president of the local Amalgamated Transit Union, said as she walked into the downtown Oakland Caltrans building where talks are being held. \”The unions are trying to get a deal done. We\’re not trying to disrupt service.\”Zach Saltzman, of El Cerrito, waits for a BART train to San Francisco at the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station Oct. 15, 2013. Dan Honda/StaffThe optimism was not exactly spilling over to riders. Since the strike threats began Thursday night, BART has lost more than 7 percent of its expected rider count, causing the rail line to miss out on about $315,000 in fare revenue. Another $200,000 a day is going down the drain so BART can reserve shuttle buses that would run back-up service during a strike.\”I just stopped caring,\” said law student Angelo Villarreal, 24, of Oakland, who has stopped monitoring late-night news to see whether he can take the train to school the next morning.But Ginny Sanderson said she still checks her e-mail in the middle of the night to see if the trains will be running.\”I understand from a negotiating standpoint why the unions are doing that but I think they are frustrating their riders,\” she said before catching a train at the Pittsburg-Bay Point station for her job in San Francisco.Rosemary Mucklow, 81, of Berkeley, works in downtown Oakland as the director emeritus for the North American Meat Association and called the situation \”terrible\” and \”a travesty.\”\”These people think they can hold us hostage,\” she said. \”For both the people who ride the bus and BART it\’s really essential for them to get their paychecks.\”

via BART strike called off Thursday; AC Transit strike postponed – ContraCostaTimes.com.

Oct. 12, 2013

MTA officials took the unprecedented step of halting overnight track maintenance and ordered at least 200 workers to instead scour the tunnels for Avonte Oquendo, a missing, 14-year-old, autistic boy.

A Metropolitan Transit Authority memo obtained by the Daily News detailed an “all-out blitz to locate Avonte. . . . Every portion of track within the subway shall be inspected without fail” beginning Thursday evening.

The dragnet will comb all 468 stations, extending to stations at City Hall, Myrtle Ave. and elsewhere.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen, who is a track worker. “It’s actually brilliant. No one knows the subway system like track workers.”

via MTA suspends all subway maintenance in search of missing autistic boy Avonte Oquendo – NY Daily News.

Oct. 11, 2013

One year from Sunday, the shackles come off Dallas Love Field, and Southwest Airlines Co. is already anticipating the moment.

It is planning a full year of celebrations and promotions to lead up to Oct. 13, 2014, when the Wright amendment goes away and Southwest can fly nonstop anywhere it wants in the United States.

The Dallas-based carrier, whose main offices abut Love Field, isn’t revealing everything it has planned. But on Monday, it will unveil a countdown clock in its headquarters lobby so that employees can see how many days remain until the big change.

“Something big is going to happen on 10-13-14,” Southwest executive Ron Ricks said Friday, “and it’s so big that we think it’s going to take a full year to celebrate. So we’re going to start the countdown at 10-14-2013.”

The Wright amendment, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on Feb. 15, 1980, restricted nonstop flights from Dallas Love Field to airports in Texas and four bordering states — Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico and Arkansas.

Not only did the law bar flights beyond those states, but it also barred airlines from selling a ticket that would take a passenger to airports beyond those states even on a connecting or one-stop basis.

In 1997, Congress put Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama inside the boundaries, and Missouri was added in 2005. Meanwhile, Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly began a push in November 2004 to get the law repealed.

The effort wound up with a June 2006 compromise among Southwest, American Airlines Inc., the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to do away with the Wright amendment restrictions in eight years. The law, passed by Congress, was enacted Oct. 13, 2006, setting up Oct. 13, 2014, as its expiration date.

“We’ve lived with the Wright amendment for 34 years,” Ricks said. “Now we’re going to take 365 days to say goodbye to it.”

Ricks, Southwest’s executive vice president and chief legal and regulatory officer, said Southwest intends to make a big deal of the impending change to remind people of what is about to occur.

“It occurred to us that our customers, our employees in North Texas and certainly our customers and employees outside North Texas all generally know something is supposed to happen sometime soon, but they don’t know what and they don’t know when,” he said.

“So starting Monday, by way of a regular celebration that we’ll roll out on a periodic basis over the course of a full year, we’re going to start telling people, first of all when, which is Oct. 13, 2014, and then later in the year as we move into it, more of the ‘what,’ ” Ricks said.

Ricks declined to specify where Southwest will fly nonstop from Dallas Love Field. Other executives have suggested that the likely destinations will be the cities that are largest in the Southwest system, such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Chicago, Orlando, Fla., and Baltimore.

If history is any guide, Southwest probably will lay out its Oct. 13, 2014, schedule in February or March.

“Being Southwest Airlines, we may have a surprise or two here or there with regards to timing,” Ricks said, “but we don’t know yet.”

via Southwest Airlines gets ready for end of Wright amendment | Dallasnews.com – News for Dallas, Texas – The Dallas Morning News.

Oct. 14, 2013

Dallas-based low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines has announced organizational and executive personnel changes in its commercial, operational and technology groups.

Andrew Watterson, most recently VP planning and revenue management at Hawaiian Airlines, was appointed VP, network planning and performance. Watterson will lead Southwest’s network planning and commercial planning teams.

Sherry Staber joins Southwest’s technology organization airlines in a new position, VP business transformation solutions, operations and enterprise management. Staber was previously VP-corporate solutions at J.C. Penney Co.’s corporate headquarters in Plano, Tex.

Another new position, VP supply chain management, will be filled by Bill Tiffany, previously Southwest’s maintenance senior director of supply chain management. Southwest’s supply chain management group will now encompass the company’s maintenance supply chain, companywide purchasing and procurement and fuel management functions.

In Southwest’s operational group, Greg Wells has been promoted to SVP-operational performance. Brian Hirshman, previously Southwest’s SVP-technical operations, will take Wells’ former position of SVP-operations, overseeing Southwest’s technical operations, cargo/charter operations, ground operations and the airline’s operations coordination center.

Within Southwest’s marketing group, Ryan Green was promoted to MD-customer development, reporting to VP and chief marketing officer Kevin Krone. Green was previously Southwest’s senior director of loyalty and partnerships in marketing.

via Southwest Airlines announces leadership changes | Finance & Data content from ATWOnline.