Morning Business Memo

Feb 27, 2012 7:43am

Pain at the pumps for U.S. motorists: An increase of about 12 cents a gallon in one week is likely when the U.S. Energy Department releases its latest survey of nationwide gas prices today. The cost of crude oil has jumped from $96 a barrel at the beginning of the month to $109 now.

President Obama is facing pressure from some Democrats to consider releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But energy analysts say that while this move might bring down gas prices for several weeks, it will have little impact on what happens during the summer and fall.

Economists are becoming more confident that the United States will avoid another recession anytime soon. But they’re still cautious about this year’s rate of growth. The latest quarterly survey from the National Association for Business Economics forecasts 2.4 percent growth this year. “This is not gangbusters,” economist Richard DeKaser says of the NABE report. “But it is solid and probably more important is that people are feeling more confident about their forecast.”

The survey says one big difference this year compared to 2011 is an improving jobs market. “Businesses were able to get away without hiring because productivity was so strong,”  DeKaser said. “That’s not the case anymore.”

Americans are spending more on home-improvement projects. Lowe’s Companies Inc. says its 4th quarter profits rose 13 percent on an 11 percent rise in sales. Lowes is the No. 2 home-improvement retail chain. Rival Home Depot Inc. last week said its fourth-quarter profit increased as homeowners spent more on renovation projects.

Politicians in Germany are set to vote on the new rescue package for Greece. The German government is also under growing international pressure to approve an increase for Europe’s bailout fund, aimed at preventing a future debt crisis in another country from spinning out of control.

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