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NEWS FROM THE REGION
Ford’s Focus sedan sees
higher February sales
Edition: 1 Page Name: B 4
Federal safety officials
want changes in how equipment is mounted to overhead
bins on Boeing 737 jets to prevent the 12-pound units from
falling on passengers during
The National Transportation
Safety Board said it was
swayed by evidence from several accidents since 2008 in
which oxygen and ventilation
equipment tore loose and likely
caused head injuries.
The board said in a letter released Friday that the government should require changes in
the design and testing of how
the “passenger service units”
are mounted under overhead
— From staff, wire reports
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Market news on your cell
Go to courier-journal.com/mobile
for daily market news
or stock quotes.
By Marcus Green
The Kentucky State Fair
Board has fired Ted Nicholson,
the general manager of the KFC
Yum! Center, a spokeswoman
The move comes less than a
month before the building at Second and Main streets will be host
of second- and third-round
games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Fair board spokeswoman
Amanda Storment said Nicholson, who was hired in early 2010
and oversaw the arena’s opening,
was let go Monday. She declined
to give the reason for the termination, saying it was a personnel
Attempts to reach Nicholson
on his cellphone were unsuccessful.
Storment would not say who
initiated the move or whether
the position will be filled. She
said other members of the fair
board staff are assuming Nicholson’s duties for now.
Workman declined to be interviewed, Storment said.
The fair board manages the
building, which is home to the
University of Louisville basketball teams, for the Louisville
Arena authority Chairman
Jim Host said he was notified of
Nicholson’s dismissal in an email
sent by Workman Monday to
members of the authority and
“It’s certainly troublesome to
me, especially since there was no
communication with anybody on
the arena authority board before
it happened,” Host said. “I’ve got
to find out more facts before I
can comment further.”
Nicholson, a former employee of Churchill Downs Inc.,
FEBRUARY 28, 2012
worked in management roles at
Churchill’s racetracks in New
Orleans, suburban Miami and
Arlington Heights, Ill., prior to
his work at the KFC Yum! Center.
In February 2010, The Courier-Journal reported that Nicholson’s annual salary was $150,000,
according to documents obtained under Kentucky’s open
The fair board is anticipating
net income of about $500,000
from arena operations in 2011.
The final year-end results
haven’t been made public.
Reporter Marcus Green can be
reached at (502) 582-4675.
By Tom Krisher
reportedly near deal
Safety officials seek
changes in 737 jet bins
Ford Motor Co. reported
Monday that sales of its compact Focus sedan doubled in
February as consumers traded
into smaller vehicles in response to rising gasoline
Gas prices Monday averaged $3.70 per gallon for regular unleaded nationwide, compared with $3.35 one year ago,
AAA reported on its “Daily
Fuel Gauge Report.”
Focus sales will eclipse
20,000 this month, roughly
twice that of 10,879 in February
2010, Ford reported in a preview of its upcoming announcement of monthly car sales
Volkswagen, Europe’s largest carmaker, is closing in on a
deal to purchase the remaining
50.1 percent stake in Porsche’s
automotive business that it
does not already own, people
familiar with the matter said.
Approval from German tax
authorities is one hurdle to an
agreement, which VW and
Porsche are still negotiating,
the sources said. VW may announce the plan within the next
two weeks, the sources said.
VW has considered alternatives to a 2009 agreement,
which called for a full merger
by the end of 2011, after lawsuits against Porsche in the
U.S. and Germany complicated
the company’s valuation. VW’s
main alternative to the original
merger agreement has been to
exercise options to acquire the
remaining stake in Porsche’s
$5.2 billion, leaving Porsche as
the holding company for the
50.7 percent of Volkswagen’s
common stock that it owns.
Yum Center manager fired
in early 2010
Average price per
gallon of regular
gas in Louisville
$3.71 $3.73 $3.72
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, as stocks pulled back from some
of their highest levels in 3½ years. AP
Dow slips, slides,
stays below 13,000
By Joshua Freed
The Dow Jones industrial average narrowly missed 13,000.
A burst of selling at the closing bell drove the Dow lower after it hovered around the milestone for most of the afternoon.
The average finished the day
about 19 points shy of the mark.
The Dow broke through
13,000 several times last week
but hasn’t closed above that level since May 19, 2008, four
months before the fall of Lehman Brothers investment bank
and the worst of the financial
For the day, the Dow lost 1.44
points and closed at 12,981.51.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index
rose 1.85 points to 1,367.59, a 3½year high. The Nasdaq composite index rose 2.41 points to close
The Dow fell 100 points at the
open Monday, then climbed
back above 13,000 after a report
that the number of Americans
who signed contracts to buy
homes rose in January to the
highest in almost two years.
The National Association of
Realtors said its index of sales
agreements rose 2 percent last
month to a reading of 97, the
highest since April 2010.
A reading of 100 is considered healthy.
Scott Wren, senior equity
strategist for Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis, said investors
have gotten ahead of themselves
since October. The S&P 500 is up
8.8 percent this year alone.
He said he thinks U.S. economic growth is likely to be a
mild 2 percent this year, there
are fewer people working now
than there were at the end of
2007, and Europe may be in a recession.
“I don’t see any reason for the
market to be on some incredible
run,” he said.
The price of oil fell below
$109 a barrel as investors
booked profits after a 14 percent
gain this month driven by signs
of an improving U.S. economy
and fears of an Iranian supply
Government figures show
that growth in demand for crude
oil has slowed in the U.S. from a
year earlier, although some oil
traders are betting a strengthening economy will eventually
“Four dollar gas, that’s not
going to really shut down the
economy,” said Wren of Wells
Fargo.$5, $6 gas, that’s a different story.”
Rise in home sales contracts
another good sign for market
By Derek Kravitz
WASHINGTON — The number
of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose in January to the highest level in nearly
two years, supporting the view
that the housing market is gradually coming back.
The National Association of
Realtors said Monday that its index of sales agreements rose 2
percent last month to a reading
of 97. That’s the highest reading
since April 2010, the last month
that buyers could qualify for a
federal home-buying tax credit
and the last time the reading was
A reading of 100 is considered healthy.
The Realtors’ group also released revised data for 2011.
That lowered November’s initial
19-month high of 100.1 to 96.9.
But contracts have been mark-
edly up since the summer, when
some feared a second recession
Contract signings typically
indicate where the housing market is headed. There’s a one- to
two-month lag between a signed
contract and a completed deal.
A sale isn’t final until a mortgage is closed. One-third of
Realtors complain that they’ve
had at least one contract scuttled in January, December, November and October, according
to the Realtors’ group. That’s up
from 18 percent of Realtors in
Nonetheless, the gain in
signed contracts supports other
evidence of improvement in the
Pierre Ellis, an economist at
Decision Economics, said home
sales and building is in the midst
of “ongoing general, but gentle,
Builders are growing more
optimistic after seeing more
people express interest in buying this year. Sales of previously
occupied homes are at their
highest level since May 2010.
More first-time buyers are making purchases. And the supply of
homes fell last month to its lowest point in nearly seven years,
which could push home prices
Homes are the most affordable they’ve been in decades.
And mortgage rates have never
Much of the optimism has
come because hiring has picked
up. More jobs are critical to a
“Easier mortgage lending
criteria, very low rates and the
improving labor market are all
contributing to the beginnings
of a real upturn in home sales, if
not yet prices,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at
High Frequency Economics.
DETROIT — Auto sales are
growing so fast that Detroit can
barely keep up.
Three years after the U.S. auto industry nearly collapsed,
sales of cars and trucks are surging. Yearly sales could top 14 million, well above last year’s 12.8
The result: Carmakers are
adding shifts and hiring thousands of workers around the
country. Carmakers and parts
companies added more than
38,000 jobs last year, reaching a
total of 717,000. Automakers have
announced plans to add 13,000
more this year.
Ford has said that by August it
may employ as many as 4,200
people to make the 2013 Escape at
the Louisville Assembly Plant on
Fern Valley Road, following a
renovation of the factory that
cost more than $600 million.
But there’s a downside. The
success is straining the Detroit
automakers’ factory network, as
well as the companies that make
the thousands of parts that go
into each vehicle. This could lead
to shortages that drive up prices.
And it also has auto executives
in a quandary. They got into trouble in the first place largely because their costs were too high.
Now, they fear adding too many
Ford, for instance, is “squeezing every last component, transmission, engine out of the existing brick and mortar,” says Jim
Tetreault, vice president of
North America manufacturing.
Still, the surge in hiring bolsters the argument of those who
supported the federal bailout of
General Motors and Chrysler in
2008. The bailout has been a major issue leading up to today’s
Michigan Republican Party primary. Republican Mitt Romney
opposed the bailout, which was
supported by then-President
George W. Bush and later by
President Barack Obama.
The hiring is good news for
communities that saw hundreds
of thousands of manufacturing
jobs disappear. Starting in 2005,
GM, Ford and Chrysler closed 28
factories and eliminated 88,000
jobs. Parts companies cut an additional 234,000.
Now, if sales hit 15 million by
2015, as some experts predict, the
three Detroit automakers could
hire 20,000 more people, predicts
Sean McAlinden, chief economist
for the Center for Automotive
Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Foreign carmakers are also
shifting production to the U.S. because of higher sales and the
weak dollar, which cuts the profits they get from selling vehicles
exported to America. Nissan is
adding workers in Tennessee.
Toyota just hired staff at a new
plant in Blue Springs, Miss. Honda is hiring in Alabama and Ohio.
Hyundai can’t meet demand for
some models such as the Sonata