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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

FOXNews.com - North Carolina State Trooper Shot and Killed at Traffic Stop - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

Lt. Everett Clendenin, public information officer for the patrol, said in a news release that the trooper had stopped a vehicle in the eastbound lanes of I-40 near exit 31 at around 10:20 p.m.

Patrol First Sgt. S.D. Greene confirmed early Wednesday morning that Trooper David Shawn Blanton Jr., 24, was shot and died after he was taken to Mission Hospitals in Asheville. Greene said a passerby called to report that Blanton had been shot.

Blanton, who grew up in Sylva, was a two-year veteran of the patrol. He was married and had one child.

Blanton is the 59th trooper to die in the line of duty since the patrol was formed in 1929, and the first to be killed since 1997.

Lt. A.J. Dickey, who is based with the Highway Patrol in Asheville, told the Asheville Citizen-Times that Blanton stopped the eastbound vehicle for a traffic violation, but it's unknown what the violation was. Blanton got the driver out of the vehicle and an altercation followed. Dickey said the man shot Blanton twice, once in the shoulder and another bullet grazed his wrist.

Dickey said it was not clear whose gun was used to shoot the trooper, who was wearing a bulletproof vest.

The newspaper reported that after Blanton was shot, the man fled in his vehicle and immediately left I-40 at exit 31. He turned left on N.C. 215, where Haywood County sheriff's deputies and Canton police officers located him a short distance up the road, Dickey said. He was taken to the Haywood County jail.

Clendenin said the unidentified suspect was from Florida and was driving to Tennessee. No one at the jail could be reached for comment early Wednesday morning.

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The Associated Press: 1 charged, 3 others sought in Fla. mall shooting

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Police say one man is behind bars in connection with a shooting at a Florida shopping mall.

Police are looking for three other suspects in the shooting at the Lakeland Square mall, which sent one person to the hospital Tuesday. The victim, 18-year-old Andre Maurice Warner, is in stable condition.

Police say 18-year-old Ariel Scott is charged with attempted murder, shooting in an occupied dwelling and carrying a concealed firearm. He is due in court Thursday.

Reached by phone, his mother declined comment.

Shots were fired Tuesday afternoon inside the mall near the food court. Police have not determined a motive. Lakeland is about 40 miles west of Tampa.

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Monsanto to donate $1.5M to Midwest flood relief, 9,400 hours of manpower - St. Louis Business Journal:

Monsanto Co. donated $1 million to the American Red Cross to assist in flood relief efforts in Iowa and pledged $500,000 more to other Midwest states that may be affected by floodwaters, the company announced Wednesday.

The company also announced that its 1,180 Iowa-based employees will be offered a full day off with pay to volunteer in support of local flood relief efforts. The company's 1,180 employees at its 20 facilities in Iowa are expected to generate more than 9,400 hours of manpower assistance.

In addition, Monsanto said all donations made by its U.S. employees to the Red Cross are eligible for the company's matching gift program.

"This is a tragic disaster that has impacted tens of thousands of people and their families, from our customers to our colleagues to our neighbors," Hugh Grant, Monsanto chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement. "We're proud to support the Red Cross in these relief efforts and encourage others to commit to this effort."

Earlier this month, Monsanto donated $65,000 to relief and rebuilding efforts in Parkersburg, Iowa, where a recent tornado caused significant damage to the community and killed seven people. Monsanto operates a manufacturing plant in Parkersburg.

St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) develops insect- and herbicide-resistant crops and other agricultural products.

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No recession but very subprime outlook, UCLA report predicts - Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal:

In its second quarterly report of 2008, the UCLA Anderson Forecast cautiously affirms the "no recession" prognostication it has been advocating over the past several quarters but says the housing bust will continue to wreak havoc on the national economy.

At the same time the report also acknowledges that the most recent employment data -- an increase in the unemployment rate from 5 to 5.5 percent -- falls within "recession range."

Recession or not, the Forecast says Gross Domestic Product could dip into the negative range over the next six to nine months.

The Forecast says that real GDP growth from the third quarter of 2007 through the end of 2009 will average "a very tepid" 1.2 percent, adding that "we expect that the current quarter real GDP growth will come in at a minus 0.7 percent and the first quarter of 2009 could be negative as well."

Additionally, unemployment will reach 6 percent by the end of 2009, with a caveat that if the May 5.5 percent unemployment rate is duplicated in June, a 6 percent unemployment rate would come much sooner.

In California, the question is whether or not hard times in the real estate and ancillary sectors have had significant impact on other areas of the state's economy.

The California report states, "There is no generalized spread of contraction to the rest of the economy, then when the [housing, construction and finance] sectors do hit bottom, California will be posed to take off once again."

UCLA Anderson Forecast Economist Jerry Nickelsburg concludes that California's service sectors, the state's traditional economic engines of growth, are still sidestepping the turbulence in the financial, construction and real estate sectors, keeping California's employment growth positive.

He also notes that exports and agriculture, which had not shown much growth recently, are now providing enough additional positive data to also offset the sharp declines in home construction and real estate.

The Forecast predicts a very weak California economy throughout 2008. The strength in exports of both goods and services in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, along with the strength of agriculture in the Central and Salinas valleys, will keep California employment flat the first half of the year, with the unemployment rate topping out at about 6.1 percent by year end.

Residential construction will remain at a very low level throughout next year, while the now permanent job losses in the finance sector must be offset by growth in other areas.

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ABC News: Northwest Announces More Cuts

As the airline industry faces sky-high fuel prices, Northwest Airlines announced tonight that it will make even steeper cuts than initially planned.

Northwest Airlines announced Tuesday, June 17, 2008, that it was cutting the number of DC-9s it flies, from 94 to 61, by the end of the year.

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The carrier announced an 8.5 percent to 9.5 percent reduction in capacity for its mainline network for the fourth quarter of 2008, as compared to the fourth quarter of 2007. Northwest said it plans to reduce its DC-9 fleet from 94 to 61 planes this year.

Given fuel prices and "the potential recession," Northwest CEO Douglas M. Steenland announced the cuts at the Merrill Lynch Global Transportation Conference, saying, "I think the access that Northwest holds positions us as well as anybody."

In the past few months, all the nation's major airlines have decided to cut down on the number of planes they fly, and to cut staff as fuel prices have reached record highs. Besides Northwest, Delta, Continental, US Airways, American and United have also announced reductions in the number of planes they will fly.


Today's cuts include those that the carrier previously announced in April. At that time, Northwest said it would remove 15 to 20 aircraft from service -- two this month and the rest in the fall. At that point, the carrier said that in September, it would reduce domestic system capacity by 5 percent, versus its 2008 business plan.

"We don't anticipate anything in addition, but if fuel continues to be challenging, we will have the wherewithall to take additional action," Steenland said today.

Steenland also said the carrier remains pleased with its spring decision to merge with Delta, and called the potential merger "a game changer" that will make the combined carrier "a long-term player in the business." Given the rising price of fuel, he said the potential merger makes even more sense.

To combat fuel prices, several carriers have recently announced they'll charge extra fees, including requiring passengers to pay for a first-checked bag.

"We continue to study the question of whether there ought to be a fee with the first bag," Steenland said.

Northwest has not yet announced which cities or regions of the country will be affected by the cutbacks.

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LinkedIn's $53M infusion values networking site at $1B - Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal:

Professional online network creator LinkedIn Corp. said Wednesday it received $53 million in new funding that values the company at $1 billion.

The Mountain View-based company said the funding was led by Boston-based Bain Capital Ventures.

Also participating were Sequoia Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners, which have offices in Menlo Park; and Greylock Partners, which has an office in San Mateo.

"This fourth and largest round of funding is based on the company's rapid member growth, multiple business lines and future opportunity," LinkedIn said.

The company's current revenue streams include advertising, subscriptions, job listings and corporate hiring services, and LinkedIn said it is in the process of launching "several new lines of business."

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Bloomberg.com: U.S.

June 18 (Bloomberg) -- FedEx Corp., the second-largest U.S. package-shipping company, reported a fourth-quarter loss and forecast profit that fell short of analysts' estimates, sending the shares down as much as 4.7 percent.

The company had a loss of $241 million on rising fuel costs and a writedown on the FedEx Kinko's unit, and predicted a ``very difficult'' environment.

FedEx has been unable to raise surcharges fast enough to keep pace with fuel costs that have almost doubled the past year, while a cooling U.S. economy is curbing sales of the company's more expensive shipping options. The results at FedEx, often considered a proxy for the U.S. economy, suggest fuel expenses and slowing demand will continue to erode growth prospects in industries ranging from shipping to airlines.

The coming year will be ``very difficult due to the weak U.S. economy and extremely high fuel prices,'' FedEx Chief Financial Officer Alan Graf said in a statement.

The net loss was 78 cents a share, compared with a year- earlier profit of $610 million, or $1.96, the Memphis, Tennessee-based company said today in the statement. Revenue rose 7.8 percent, to $9.87 billion.

Excluding the $891 million charge for the Kinko's unit, which is being renamed FedEx Office, the company's profit was $1.45 a share, which missed the average $1.47 estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

`Uncertain Outlook'

FedEx fell $2.63, or 3.1 percent, to $81.70 at 10:30 a.m. in the New York Stock Exchange composite trading, after dropping to $80.38.

FedEx said fiscal first-quarter earnings would be 80 cents to $1, lower than the $1.34 average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The company said earnings are ``difficult to predict'' because of volatile fuel prices and an ``uncertain economic outlook.''

For the full-year, FedEx said profit will be $4.75 to $5.25 a share, compared with an average estimate of $6.01 by 12 analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

``FedEx is facing significant earnings headwinds from higher fuel prices, weak demand trends in domestic air express, and customer trade down in services,'' Thomas Wadewitz, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a June 13 note to clients. Those pressures will continue ``for at least a few more quarters,'' he said.

FedEx and UPS typically have a two-month lag in recovering fuel expenses through surcharges. Crude oil, from which gasoline and jet fuel are derived, averaged $115 a barrel in the three months ended May 31, up from $63 in the same period a year earlier.

Cheaper Options

FedEx's fuel bill for the fourth quarter surged 54 percent, to $1.39 billion.

The surcharges that FedEx has been able to add so far have hurt demand for express shipments, as some customers downgrade to cheaper options such as two-day shipping or freight. FedEx's fuel surcharge on express packages is 28 percent, up from 18.5 percent in March, according to its Web site.

FedEx's results underscore concerns among economists that higher energy and raw-materials expenses will squeeze profits in more industries as consumers resist price increases. Prices paid to U.S. producers rose more than economists forecast in May as fuel and food costs climbed, a report yesterday from the Labor Department showed.

``Businesses are holding back on passing along the higher costs as demand is slowing,'' said Rudy Narvas, senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York. ``Oil is putting pressure on prices, but the pass-through to consumers is slow.''

Economic Forecast

Economists have cut their U.S. growth forecasts for later this year and next, projecting no quarter will exceed an expansion rate of 2 percent, as job losses, food and fuel prices and tougher lending rules hurt consumers.

Growth for all of 2008 will be 1.5 percent, the slowest since 2001, with next year recording a 1.9 percent gain, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg from June 2 to June 11.

``We continue to see some very uninspiring economic figures from the U.S. that point to some very weak growth,'' said Nicolas Lopez, head of analysis at Mercados & Gestion de Valores in Madrid. He spoke in Spanish in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday. ``It's going to continue for some time.''

UPS lowered its full-year profit forecast in April after reporting only its eighth drop in domestic deliveries in its 101-year history. The company's volumes almost always match or exceed U.S. gross domestic product.

UPS Chief Financial Officer Kurt Kuehn said there are ``no signs of economic strengthening'' for the quarter ending June 30.

FedEx controls about 31 percent of the U.S. package market, behind only UPS's 51 percent share, according to SJ Consulting Group Inc.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: June 18, 2008 10:38 EDT
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Morgan Stanley's profits tumble 57% - Jun. 18, 2008

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Earnings at Morgan Stanley fell by more than half last quarter, hurt by a decline in its investment banking and sales and trading businesses, the company reported Wednesday.

The No. 2 investment bank reported a 57% decline in profits from continuing operations to $1.026 billion, or 95 cents per share, down from $2.363 billion, or $2.24 per share, a year ago.

The results, however, were better than expected on an earnings-per-share basis. Analysts had forecast the company would report a profit of 92 cents a share, according to earnings tracker Thomson Reuters.

Revenue at the firm suffered, falling well short of analysts' estimates. During the quarter, it dropped 38% to $6.5 billion from $10.52 billion a year ago. Analysts had expected sales of $7.05 billion.

Investors were not comforted by the news. Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) shares fell nearly 4% in afternoon trade.

"Morgan Stanley's earnings today suggest that even the most well oiled sports cars face engine troubles from time to time," wrote David Easthope, senior analyst at independent research and consulting firm Celent LLC.

Morgan Stanley's chairman and CEO John Mack blamed tough market conditions and lower levels of client activity, which ended up hurting results in a number of different divisions.

Among the hardest hit was the company's asset management division, which posted a pre-tax loss of $227 million, hurt by losses on investments in real estate and private equity that had helped produce a $303 million profit just a year ago.

The company's fixed income business also got dinged, particularly in sales and trading as well as underwriting. Revenue at its institutional securities business sank to $3.6 billion, less than half of last year's levels of $7.4 billion.

Investment banking revenues slipped as well, falling 49% to $875 million during the quarter.

The company also booked a $519 million loss related to leveraged loans and noted that the performance of its commodities business was hurt by bad bets on electricity and oil.

Morgan Stanley management also took the earnings announcement as an opportunity to reveal that it suffered a $120 million loss after one of its London-based traders mismarked its books.

Colm Kelleher, the company's chief financial officer, said during a conference call with analysts the individual was suspended and that the company was conducting a full internal review of the matter.

Offsetting those woes was a $1.43 billion pre-tax gain from asset sales, which included one of its Spanish wealth management businesses.

But if Morgan Stanley management had a message to deliver Wednesday, it was that it was exercising caution, especially when it came to taking risks.

During the quarter, the company did just that, by shrinking its balance sheet and reducing its leverage.

"We will continue to stay close to shore given the current market conditions and focus on our balance sheet and liquidity," Kelleher told analysts during the conference call.

Wednesday's results, while troubling, are a far cry from where Morgan Stanley was just six months ago. In the fourth quarter, the company posted a $3.59 billion loss -- the first in the company's 72-year history.

But the horizon has looked dreary as of late for Wall Street. Some underwriting activity has slowed, investment banks are relying less on leverage to boost their returns and have been cutting jobs to deal with the credit crisis.

"There is a great deal of market skepticism building for many of these firms," said Dan Alpert, managing director of the boutique New York City-based investment bank Westwood Capital. "To replace their earnings and earnings growth in prior years is going to be incredibly difficult."

Morgan Stanley is the latest investment bank to report this week that its results have taken a hit due to the credit crunch.

Lehman Brothers (LEH, Fortune 500) confirmed its previously announced $2.8 billion second-quarter loss on Monday while its management sought to ease concerns about the firm's underlying health.

And while Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) posted a much better-than-expected $2.1 billion quarterly profit on Tuesday, earnings were still lower than a year ago. Goldman also reported sluggish activity in its investment banking division and suffered a $500 million hedging loss. To top of page

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Bloomberg.com: U.S.

By Amy Thomson

June 18 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp., the third-largest seller of Internet ad space in the U.S., will add television spots to its advertising system by acquiring Navic Networks, stepping up competition with market leader Google Inc.

Navic, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based company with about 110 full-time employees, places ads on TV, directing the spots at users who watch particular types of shows. The companies didn't disclose terms of the deal in a statement today.

The acquisition puts Microsoft in competition with a Google program that lets advertisers create TV commercials and choose the networks and times that they air by filling out an online form. Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, is betting that a combination of online and TV ads will bolster its Internet unit after it dropped a plan to buy Yahoo! Inc.

Navic handles television commercials for companies such as Allstate Corp., Ford Motor Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Nissan Motor Co. Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, will add Navic's sales to the same division that runs its online services, which was the company's only money-losing unit last quarter. The division's loss widened to $228 million in the quarter ended March 31, from $171 million a year earlier.

Microsoft fell 3 cents to $28.77 at 9:45 a.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The stock had dropped 19 percent this year before today. Mountain View, California-based Google, down 18 percent this year, declined $1.70 to $567.76.

Google accounted for 28 percent of the $21.1 billion in U.S. online ad spending last year, according to New York-based research firm EMarketer Inc. Yahoo took 16 percent, while Microsoft accounted for 6.7 percent.

Microsoft walked away from talks to acquire Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo for $47.5 billion on May 3. The acquisition would have tripled Microsoft's share of U.S. search queries. The deal also would have given the company a larger share of the global online advertising market, which Microsoft expects will nearly double to almost $80 billion by 2010.

Yahoo also rejected a separate Microsoft offer for its search business last week, opting instead for a partnership with Google.

To contact the reporter on this story: Amy Thomson in New York at athomson6@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: June 18, 2008 09:46 EDT
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Lower buying costs drive H&M 2Q profits up 14 pct

Shares in Hennes & Mauritz AB rose sharply Wednesday after the Swedish fashion retailer reported a 14 percent increase in second-quarter net profits, boosted by a strong pickup in May sales and lower buying costs.

Europe's second-largest clothing retailer said net profit increased to 3.94 billion kronor ($653 million) in the second quarter from 3.47 billion kroner a year earlier.

H&M shares rose 7.19 percent to 343.00 kronor ($56.87).

The company said the continued weak U.S. dollar led to lower buying costs. This was partly offset by slightly higher discounting and increased transportation costs.

Sales for the period ended May 31 increased by 8 percent to 21.61 billion kronor ($3.6 billion) from 20.05 billion in the same period in 2007.

The result was helped by a strong pickup in sales in May, after weak sales in March and April. Sales for May rose by 25 percent in local currencies compared with the same month last year.

The company said the sales development during the quarter directly coincided with weather conditions and shows how weather-sensitive the textile business is.

Evli Bank analyst Anders Wiklund said the results were much better than forecast.

"It was a very good report overall," he said and added that fears that H&M would build up too much stock due to the low sales in March and April were now gone.

Hennes & Mauritz said overall second-quarter sales in local currencies decreased by 2 percent in stores that have been open for more than a year.

On May 31, the total number of H&M stores had increased to 1,593 from 1,420 a year ago.

The company said it plans to expand the number of stores by a further 139 during the remainder of the year.

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