By ADAM SCHRECK, AP Business Writer
1 hour, 3 minutes ago
NEW YORK - Oil prices made their biggest single-day leap ever Friday, dragging the Dow Jones industrials down nearly 400 points and raising the once-unthinkable prospect of $150 oil and more record gas prices by the Fourth of July.
The meteoric rise of nearly $11 for the day piled atop an increase of almost $5.50 the day before, taking oil futures more than 13 percent higher in just two days, easily a record on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
And those weren't the only stunning numbers of the day: The government also reported the nation's unemployment rate zoomed to 5.5 percent in May, a monthly rise of half a percentage point, the biggest in 22 years.
Oil settled at $138.54, a rise of more than 8 percent. The surged came after Morgan Stanley analyst Ole Slorer predicted strong demand in Asia and tight supplies in the Western Hemisphere could drive prices to $150 by Independence Day, when millions of Americans take to the roads.
That means no end in sight for spiraling gas prices, already above $4 per gallon in much of the country.
Even longtime market observers were shocked by the magnitude and speed of oil's rally.
"We're into unchartered territory, and somewhat off the map as far as historical precedents are concerned," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Ill.
Besides the jump in the unemployment rate, the Labor Department said employers had cut 49,000 jobs in May, the fifth straight month of nationwide losses. Job losses for the year reached 324,000.
The White House said President Bush was considering further plans to help energize the economy, already teetering on the edge of recession and crippled by a tumbling housing market and other factors.
On Wall Street, the Dow plunged 394.64 points, more than 3 percent, to close at 12,209.81, the biggest drop in more than 15 months in both percentage and points terms.
Wall Street had managed to shrug off oil's advance on Thursday but succumbed to extreme anxiety Friday.
The stock market's great concern of late has been whether consumers would curb their spending on non-essentials as they were forced to pay more for gas and other staples.
The previously unthinkable idea of $150 oil, and gasoline that will keep climbing above $4, made it clear to investors that consumers would be forced to be even more conservative than they have been in recent months.
Before Thursday, oil had receded nearly $13 a barrel from its highs, a respite from its nearly record-every-day march. But the end of the week sent it right back up again.
The burst in oil prices also raised the prospect of accelerating inflation by adding to already strained transportation costs — which will send prices higher throughout the economy.
Light, sweet crude for July delivery officially finished the day at $138.54, up $10.75 on the Nymex. But after the settlement, the contract jumped as high as $139.12. Prices hit a previous record of $135.09 a barrel on May 22, and settled Thursday at $127.79.
Traders also zeroed in on remarks by an Israeli Cabinet minister who was quoted as saying his country will attack Iran if it doesn't abandon its nuclear program. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz added that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "will disappear before Israel does," the Yediot Ahronot daily reported.
Iran is the second-biggest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and traders worry that any conflict with Israel could disrupt global supplies.
A further weakening of the dollar also helped send oil prices higher by enticing overseas buyers armed with stronger currencies and others looking for a hedge against the greenback. But it also represented a stampede by bullish traders and optimistic computer models betting that prices still have further to rise.
"The bulls ... refuse to go away," said Stephen Schork, an analyst and trader in Villanova, Pa.
Meanwhile, U.S. gas prices at the pump continued to hover just shy of an average $4 a gallon, easing only 0.3 cent from Thursday's record.
Drivers are now paying an average of $3.99 for a gallon of regular gas nationwide, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service; in many parts of the country, consumers are already paying well over $4. Retail diesel slipped a penny overnight to $4.76.
Pump prices are bound to rise even further if oil sustains its advance. James Cordier, president of Tampa, Fla.-based trading firm Liberty Trading Group, predicted prices could rise to $4.25 as early as the end of the month.
"Unfortunately, drivers cutting back isn't going to lower the price of gasoline anytime soon," he said.
The dramatic reversal in what had been a weakening oil market began Thursday after ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet suggested the bank could raise interest rates and the euro climbed against the dollar. When interest rates rise in Europe, or fall in the U.S., the dollar tends to weaken against the euro.
Many traders buy commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation when the dollar is falling, and a weaker dollar makes oil cheaper for investors dealing in other currencies. Analysts believe the dollar's protracted decline has been a major reason why oil prices have nearly doubled in the past year.
The euro strengthened further against the greenback Friday. A Labor Department report showing the U.S. unemployment rate jumped half a percentage point to 5.5 percent last month — its biggest monthly increase since 1986 — could drag the dollar even lower in the days ahead.
"Unemployment jumping as it did today will be in the market for a long time and will continue to pressure the U.S. dollar," Cordier said.
The influx of so much fresh money into the energy markets has caught the attention of federal watchdogs. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission recently said it was six months into a probe of U.S. oil markets focused on possible price manipulation.
Asked about Friday's surge, CFTC spokesman R. David Gary said: "People are aware of what's happening and are monitoring the markets closely, but beyond that there is no comment."
In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures jumped 29.32 cents to settle at $3.974 a gallon, while gasoline prices rose 21.35 cents to settle at $3.548 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 17.4 cents to settle at $12.693 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, July Brent crude shot up $10.15 to settle at $137.69 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Biggest jobless jump since '86 —
Wall Street sinks
By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer
Fri Jun 6, 4:17 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Pink slips piled up and jobs disappeared into thin air in May as the nation's unemployment rate zoomed to 5.5 percent in the biggest one-month jump in decades. Wall Street swooned, and the White House said President Bush was considering new proposals to revive the economy.
Help-wanted signs are vanishing along with jobs, so the unemployment rate is likely to keep climbing, a government report indicated, underscoring the toll the housing and credit crises are taking on jobseekers, employers and the economy as a whole.
Adding to the pain, oil prices soared to a new record high, while the value of the dollar fell.
The Dow Jones industrials tumbled almost 400 points.
The White House snapped into crisis-management mode. The president is now considering further plans to help energize the economy, which had already been teetering on the edge of recession, said counselor Ed Gillespie. Bush acknowledged, "This is a time of turbulence in the housing market and slow growth for our overall economy."
Pounded by soaring energy prices and plagued by uncertainty, nervous employers clamped down further on hiring in May.
Friday's Labor Department report was filled with sobering numbers:
• Employers eliminated 49,000 jobs in May, the fifth straight month of nationwide losses.
• The number of unemployed people grew by 861,000 — to 8.5 million.
• Job losses for the year reached 324,000.
Longer unemployment lines mean even more angst for those seeking work.
Barbara Bowens, 52, of Washington, D.C., has been laid off from a janitorial job since March. The prospects of finding a new job "don't look so good," she said. "I can't pay bills off nothing." Collecting unemployment benefits helps, but "I've got to pinch pennies."
Cheryl Williams, who lives in the Tulsa, Okla., suburb of Broken Arrow, has been looking for work for two years after losing her job as a certified nurse's aide. The 37-year-old relies on $225 a month in welfare and odds-and-ends jobs to support her two kids.
"I have job searched and job searched and job searched," Williams said. "I would like to have a real job."
Just in the past several days General Motors Corp., United Airlines and others have joined the flurry of job-cut announcements.
The unemployment rate shot up from 5 percent in April, reflecting more workers losing their jobs as well as an influx of young people looking for work. It was the biggest over-the-month swing in the rate since February 1986. The increase left the jobless rate at its highest since October 2004.
The unemployment rate for blacks climbed to 9.7 percent, the highest since late 2005. The rate for teenagers rose to 18.7 percent, the highest in five years. The rate for Hispanics held steady at 6.9 percent.
Economists believe the 5.5 percent nationwide unemployment rate may overstate the weakness in the job market. But they still say it's heading higher. Some predict it will hit 6 percent or higher early next year.
"Employers are uncertain about where the economy is going, so they are more cautious than they would normally be in pulling the hiring trigger," said Tig Gilliam, chief executive officer of Adecco North America, a placement and recruiting firm.
Both employers and workers, he said, are now inclined to look locally. The housing bust has made it difficult for people to sell their homes and relocate for new jobs. And galloping gas prices are making some jobseekers draw a line on commuting longer distances.
Drivers are now paying an average of $3.99 for a gallon of regular gas nationwide, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service; in many parts of the country, the price is already well over $4. Oil prices had been easing but surged higher on Friday, climbing above $139 a barrel at one point.
The 5.5 percent jobless rate is actually moderate by historical standards. Yet, there were harsh cuts last month as employers reduced jobs in manufacturing, construction, retailing and professional and businesses services. Those losses swamped gains elsewhere, including in the education and health fields, government, and leisure and hospitality, according to Friday's Labor Department report.
The jump in unemployment reflected more workers losing their jobs as well as an increase in those coming into the job market — especially younger people — to look for work, Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
A year ago, the number of unemployed stood at 6.9 million and the jobless rate was 4.5 percent.
The country's economic problems are a top concern for voters — and thus for Bush, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and candidates vying to win the White House this fall.
Barack Obama, the likely Democratic nominee, called the employment figures "deeply troubling," while Republican rival John McCain said they were a "stark reminder of the economic challenges facing American families." Both candidates pledged to turn around the economy.
Bush said the employment snapshot was "clearly a sign that is consistent with slow economic growth.
Employers — and the public — have been shaken by lots of talk about whether the economy is on the brink of or has fallen into its first recession since 2001. That determination, made by a panel of academics, is usually made well after the fact.
"For the average American there is not debate that the economy is in a recession," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. "That's because their net worth is lower, their purchasing power is lower and it is tough to find a job. If you lose a job, it is tough to get back in," he said.
Workers with jobs did see modest gains in May.
Average hourly earnings rose to $17.94, up 0.3 percent from April. Over the past 12 months, wages have grown by 3.5 percent.
Still, with lofty food and energy prices, paychecks aren't stretching as far. Although tax rebates helped to energize shoppers and give retailers better sales in May, the weakening job market could make people feel less inclined to spend, which would put a damper on overall economic growth.
Associated Press writers Christine Simmons in Washington and Justin Juozapavicius in Tulsa contributed to this report.
GM closing 4 truck and SUV plants in North America
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
(06-03) 09:34 PDT Wilmington, Del. (AP) --
General Motors is closing four truck and SUV plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, affecting 10,000 workers, as surging fuel prices hasten a dramatic shift to smaller vehicles.
CEO Rick Wagoner said Tuesday before the automaker's annual meeting in Delaware the plants to be idled are in Oshawa, Ontario; Moraine, Ohio; Janesville, Wis.; and Toluca, Mexico. He also said the iconic Hummer brand will be reviewed and potentially sold or revamped.
Wagoner said the GM board has approved production of a new small Chevrolet car at a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, in mid-2010 and production of the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle in Detroit.
Wagoner announced the moves in response to slumping sales of pickups and SUVs brought on by high oil prices. He said a market shift to smaller vehicles is permanent.
GM shares rose 43 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $17.87 in midday trading.
The cuts will affect 10,000 hourly and salaried workers. Many will be able to take openings created when 19,000 more U.S. hourly workers leave later this year through early retirement and buyout offers.
Wagoner said the company has no plans to allocate products to the four plants in the future.
"We really would not foresee the likely prospect of new products in the plants that we're announcing today that we'll cease production in," he told a Moraine, Ohio, city official who asked a question in a telephone conference call.
More cuts will be announced later. Wagoner said GM will consolidate engine, transmission and other parts operations to go with the assembly plant actions.
The actions add to a string of plant closures by the Big Three in the last several years. GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC have announced the shutdown of 35 plants since 2005, according to Sean McAlinden, chief economist with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. Along with 35 additional closures at GM and Ford's chief suppliers, Delphi Corp. and Automotive Components Holdings LLC, he said the total hourly and salaried jobs eliminated comes to 149,000.
In that same time period, foreign automakers have built or announced plans to build five U.S. assembly plants, he said. In 2007, foreign auto companies employed 113,000 people in the U.S., a number McAlinden projects will rise to 152,000 by 2011.
The Oshawa truck plant, which builds the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, likely will be shuttered next year. The Moraine plant near Dayton, will stop making Chevy TrailBlazer and other mid-size SUVs in 2010 "or sooner if demand dictates," Wagoner said. In Janesville, the plant that builds medium-duty trucks and big SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe, will cease production starting at the end of 2009, finishing in 2010 or sooner if demand stays weak. In Toluca, production of medium-duty trucks will end by the end of 2008, Wagoner said.
The moves will save the company $1 billion per year starting in 2010. Combined with previous efforts, GM by 2011 will have cut costs by $15 billion a year over in 2005, Wagoner said.
Canadian Auto Workers President Buzz Hargrove said GM's decision to close its Oshawa truck plant betrays the labor agreement reached two weeks ago. He said the union will consider all options, including a strike.
GM committed to keep the plant of 2,600 people open throughout the three-year agreement, Hargrove said.
Wagoner said General Motors Corp.'s board approved the production schedule of the Chevrolet Volt, and the company plans to bring the plug-in electric car to showrooms by the end of 2010.
Fully charged, the Volt could drive about 40 miles without using any gasoline, and a small conventional engine would recharge the vehicle, extending its range and allowing it to get the equivalent of 150 miles per gallon. GM plans to sell about 100,000 Volts a year by 2012.
Wagoner said the change in the U.S. market to smaller vehicles likely is permanent. "We at GM don't think this is a spike or a temporary shift," Wagoner said.
On the Hummer, Wagoner said GM is "undertaking a strategic review of the Hummer brand, to determine its fit with GM's evolving product portfolio" in light of changing market conditions.
"At this point, we are considering all options for the Hummer brand... everything from a complete revamp of the product lineup to partial or complete sale of the brand," he said.
Detroit's automakers have been making the shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles, but not at the pace that matches consumers' drive to hybrids and high mileage models made overseas. Gas prices have accelerated the retreat from trucks and sport utility vehicles, leaving the Big Three at the most critical crossroads in 30 years.
The U.S. market is difficult for every automaker, with consumer confidence weak and 2008 sales expected to be the lowest in more than a decade. But it is most difficult for the Detroit Three, who have relied more heavily on sales of trucks and SUVs than their foreign counterparts. Trucks make up 70 percent of Chrysler LLC's U.S. sales, for example, compared to 41 percent at Toyota Motor Corp.
GM President and Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson said the new small car to be built in Lordstown would get 9 miles per gallon better fuel economy than the company's current small cars, the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 when equipped with a manual transmission. The most efficient Cobalt now gets 36 miles per gallon on the highway, although Henderson would not give a total mileage number.
It would be powered by a 1- to 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that could be turbocharged for additional power, GM said. The new engine would be built in Flint.
Henderson said the plant closure measures would reduce the company's capacity to produce pickups and large SUVs by 700,000 per year, about 35 percent.
He also said GM is planning for gasoline prices to stay around $4 per gallon for the foreseeable future, "with a bias upwards."
When asked if GM should have moved more quickly to smaller vehicles, Henderson said he doesn't spend time looking in the rearview mirror.
"There's not much I can do about what I didn't do in the past," he said.
Pete Hastings, senior analyst with Memphis, Tenn.-based Morgan Keegan & Co., said GM's moves are painful yet prudent.
"It's a permanent shift, and they're right to recognize it," he said. "But is it enough? It's a bit early to tell. ... That's the hard part of gauging where we are in the economy — and how deep or strong the shift in demand is for more fuel-efficient vehicles."
Analyst Kevin Tynan of New York-based Argus Research Corp. said the Detroit Three automakers have been "caught with the market running away from them." While he recognizes GM's plight and efforts to overcome it, he still questions the aggressive push to market with the Volt, which is demanding heavy investment at a time when money is tight.
"It's very bad timing, very late in the game to be making big bets," he said. "At the same time, you don't have a choice."
The announcement is an economic blow to Janesville, which long has been entwined with automaking. The sprawling GM plant has survived the Depression, a world war and GM's major layoffs in the 1980s, but it will not escape the latest round of corporate belt-tightening.
"There were some tears and a lot of people were kind of ticked off, but it's part of the business," said Scott Lambert, 39, who has worked at the plant for 13 years.
He said he was headed to buy an atlas to figure where other GM plants were that might be hiring.
The plant, GM's oldest, opened in 1919 and long was the largest employer in Janesville, a city of 60,000 about 100 miles northwest of Chicago. But cutbacks have shrunk the work force to about 2,600, so it's no longer the city's biggest employer.
Detroit-based GM also has just emerged from a spate of labor problems, with two local union strikes at key factories and a nearly three-month strike at key parts maker American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc.
GM said in a recent regulatory filing the strikes will cost it a total of $2 billion before taxes in the second quarter.
AP Business Writers Emily Fredrix in Janesville, Wis., and Jeff Karoub in Detroit and AP Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit and Associated Press Writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.
Gee, thanks for that miserable early June update BA, we got a whole lot to look forward to, don't WE??? why you forgot to mention the outbreak of BIRD FLU, AND MAD COW DISEASE in the poultry and beef industry coming soon, and why your on this MISERY UPDATE, how bout the fact that when the SHTF, how do you suppose "the boys" over in IRAQ are gonna get home? I told you, and I'll say it again, THOSE SOLDIERS (OVER 130,000) IN THE MIDDLE-EAST, ARE NEVER COMING HOME!!
Cause I knew you would mention those things such as Bird Flu and Mad Cow Disease and, certainly, RR, you've started more than enough, as you say, MISERY THREADS on this site.
I'm reporting the facts.
Rising gas prices, robbed us of our retirement funds during the internet boom, real estate foreclosures, SUV plants closing, jobless rate higher than in 1986, outsourcing, recession.
Remember those good ole' days when people were hired by a company, stayed with them for life, retired with a pension, had benefits.
Those days haven't existed for a very long time.
Jobs being taken over by machines, can't forget that.
So, if we're attacked again from the inside, where is our military?
Overseas defending the interests of the powers that be and leaving us naked.
Their job is to protect and defend the citizens of the United State's of America first and foremost, but, instead they are used as pawns for the Banksters.
They take an oath, a vow and a pledge to do so thinking, all the while, this is their JOB.
They are patriots.
They give of their lives to KEEP US SAFE, but instead are sent to foreign and distant lands based on lies. They are killed, wounded and maimed all in the name of MONEY and POWER for those who could care less about their lives as long as it is not their sons/daughters/mothers or fathers who are in the line of fire.
They work for the Military Industrial Complex and the Military Industrial Complex does not exist for the people of this country.
They exist for the CONTROLLERS.
I guess it doesn't that our military has been shattered/thinned at home because even though our military was not deployed overseas on 911, they weren't anywhere in sight until it was too late because a STANDDOWN was called.