BASF Halts 80 Factories; Oil Prices Slide to $53 a Barrel; Chinese Automakers Ask for Gov’t Aid; October Housing Starts Hit 49-Year Low; Honeywell Lands Engine Deal; Fed Sees Year-long Recession; Holiday Sales and Traffic to Plummet; BJ’s Profit Jumps 24%
- The world’s largest chemical company, BASF SE (ADR:BASFY), lowered its profit forecast and announced plans to halt operations at 80 factories. The Ludwigshafen-based company cited reduced orders from the auto, construction and textile industries, Bloomberg reported.
- Oil prices continue sliding, as U.S. crude fell to $53.30 a barrel yesterday (Wednesday) – the lowest price since January 2007. Oil has dropped almost two-thirds from its record $147 a barrel in July, Reuters reported.
- Mirroring the efforts of their U.S. counterparts, Chinese automakers are seeking government aid to breathe some life back into the world’s second-largest vehicle market. “Chinese automakers do need government’s help to survive the turmoil,” Zhang Xin, an analyst at Guotai Junan Securities Co. in Beijing, told Bloomberg. “There aren’t any policies yet for stimulating vehicle consumption and automakers need to shout louder to get the government to provide incentives.”
- October housing starts clocked in at the annual rate of 791,000, the lowest level since the U.S. Commerce Department began tracking them in 1959. Also, building permits last month fell 12% to the annual rate of 708,000, the lowest level since March 1975, Phoenix Business Journal reported.
- Honeywell International Inc. (HON) yesterday (Wednesday) to supply jet engines to Italy-based Alenia Aermacchi, The Associated Press reported. Honeywell did not disclose the number of engines being supplied or a delivery timetable.
- Federal Reserve policymakers expect the U.S. recession to last as long as a year or longer, according to edited minutes of a closed-door meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee on Oct. 28 and 29, MarketWatch reported. Fed governors and bank presidents "generally expected the economy to contract moderately in the second half of 2008 and the first half of 2009, and agreed that the downside risks to growth had increased," the minutes said.
- Research firm ShopperTrak predicts a record-low increase in holiday sales of 0.1%, Reuters reported. The group also says holiday traffic could decline by as much as 9.9% as shoppers stay at home and hunt for bargains online. "Currently we're anticipating the lowest retail sales and total U.S. traffic numbers we've seen since we started compiling this data in 2001, Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said in a statement.
- BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. (BJ) yesterday (Wednesday) reported a 24% jump in quarterly profit. BJ's profit rose to $28.2 million, or 48 cents per share, in the quarter ended November 1, up from $22.7 million, or 35 cents per share, a year earlier.