This Morning's Headlines / Wed, December 04, 2013
Lion Copolymer to idle facility on Scenic Highway
Though the local synthetic rubber manufacturing company has provided few details, Lion Copolymer Holdings says it will temporarily close its Baton Rouge facility at 5955 Scenic Highway due to “declining market conditions.” Company officials could not be reached this morning for further comment on how many employees are affected by the closure, which was announced via a news release. “The decision to temporarily discontinue operations of our SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) business is a difficult one, realising the impact to our employees and their families, and to our customers who have been with us for decades,” says Jesse Zeringue, the company’s president, in the release. “Lion will work with its employees during this difficult transition.” The company says its Geismar facility, which employs 113 and completed a $70 million expansion last year, is not affected by the closure in Baton Rouge, the duration of which “is yet to be determined.” “Declining market conditions for domestically produced replacement tires and conveyor belting, global over-capacity of SBR supply and volatility in key raw materials have resulted in unfavorable SBR market conditions in recent years,” Zeringue says. “As a result, Lion’s SBR business has not generated sufficient returns necessary to support the continued reinvestment required to adequately sustain the SBR business.” Established in 1943 by the U.S. government during World War II, the Baton Rouge plant was one of the world’s first commercial producers of synthetic rubber, the release says. —Staff report
Editor: Bus bench flap shows how far B.R. still has to go
On the same day recently, while DDD Executive Director Davis Rhorer was busy getting five new ad-emblazoned bus benches removed from North Boulevard downtown, he was also preparing to go to the airport to pick up esteemed urban planner Andres Duany, the keynote speaker at the annual CPEX Smart Growth Summit. The irony was not lost on Rhorer, says Business Report Editor Stephanie Riegel in her latest column. "Duany, after all, was the mastermind behind Plan Baton Rouge—the 1998 blueprint for the redevelopment of downtown—and the theme of his speech was the progress Baton Rouge has made in the years since the plan's inception," Riegel writes. "Yet 15 years later, just down the street from Town Square—the very embodiment of Duany's New Urbanist vision for downtown—a bus bench with an oversized blue and yellow sign exhorting passersby to 'Advertise Here!' marred the streetscape in front of the stately, red brick First Presbyterian Church. Baton Rouge has come a long way since Plan Baton Rouge, says Riegel, but as the citywide bus bench flap demonstrates, it still has a long ways to go. Read the full column. Send your comments to email@example.com.
Report: La. women earned 72% of what men made on average in 2012
On average, women in Louisiana who had a full-time job last year earned about $573 a week, or about 72% of the $796 that the average man in the state was paid, according to new figures out from the Southwest Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While Louisiana's women-to-men pay ratio has improved since bottoming out in 2009—when women earned 65% of what men were paid on average—the state still trails the U.S. average. Across the country, women were paid about 81% of what men earned last year. In no state did women make more than men on average last year, the report says. They fared the worst in Wyoming—where they made 65.5% as much as men—and best in Arizona, where they earned about 87% as much as men. In 1979, the first year for which comparable earnings data are available, women earned 62% of what men earned. The annual report highlights earnings data from the Current Population Survey, a national monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. See the complete report. —Staff report
La. insurance commissioner says health care fix 'half-baked'
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon believes health care in America needs to be overhauled, but he says the Affordable Care Act of 2010 is not the answer. Speaking on Tuesday to a Rotary club in West Monroe, Donelon—who is also head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners—said: "The system is broke and has to be fixed. It can't be sustained on the course it is presently on. We can't afford it. But this fix was rolled out, in my words, half-baked." Donelon said two versions of the Affordable Care Act were being discussed when U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., died in August 2009 and Democrats lost that Senate seat. Normally those versions go into committee and the law is tweaked to fix problems and then released as one bill. Because Democrats feared a filibuster, Donelon said, "they rushed into law this half-baked, unfinished, unread product that we are now dealing with three years later. This fix may be worse than the broken system was before." He said the Affordable Care Act has good and bad parts and there will be winners and losers under the new law. Read the full story.
Private survey says U.S. companies added 215K jobs last month
A private survey released this morning from payroll processor ADP shows U.S. businesses last month added the most jobs in a year, powered by big gains in manufacturing and construction. ADP—which releases its monthly jobs report prior to the official government report, due out Friday—says American businesses added 215,000 jobs in November. ADP also says private employers added 184,000 jobs in October, much stronger than its initial estimate of 130,000. The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government's more comprehensive report. Last month, the Labor Department reported private businesses added 212,000 jobs in October. Still, the figure suggests that hiring remained healthy in November after picking up in the prior three months. Manufacturing and construction firms each added 18,000 jobs. That was the biggest gain for manufacturers since early this year. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, tells The Associated Press the figures show that employers shook off the partial government shutdown in October and kept hiring, despite a drop in consumer confidence. Moody's helps compile the ADP data. "That's very encouraging as we make our way into next year," Zandi says. Other economists also said the hiring boost was a good sign, but noted that the ADP figures are not always a reliable guide to the government's figure. Read the full story.
News roundup: U.S. trade deficit drops to $40.6 billion in October … EU imposes $2.3 billion in fines over rate-rigging scandal … British government joins BP's fight against contract suspension
By the numbers: The U.S. trade deficit fell in October, helped by America's energy boom that lifted exports to an all-time high. The trade gap narrowed to $40.6 billion in October, the Commerce Department reports this morning. That's 5.4% lower than the September gap of $43 billion, which was higher than initially estimated. Exports rose 1.8% to a record $192.7 billion, buoyed by a 9.3% gain in oil exports. Imports rose 0.4% to $233.3 billion, the highest since March 2012. Oil imports rose 1.5%. Through the first 10 months of the year, oil exports are now up 9.3% compared to 2012 figures through October. Over the same period, oil imports are down 11.1%. The Associated Press has more details in the full story.
Laying down the law: The European Union has fined a group of global financial institutions—including for the first time two American banks—a combined 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) to settle charges they colluded to fix two benchmark interest rates. The settlement, announced by European Union antitrust officials this morning, relates to actions by traders at some of the world's largest banks, including Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland and Deutsche Bank. The banks were accused of fixing rates for the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, as it relates to the Japanese yen and the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor. The New York Times has the full story.
Friends in high places: BP picked up new allies in its fight against a suspension from new U.S. government contracts, as oil industry and business groups filed a legal brief labeling the punishment an "overreach" by the Obama administration. Fuelfix.com reports the British government joined in too, saying the punishment threatens the global economy and may dissuade other companies from accepting responsibility after a crisis. The Environmental Protection Agency barred BP from entering new federal government contracts last November, in response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Read the full story.
Today's poll question: The AMC movie theater at the Mall of Louisiana wants to sell beer, wine and liquor. Do you support the move?
Editor's note: A story ran in Tuesday's Daily Report AM edition regarding efforts by city officials and private civic groups to counter the initiative to incorporate a City of St. George in parts of unincorporated East Baton Rouge Parish. After that item appeared, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation provided the following statement: "The Foundation has no political involvement in the proposal to create St. George as a city. Our only role in this matter is to provide data and research so residents can make decisions based on information."
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