Top Morning Business Stories
Gas prices have peaked and are likely to head lower in the next few weeks. Gasoline futures of the NYMEX market fell nearly 20 cents a gallon in the two weeks ending Friday. Wholesale prices are down more than 25 cents since they peaked in late March. It usually takes several weeks for lower futures prices to show up at gas stations. This is a busy week of earnings reports for major oil and gas companies. In 2011, total combined profits of Exxon, Chevron and Conoco Phillips were more than $80 billion.
Big legal headaches at Walmart. The world's largest retailer might face a Justice Department investigation and questions in Congress for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to an investigation by the New York Times, Walmart might have to shut down an internal investigation into a flood of bribery payments by its large Mexican subsidiary. A former senior executive at Walmart de Mexico reported systematic bribery of government officials aimed at expanding the number of stores across Mexico. "We are deeply concerned by these allegations and are working aggressively to determine what happened," the company said in a statement.
How do you feel about your household finances? A new quarterly survey out this morning is the latest report to show a modest improvement. "In April consumers feelings about financial security hit a 17-month high," Greg McBride of Bankrate.com said. "The economy is on much stronger footing than it was certainly a couple of years ago and that has been noted by consumers." An unscientific survey by the National Association of Business Economics gives anecdotal evidence of improving business conditions at some large corporations compared with the latest survey in January.
American Airlines asks a bankruptcy court judge in New York today for permission to tear up its labor agreements. The airline says it "will not survive if it does not restructure" and "the greatest single challenge is its labor agreements." American says its "employees are the industry's finest" but they cost too much. The unions object to AMR Corp.'s cost cutting and back a merger with US Airways.
Stock market futures fell sharply this morning with fresh worries about Europe. Budget talks collapsed in the Netherlands, rates on Spain's 10 -year bond rose again, and the socialist challenger won the first round of France's presidential elections. Francois Hollande wants to put the French government's austerity plans in reverse.