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ML Macadamia posts $1 million loss

ML Macadamia Orchards LP swung to a loss in the fourth quarter from a profit in the same period a year earlier mainly because of higher production costs and interest expenses.

The Hilo-based macadamia grower lost $1 million during the October-through-December period, compared with a profit of $96,000 in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Macadamia nut sales rose to $7 million in the fourth quarter from $5.4 million a year earlier. However, the cost to produce the nuts rose to $7.3 million from $4.9 million a year earlier. Nut sales for all of 2010 were virtually unchanged from 2009 at about $12.2 million.

The fourth quarter capped a year in which a drought in the Kau region caused macadamia nut yields there to fall by 4 million pounds, or 31 percent. That was partially offset by higher yields in the Keaau region, additional production from newly acquired orchards and a slightly higher average nut price, the company said. ML Macadamia lost $1.5 million in 2010 after recording a profit of $195,000 in 2009.

Fed says recovery on firmer footing

WASHINGTON » The Federal Reserve offered its most optimistic view of the U.S. economy since the recession ended, even as Japan’s nuclear crisis stoked new worries around the globe.

The economic recovery is on "firmer footing," and the jobs market is "improving gradually," the Fed declared in its statement released at the conclusion of its meeting yesterday. That’s a more upbeat tone from its previous meeting on Jan. 26, when Fed policymakers said the rate of economic activity was "insufficient" to bring about "significant improvement" in the job market.

The Fed also downplayed inflation risks. And it dropped the phrase "disappointingly slow" in describing the progress made lowering the nation’s unemployment rate. That’s a reflection of a nearly full percentage point drop in just three months — the sharpest decline in unemployment since 1983.

The Fed, in a unanimous decision, said yesterday it was maintaining the pace of its $600 billion Treasury bond-purchase program to help the economy grow more strongly and to lower unemployment, which now stands at 8.9 percent.

Dim homebuilder outlook improves

WASHINGTON » Homebuilders’ pessimistic outlook improved slightly this month, but it remains dim amid falling home prices and a weak pace of construction.

The National Association of Home Builders said yesterday that its index of industry sentiment for March improved slightly to 17. That’s the first gain in five months, after four straight readings of 16. Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the market. The index hasn’t been above that level since April 2006.

Last year was the worst in more than a decade for sales of previously owned homes and the worst for new-home sales in nearly a half-century.

Irish unemployment hits 17-year high

DUBLIN » Unemployment in Ireland has topped 14 percent for the first time since 1994, highlighting the dire financial challenges facing the new government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

A Central Statistics Office report yesterday raised Ireland’s previous unemployment calculations over several months. Analysts blamed exceptionally harsh pre-Christmas weather for the surprisingly poor figures and warned that further job losses were inevitable this year.

The report said average October-December unemployment reached 14.1 percent compared with 13.9 percent in the previous quarter. Its seasonally adjusted figures were worse, measuring unemployment at a 17-year high of 14.8 percent in December.

Card delinquencies decline

Major credit card companies said their customers’ payment habits continued to improve in February. The top six card issuers yesterday all reported lower rates of payments late by a month or more, a positive sign for the industry as it continues to recover from huge write-offs in 2009 and 2010. Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, American Express, Capital One and Discover all submitted regulatory filings detailing lower rates of delinquent payments than in January, continuing a trend that began early last year.

On the Move

Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties has announced Misako N. Sloan as Realtor-associate. Sloan has more than 10 years of experience in real estate and high-end resort sales, including as international sales/marketing executive at Wyndham Vacation Ownership in Honolulu as well as working at Hilton Grand Vacation Club in Waikoloa and Coldwell Banker Aloha Properties in Kailua-Kona.

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Hawaii National Bank has promoted:

» Dennis Wong to senior vice president and Oahu regional manager.
» Ritchie Koyanagi to senior vice president and senior credit officer.
» Kurt Kunihiro to senior vice president and senior lending officer.
» Joe Yit to vice president and manager of the Main Branch.
» Ricky Ching to vice president and controller.
» Cheryl Nishita to vice president and director of marketing.
» Todd Inouye to assistant vice president and manager of the credit analysis department.
» Vikki Yeung to loan services officer in the loan services department.
» David Kenny to manager of deposit operations.
» Miles Tonokawa to cash operations manager.

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