Business Notes


Oil futures hit record price as dollar declines against euro

Oil futures climbed to a record at almost $143 a barrel Friday as the dollar weakened against the euro, confirming expectations that the falling greenback, a major factor in crude's stratospheric rise, will extend its decline and add to oil's appeal. Light, sweet crude for August delivery rose as high as $142.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange before pulling back sharply in a spate of late-day profit-taking to settle up 57 cents at a record $140.21. On Thursday, the contract shot past $140 and rose more than $5 to a new settlement record. The latest record came as the dollar fell against the euro in afternoon trading, having traded roughly unchanged for much of the day.

Effects of stimulus payments are seen

Millions of economic stimulus payments sent after-tax incomes surging in May by the largest amount since a similar recession-fighting effort by Gerald Ford 33 years ago. All the extra money helped to push consumer spending up by the largest amount in six months, but economists warned that the boost would probably prove short-lived given all the other problems facing consumers at present. The Commerce Department reported Friday that after-tax disposable incomes jumped by 5.7 percent in May, the biggest one-month gain since a 6.3 percent increase in May 1975 when Ford was president. He was fighting a recession that year with a program to mail individual taxpayers $50 checks.

This time around, individual payments range from $300 to $600 with couples getting up to $1,200. In all, $48.1 billion in rebate payments were made in May and through this week, the government announced Friday, payments total $78.3 billion — three-fourths of the $106.7 billion scheduled to be paid to 130 million households. The ­payments are to be completed by mid-July.

Weak economy tough on auto sales

Toyota Motor Corp. could overtake General Motors Corp. in monthly U.S. sales for the first time in June, but the victory could be a hollow one as the weak economy continues to pummel the auto industry and even Toyota struggles to meet U.S. consumers' sudden and insatiable demand for hybrid cars. Analysts are predicting another double-digit dip in June sales, in large part because buyers are shunning big vehicles. Automakers report sales figures Tuesday. J.D. Power and Associates, a marketing and consulting company, predicts the annualized sales rate for June — which shows what sales would be if they continued at the same rate for a full year — could be 12.5 million vehicles. If so, that would be the lowest monthly rate since 1992.

Retail credit card numbers hacked

An old name in retail was hit by a modern scourge — a hack of its customers' credit card numbers — but didn't inform the consumers, revealing how data breaches might be heavily undercounted even with new notification laws. At least 51,000 records were exposed in the breach at the parent company of Montgomery Ward. The venerable Wards chain that began in 1872 went out of business in 2001, but in 2004 a catalog company, Direct Marketing Services Inc., bought the brand name out of bankruptcy. It now runs a Web site along with six other sites, including three with Sears brands it has acquired:, and Direct Marketing Services' CEO, David Milgrom, said the financial company Citigroup detected the computer invasion in December. By going through, another Direct Marketing Services site, hackers had plundered the database that holds account information for all the company's retail properties.

Housing slump hurts KB Home's revenue

KB Home's latest quarterly results capped a week of discouraging trends for the home-building sector Friday. The Los Angeles-based builder reported a larger second-quarter loss and a 55 percent drop in revenue, year over year. And the housing slump continued to eat away at the value of its assets, prompting it to book charges to account for the lower value of unsold homes, joint venture deals and land option contracts. KB also saw sharp declines compared with the year-ago quarter in new orders, home deliveries, average selling price, and the value of its backlog of homes.

Compiled from wire reports