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Oil prices hit $90, highest in 2 years

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia » Oil prices fell early today in Asia as traders locked in profits after crude rose above $90 a barrel for the first time in more than two years. Oil for January delivery was down 89 cents to $87.80 a barrel at midday Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract hit $90.76 yesterday, the highest price since Oct. 8, 2008, before pulling back to settle at $88.69, down 69 cents.

The rally yesterday came as President Barack Obama and Republican leaders reached an agreement to extend Bush-era tax cuts. A cold snap also swept through Europe and the U.S., lifting demand for fuel. Some analysts now predict that oil will hit $100 per barrel sometime next year. They point to rising demand from China and other emerging economies. OPEC countries can crank up production to meet that demand now, but their ability to do that is expected to decline over the next few years.

Student loans push up borrowing

WASHINGTON » Consumer borrowing rose in October by the largest amount in more than two years, led by a big rise in the category that includes student loans. The Federal Reserve said yesterday that consumer credit rose at an annual rate of $3.4 billion in October, the largest increase since a $5.7 billion gain in July 2008. Consumer credit also was up in September.

But the strength in both September and October is being heavily influenced by a recently enacted law that makes the government the primary lender to students. Those were the first back-to-back monthly gains since mid-2008. Consumer credit had fallen for 19 straight months before the rise in September.

Americans have been reducing their borrowing since late 2008 as they have struggled to cope with a steep recession and high unemployment.

Gamblers spending less time, money

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. » The amount of time gamblers are spending in Atlantic City casinos is falling, and they’re holding on more tightly to their wallets while they’re there.

A new statistical study shows the amount of time gamblers spent inside casinos in the nation’s second-largest gambling market is down more than 22 percent, and the amount of money they spend there is down almost 30 percent over the last four years.

And the hit to the casinos’ bottom line is substantial with gross operating profit per hour down 61 percent.

H&R Block tallies smaller loss

NEW YORK » H&R Block Inc. posted a narrower second-quarter loss yesterday despite lower revenue, as it cut expenses further during its slow season.

The tax preparation company also said its refund-anticipation-loan program for the approaching tax season is still in doubt.

CEO Alan Bennett said Block’s negotiations with HSBC and its lawsuit against the bank regarding the funding of the loan program continue. He acknowledged that its ability to offer these short-term loans, commonly called "rapid refunds," may be in jeopardy.

About 45 percent of Block’s customers in the 2010 tax season got either a refund-anticipation check or loan backed by their expected refunds.

On the Move

Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties has announced Dolores Bahnsen as Realtor associate. She was previously an optician on the mainland and managed retail optical shops and optometrist offices.


Contractors Association of Kauai has installed the following for 2011: Matt Taba, president; Maile Bryan, first vice president; Jerry Nishek, second vice president; Jesse Akagi, secretary; Dirk Apao, treasurer; and Keith Suga, immediate past president. Directors for 2011 are: Tom Arnott, Michael Aki, Susan Chandler, Laura Cushnie, Bryan Davidson, David Hinazumi, Travis Horka, Trinette Kaui, Lanell Miyamoto and Fred Pascual.


Loomis-ISC has announced the appointment of Tim Deegan as its new president and chief executive officer. His experience includes working with Hilton Resorts Hawaii, Yesawich, Pepperdine and Brown, Peck Sims Mueller and DDB Needham as well as the Harris agency where he had direct oversight for the Hilo Hattie and KFC/Burger King accounts.

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