Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Tue, June 05, 2012

LSU Shreveport chancellor retires; provost to fill in on interim basis

LSU Shreveport Chancellor Vincent Marsala is retiring after a 45-year career with the university, including 17 years as chancellor, LSUS announced this morning. "During his years as chancellor, he served with dedication, distinction, and determination notwithstanding the tremendous challenges, financial and otherwise, that he faced during his term of office," says Interim LSU System President William Jenkins in a prepared statement. Jenkins says he has appointed Paul Sisson, 47, LSUS provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, to serve as interim chancellor until a permanent replacement for Marsala, 76, is named. He adds the process to find Marsala's successor would get under way with the start of the fall semester in September. Marsala was serving as LSUS dean of continuing education and public service in May 1995 when he was tapped by then–LSU System President Allen Copping to become chancellor, succeeding John Darling, who stepped aside to rejoin the faculty. At the time, the Monroe native was also an elected Caddo Parish commissioner. Marsala and his wife, Carol Ann, plan to make their retirement home in Shreveport. Read more about Marsala's retirement and Sisson's interim appointment at the LSUS website here.

Louisiana GDP grew by 0.5% in 2011

Following a surge of growth in 2010, Louisiana's real growth domestic product last year grew by a modest 0.5%—a middle-of-the-pack rate for the southeastern region of the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The tepid growth was nonetheless ahead of rates seen in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Virginia, according to a report by the department's Bureau of Economic Analysis, while keeping pace with Florida and Kentucky. West Virginia led the pack with 4.5% growth. Among the 12 states in the region, Louisiana ranked No. 6 in dollars of GDP in 2011: $205.8 billion. Florida led the region with $661 billion. Louisiana had made a 9.4% change in growth in 2010, with $204.8 billion compared to $187.2 billion in 2009. Real GDP across the United States grew by 1.5% in 2011 after a 3.1% increase in 2010, according to the report, which can be read in its entirety here.

IberiaBank bank gets green light to buy Florida bank

Lafayette-based Iberiabank Corp. has received approval from state and federal regulators to buy Florida Gulf Bancorp Inc. and Florida Gulf Bank. IberiaBank announced the proposed $43.7 million cash-and-stock deal in March. Florida Gulf Bancorp is the holding company of Florida Gulf Bank. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions have signed off on the acquisition, leaving just the Florida Gulf Bancorp shareholders left to approve the deal. As of March 31, Florida Gulf Bancorp had total assets of $376 million, $302 million in deposits and $248 million in net loans. IberiaBank Corp., the holding company of IberiaBank, had total assets of $11.8 billion. The company has 266 offices, including 175 branches in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas and Florida.

Fletcher fallout: Louisiana auditor criticizes pension funds

The Louisiana state legislative auditor has issued a report criticizing investment practices of three public pension systems that together invested $100 million in a Fletcher Asset Management fund, which a court recently ordered liquidated. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the report found, among other issues, that the funds didn't adequately document whether they would be able to liquidate each investment in their portfolio at a fair market price and within a reasonable time frame. The three funds have combined assets of more than $2 billion, as of June 30, 2011, according to the report. The report notes that three pension funds—the Firefighters' Retirement System of Louisiana, the Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Louisiana and the New Orleans Firefighters' Pension and Relief Fund—have been trying to recoup money from their investment with Fletcher for more than a year. Last July, Louisiana lawmakers requested a review of the investment practices and procedures of all of the retirement systems in the state advised by Memphis, Tenn.-based firm Consulting Services Group after concerns emerged about the investment with Fletcher. CSG had recommended the investment with Fletcher, a New York-based hedge-fund firm. In responses to the auditor included in the report, officials from the retirement systems stood behind their investment practices and decisions, but also said some documentation could be improved. Representatives for the funds didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from The Wall Street Journal. Read the full story here.

Rally, petitions for 'Times-Picayune' not likely to stave off cuts

Hundreds of people, some wearing shirts emblazoned with The Times-Picayune logo and carrying protest signs, gathered in the parking lot of Rock 'n' Bowl in New Orleans on Monday for a rally in support of the newspaper and its employees. A host of business and civic leaders—including the heads of Ochsner Health System and Entergy New Orleans Inc.—also signed their names to a letter urging Advance Publications Inc., the owner of The Times-Picayune, to rethink its plan to cut publication of the city's only daily newspaper to three days a week. The Times-Picayune reports more than 70 community members and organizations, organized as the Times-Picayune Citizens Group, say their purpose is to "ensure the continuation of the delivery of a high-quality, seven-day-a-week newspaper, with access to the entire community." Meanwhile, a petition titled "Save The Times-Picayune!" on change.org had more than 3,600 signatures as of this morning. But the strong show of support for the newspaper is not likely to change the plan under way, says Ricky Mathews, who will take the reins as publisher of the paper later this year. He says Advance Publications is not interested in selling the paper and believes the new digital focus is the best way to sustain the publication over time. The change will make New Orleans the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper. Staff cuts have yet to be made but are expected to be announced soon. Read the full story here.

Slight expansion of U.S. service companies seen in May

U.S. service companies, which employ roughly 90% of the workforce, expanded at a slightly faster pace in May, marking the 29th straight month of expansion. The Institute for Supply Management reports this morning that its index of non-manufacturing activity edged up to 53.7 last month from an April reading of 53.5. The May reading was slightly below the long-run average for the index of 53.9. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. The ISM survey covers all sectors outside of manufacturing, including retail, construction, financial services, health care and hotels. The ISM's manufacturing index, released last week, showed that manufacturing grew more slowly in May, hampered by weak hiring and declining production. Nevertheless, new manufacturing orders hit a 13-month high—a hopeful sign. The service sector includes low-paying positions in retail and restaurants; but it also has higher-paying jobs in professions such as information technology, accounting and financial services. The ISM's service index reached the highest point in 12 months in February, when its reading was 57.3.

News roundup: Chatter about Jindal as Romney's VP choice continues … China natural gas demand to double by 2017, IEA says … Wisconsin voters making history today

In plain sight: The Los Angeles Times reports its likely presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a Harvard-trained analyst, will choose as a running mate someone of national stature who meets the qualifications he has presumably laid out already for his search team: government experience, conservative credentials, keen intelligence, good judgment, and the potential to help the ticket in November. "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal fits that profile," the newspaper says. "He's been mentioned, but he's only getting a fraction of the attention that Rubio, Portman, Ryan and Christie are receiving. That may be about to change, however." Read the full story here to find out why.

Fuel forecast: Global demand for natural gas will likely grow 17% over the next five years as Chinese consumption doubles, the International Energy Agency reports today. China's demand for natural gas should expand by 13% every year through 2017, while U.S. consumption will probably grow 13% total by 2017, the Paris-based IEA says. It forecast European demand to increase by 7.9%. "Asia will by far be the fastest growing region, driven primarily by China, which will emerge as the third-largest gas user by 2013," says the IEA, which is made up of 28 countries, including the United States and most European nations. Read the full story here.

At the polls: Regardless of the outcome, Wisconsin voters will make history today. Either Gov. Scott Walker will become only the third governor in U.S. history to be removed from office before his term is up, or he'll be the first to survive such a challenge, as the Wisconsin State Journal reports. The vote is a rematch of Walker's 2010 race against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. While polls leading up to today have shown Walker ahead—but within the margin of error—both sides agree turnout is key. Read the full story here.

Today's poll question: If you were voting in Wisconsin's gubernatorial recall election today, whom would you support?

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