Natural Gas Prices Plunge – Morning Business Memo

Mar 28, 2012 7:55am

Natural gas prices continued to plunge today to a 10-year low. Natural gas futures have been sliced in half since last summer. That’s led to a drop in heating prices for many consumers even as motorists pay more for gas. The price change is leading to a big shakeup in the energy and chemical industries. New EPA rules aimed at limiting carbon emissions also tip the scales away from coal to natural gas power generation.

Up up and away? The high cost of jet fuel may lead to more airline price hikes in the next few months. Rick Seaney, CEO of Farecompare.com tells ABC News it’s a “perfect storm” for consumers. “You have airlines cutting back flights for the past two or three years, you have the economy perking up a bit for summer. I expect to see at least two more hikes before summer.” Five years ago jet fuel took a much smaller bite out airline industry revenues. “Total operating cost was under 20 percent for fuel now it’s closer to 35 percent,” says Seaney

American Airlines is asking a bankruptcy court judge to break its union contracts. The carrier is making good on a threat made last week if it could not get concessions from unions representing pilots flight attendants and ground workers. American plans to cut 13,000 jobs and reduce wages as it emerges from Chapter 11. Other major airlines re-organized in recent years which also led to cost cutting and labor concessions.

Tyson Foods says the negative publicity over “pink slime” has hurt demand for beef and will reduce beef supply in the long term. Tyson’s top executives told investors at a conference they expect demand to recover quickly, but the market will have to adjust. They estimate there will be a 2 to 3 percent reduction in supply. Shrinking supplies traditionally drive up costs for consumers.

Richard Davies, Business Correspondent, ABC NEWS Radio twitter.com/daviesabc

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