Friday, July 31, 2009

Psychiatric Solutions selling business unit for $70 million

Psychiatric Solutions Inc. said it has a definitive agreement to sell its employee assistance program business to health insurer Aetna for about $70 million in cash.
The deal should be completed in the fourth quarter and is subject to customary closing conditions including regulatory approval, the Franklin-based provider of behavioral health programs and operator of psychiatric inpatient hospitals said.

The business produced revenues of about $22.6 million for the first six months of this year.

Psychiatric Solutions said it would use proceeds to reduce its debt.

Tank, Tankless or ThanklessTwo tax plans would take a big bite from the rich

Steve McNair foundation's future is uncertain

Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair trained thousands of kids at youth football camps and collected truckloads of donations for hurricane relief before he was killed, but it's unknown whether his foundation can continue similar charity work after his death.
Fans took solace in remembering McNair's constant involvement in communities in his home state of Mississippi and in Tennessee. But his foundation no longer has his financial backing as his family goes to court to settle his estate, which includes business dealings and real estate holdings in two states.

Don Weatherall, who helped McNair operate the foundation, said it's too soon to say whether the charity can continue with work that ranged from helping at-risk teens and Boys and Girls Clubs to providing for families devastated by natural disaster.

Weatherall said he hopes the foundation will continue with the help of family members who had always been involved.

"(The camps) were always a nice time for the McNair family to get together," he said. "Mechelle would be helping out in the cafeteria, and his brother Fred ran all the camps. It was a family event."

Police say McNair's mistress, Sahel Kazemi, 20, shot him to death at his condo July 4 before killing herself.

Weatherall said McNair started holding a football camp in Mississippi in 1999, but it wasn't until 2001 that the Steve McNair Foundation was created and started to expand. More than 8,000 kids have come through the three camps each summer in recent years, he said.

The camp charged a fee, though at least 70 percent of the kids were sponsored by the foundation and attended for free, Weatherall said.

According to 2007 financial reports, the Hattiesburg, Miss.-based foundation raised more than $709,000 between 2003 and 2006.

During 2007, the foundation spent $99,000 on football camps for high school students and at-risk children in Tennessee and Mississippi. An additional $37,000 was spent on Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

In 2005, McNair teamed up with Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and filled a tractor-trailer with relief supplies bound for Mississippi. Later that year, Titans fans showed up in droves at the stadium, eventually filling 20 tractor-trailers and donating at least $80,000.

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Investor Report: Bankruptcy FilingsNew law lures new micro-distilleries to Tennessee

Murfreesboro's Broad St. bridge repair is complete

The Broad Street Bridge Rehabilitation Project — dubbed by some Murfreesboro drivers as "the nightmare on Broad Street" — has been completed, six weeks behind schedule.
Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman BJ Doughty attributed the delay in the project completion to a wet spring that held up repairs under the bridge and badly deteriorated concrete.

The project was estimated to cost $1.1 million. Doughty said Thursday that it is unclear how much it ended up costing.

"Since the job was just completed the estimated amount has not yet been paid," she said. "It will take some time to see if the job came in over or under the budget."

The project was to repair the two bridges on Northwest Broad Street, a main thoroughfare. Both were several decades old and had not undergone any major repairs since their construction.

"We have extended the lives of the bridges by several years," Doughty said. "Should these repairs not have been made, we could have been looking at a major replacement project in the future that would've taken 18 to 24 months to complete rather than the six months this took."

Investor Report: Bankruptcy FilingsStimulus funds to help VW plant in Tennessee

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stimulus funds to help VW plant in Tennessee

CHATTANOOGA — A $6 million railroad project in Chattanooga for the new Volkswagen plant and suppliers at the Enterprise South Industrial Park will be funded partly with federal stimulus funds.
The project will help Volkswagen deliver cars when production starts in early 2011.

Hamilton County Railroad Authority director Tim Andrews told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the work will include expanding a rail overpass near the site where Volkswagen is building the $1 billion plant.

Chattanooga and Hamilton County seek the federal grant money.

New law lures new micro-distilleries to TennesseeInvestor Report: Bankruptcy Filings

Nashville Chamber named award finalist

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has been selected as a finalist for 2009 Chamber of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).
"It is a great honor to be among the nation's top three chambers of commerce of our size," said Ralph Schulz, president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber.

Other finalists in the largest chamber category include the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Greater Louisville Inc., from Louisville, Ky. Winners will be announced July 31, in Raleigh, N.C., during ACCE's annual convention.

In May, the Nashville Chamber received an ACCE award of merit for its 2007-2008 annual report and an award of merit in the electronic communications category for its "Expert Edge" webcast series.


New law lures new micro-distilleries to TennesseeInvestor Report: Bankruptcy Filings

Corker bill gives more say-so to regulators

Senate Banking Committee member Bob Corker said he plans to introduce legislation giving regulators authority to wind down large financial companies whose failure poses a risk to the economy.
"I think we could come to a pretty quick agreement on how to deal with the resolution piece in a bipartisan way," he said Thursday after the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other regulators testified before the committee.

Corker, R-Tenn., said there is "not much sympathy" for the Treasury's proposal that taxpayers fund a resolution of a large institution first and assess fees to the industry later. "That's not a path many on the committee want to go down," he said.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., will co-sponsor the legislation, said Riki Parikh, a spokesman for Warner.

Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo on Thursday told the banking committee that giving the Fed authority to regulate systemic risk "would be an incremental and natural extension" of the central bank's current role.

In the interview, Corker said the "bloom is off" that idea.

"We need to have an entity to deal with systemic risk," the senator said. "But the action Tarullo talked about was rule-making. A council can do that."

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro, who also testified before the committee, urged Congress to create a regulatory council to monitor firms for risks, breaking with an Obama administration plan giving the power to the Fed.

Corker said he had concerns about the Fed's independence in creating monetary policy should it take on the role as systemic risk regulator. "I worry about what that does to the integrity of the Fed," he said.

He expressed support for the plan put forth by Bair, which calls for an industry-supported fund that would eliminate the need for taxpayer money in winding down non-bank financial companies.

New law lures new micro-distilleries to TennesseeWashington Report: Controversial Legislation

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mortgage rates climb after falling for 3 weeks

WASHINGTON — Rates for 30-year mortgages have edged up after falling for three consecutive weeks.
The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage this week was 5.2 percent, up from 5.14 percent a week earlier, mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday.

Rates on 30-year mortgages fell to a record low of 4.78 percent earlier this year, but then rose to nearly 5.6 percent last month after yields on long-term government debt, which are closely tied to mortgage rates, climbed.

Though the troubled U.S. housing market is beginning to stabilize, higher rates could threaten or slow down any recovery, because prospective buyers would be able to borrow less money and might decide to hold off on their purchases.

Sales of previously occupied homes rose for the third month in a row in June, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday. That hasn't happened since early 2004, during the boom.

"The worst may be behind us," Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist, said in a statement.

Freddie Mac collects mortgage rates on Monday through Wednesday of each week from lenders around the country. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a given day.

Music gear mecca’s siren song wanesWashington Report: Controversial Legislation

Walmart expands its laptop offerings

NEW YORK — A move by Walmart Stores Inc. to offer more and lower-priced laptops could give it an edge over key rival Best Buy Co. in the struggle for back-to-school electronics business.
The world's largest retailer announced Thursday that it was increasing its assortment of affordable laptop computers — some in limited supply — with the aim of becoming a computer destination for college and high school students.

A key offering to be available starting Sunday is a $298 laptop from Hewlett-Packard Co. with 3 gigabytes of memory and a 160-gigabyte of hard drive. The price tag is more typical of the smaller and less powerful laptops known as notebooks.

Spokesman Justin Barber for Minneapolis-based Best Buy noted that Best Buy carries more than 45 PCs and Apple computer models, and its notebook prices start at $330 and netbooks at $250.

Winning over customers involves more than price, he said.

"We know it's equally important for consumers to feel confident they're getting the right product," Barber said.

Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD Group Inc. market research firm, called the $298 price for the HP notebook aggressive but said it's not groundbreaking; he has seen small computers with similar power from major brands at that price elsewhere.

The 'big splash'

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart worked with Dell Inc., Acer Inc. and Toshiba Corp. as well as HP to deliver new products that are high quality and affordable, Gary Severson, senior vice president of entertainment said in a statement.

"Our increased assortment delivers more targeted offerings from great brands at dramatically affordable prices," Severson said.

Also coming to Walmart this weekend are a $548 Acer-made Vista laptop with an eight-hour battery, 3 gigabytes of memory and a 320-gigabyte hard drive.

Walmart wants to "make a big splash" in the PC market now that Circuit City Stores Inc. is out of business, said Loren Loverde, director of tracker research at IDC, a technology research firm.

"It's a new place that consumers can go that will compete for foot traffic with other rivals," Loverde said.

U.S. PC sales have declined over the past three quarters, according to IDC, but notebooks have been a bright spot.

Walmart, looking past the benefits it has seen in the recession, is searching for opportunities like consumer electronics that will sustain its growth as the economy recovers. As part of its efforts to stake a bigger claim in the PC business, it renovated its computer displays at 1,200 of its 3,600 U.S. stores.

Over the last two years, Walmart has been stocking up with major electronics brands, putting more pressure on rival Best Buy, which has faced overall sales declines as shoppers cut back on big-ticket items.

Music gear mecca’s siren song wanesMore Biz in Tough Market: Success Secret #11

Unemployed short on opportunities, benefits

WASHINGTON — As the recession eases, companies are cutting fewer jobs. Yet they remain reluctant to hire, leaving potentially millions of people without any financial aid long after their unemployment benefits run out.
That grim picture was reinforced Thursday by the latest government report on jobless benefits. The number of first-time claims — a proxy for the pace of layoffs — remained below the peak levels of the spring. At the same time, though, the total number of people receiving unemployment aid topped 9.1 million.

"We are left with a bifurcated job market, with fewer newer claimants but a rising tide of long-term unemployed," said Cary Leahey, an economist at Decision Economics. "Some will exhaust all their benefits and be at wit's end to make ends meet."

The National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group, projects that 540,000 people will use up their unemployment benefits by the end of September. It estimates that 1.5 million will have run out by year's end.

Those benefits include up to 53 weeks of emergency extended coverage, on top of the standard 26 weeks of aid typically provided by most states.

The loss of all unemployment aid for so many jobless Americans could lead to calls for further benefits extensions. Congress first provided federal emergency benefits last year. Those benefits were extended in February by the Obama administration's stimulus package.

Steven Ridenhour, 40, is receiving extended unemployment benefits after having been laid off nine months ago from a Chrysler plant in suburban St. Louis. That extra assistance is scheduled to run out this fall.

He is using a one-time buyout payment from Chrysler to pay his mortgage and support his wife and four children. The pretax payment of $140,000 amounts to one year of his salary.

Ridenhour said he wants to work with his hands, but jobs are scarce.

"There are so many people I know around St. Louis that are where I'm at," he said. "The (job) market is pretty well flooded right now."

Recovery will be slow

Even if the economy begins to recover this summer, as some economists expect, growth will likely be anemic, and unemployment will continue to rise. Most private economists and the Federal Reserve expect the unemployment rate to top 10 percent by year-end. The rate for June hit 9.5 percent, a 26-year high.

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Two tax plans would take a big bite from the richInvestor Report: Seamless Short Sales

Monday, July 20, 2009

New law lures new micro-distilleries to Tennessee

Entrepreneurs looking to make Tennessee whiskey and other distilled spirits are getting to work now that it's legal in many parts of the state, although it could be months — if not years — before their locally made potions hit the shelves.
The state's first micro-distillery under the new law will likely open in Nashville, where distiller Darek Bell is eyeing a location in the Gulch. Because Bell already operates a small distillery in Bowling Green, Ky., it won't take as long for him to amend his federal license as it could for startups to obtain one.

"Tennessee has a great spirits heritage, be it both legal and illegal," said Bell, who makes four products at Corsair Artisan Distillery: absinthe, vodka, rum and an award-winning gin.

Bell, 35, a local road construction executive, plans to add a Kentucky bourbon to his lineup of products and will produce a Tennessee whiskey at his Nashville distillery.

At least two other Nashville-area entrepreneurs plan their own distilleries, and a Sevierville, Tenn.-based group wants to capture the area's mountain heritage by producing an un-aged spirit to be marketed as Tennessee moonshine.

"It's about time," said Bill Owens of the California-based American Distilling Institute.

He considers it an epic shift on the micro-distilling landscape for Tennessee distillers to come onto the scene, saying that artisan whiskeys made here will certainly have the cachet of being Tennessee-made whiskeys, a seal of approval known worldwide.

"There are wonderful cultural roots of whiskey in Tennessee that have been suppressed by old-time laws," said Owens, who teaches a pair of weeklong classes each year on the art and science of distilling. His institute counts many of the nation's top craft distillers among its members.

"Your roots on moonshining run very, very deep," he said. "People have stories to tell, and now those stories can be told on bottle labels."

The micro-distillery movement has been growing across the country as craft distillers create a variety of small batches using local grains, fruits and water. There are some 156 craft distillers nationwide, up from just 20 seven years ago. Today's total is considered the most since before Prohibition.

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Music gear mecca’s siren song wanes

Wall St. seeks to extend rally

NEW YORK — Investors are hoping companies' streak of good earnings news continues this week.
The Dow Jones industrial average is coming off its best week since March after reports from big companies like banker Goldman Sachs Group Inc., chip maker Intel Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. injected fresh hope in the market that the economy could be recovering.

The better-than-expected profits and forecasts pumped up the stock market after a monthlong slide when investors detected few new signals that the economy was improving.

But analysts remain cautious and are hoping the good news won't fade.

"It probably gets tougher as we move further through the earnings season mainly because we get some sectors where the wind might not have been as much as their back," said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial in Boston. He said retailers and smaller banks aren't likely to have fared as well as the companies that reported last week.

Corporate heavyweights reporting this week should sharpen investors' view of the economy. Reports on the April-June quarter are expected from American Express Co., aerospace manufacturer Boeing Co., industrial equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. and drug maker Merck & Co. Key consumer companies Inc., Apple Inc., Coca-Cola Co., eBay Inc., PepsiCo Inc. and Starbucks Corp. are also due to report.

Investors also will look to Capitol Hill for direction on the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke makes his semiannual report to Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday. Investors want his take on the economy now, and also clues on how the central bank will eventually wean the economy from the emergency supports put in place last fall when the financial crisis intensified. The Fed has slashed interest rates, offered cheap loans to banks and purchased government debt to ratchet down borrowing costs.

Disappointment over what companies or Bernanke have to say could make the stock market stall again. The Standard & Poor's 500 index surged 40 percent from early March until mid-June when investors started asking whether an economic rebound was further off than they had projected. Last week's gains allowed the S&P 500 index to recover the 7 percent it had lost since the market's advance began to lose steam.

The rally got going again last week because company profits and forecasts are some of the most powerful forces in the market. The second-quarter reports have had particular pull over stocks because investors had such low expectations. But analysts warn that the halo of better-than-expected numbers is likely to fade.

"The problem for the market here is that from a fundamental perspective things are not getting worse but they're not getting materially better. And the market needs to see signs that things are getting better to leg up," said Nick Kalivas, vice president of financial research at MF Global in Chicago.

Experts point out where good buys might beInvestor Report: Seamless Short Sales

Two tax plans would take a big bite from the rich

WASHINGTON — It's probably never a bad time to be rich. But the good times for America's wealthy could soon be a little less so.
President Barack Obama wants to boost income taxes for the wealthy to pay for tax cuts for everybody else. He wants to limit the deductions that high-income families take for mortgage interest and charity contributions to help pay for providing more people with health insurance.

House Democrats are planning to hit the wealthy with even higher income taxes to pay for their version of a health-care overhaul.

Between the two plans, a family of four with an income of $5 million a year would see its annual income taxes skyrocket by more than $440,000. A similar family making $800,000 a year would get a tax increase of $30,000, according to an analysis by the financial services firm Deloitte Tax.

"I still think being wealthy is better than being poor," Clint Stretch, who heads tax policy at Deloitte Tax, said with a touch of understatement. "But this is a pretty high proposed tax burden."

It's a big change from past

Taxing the rich to pay for health insurance would represent a significant departure from the way Americans have financed safety net programs in the past.

Both Social Security and Medicare are supported by broad-based payroll taxes. Although the rich pay more — they have bigger incomes — the burden is shared by the middle class and even the working poor.

By contrast, the health-care plan working its way through the House would impose $544 billion in new taxes over the next decade on just 1.2 percent of households — joint filers making more than $350,000 a year.

The bill would impose a new 5.4 percent income surtax on couples making more than $1 million a year, starting in 2011. Couples making more than $350,000 would have to pay a surtax of 1 percent tax, while those making more than $500,000 would pay a 1.5 percent surtax.

If certain savings in the health-care system were not achieved by 2013, the surtax would rise to 2 percent for families making more than $350,000 and to 3 percent for those making more than $500,000.

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Investor Report: Seamless Short SalesMusic gear mecca’s siren song wanes

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Music gear mecca's siren song wanes

The Summer NAMM Convention, a national music products trade show known to bring 20,000 visitors here for its three-day run in past years, has hit a sour note this weekend with attendance down at least 25 percent from 2008, leaving hotels scrambling to fill rooms held for conventioneers.
"I don't think there's any mystery (the economy has) impacted all of us," said NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond. "Our members have to watch every dollar."

"I don't think it's a reflection of NAMM or Nashville. It's really just the economy, the industry and those types of issues," said Michael Hughes, vice president of research and consulting for Tradeshow Week magazine.

The lack of attendance caused some hotels to scramble to fill vacant space with other guests, and at least three properties sharply discounted room rates to try to book more rooms at the last minute.

At the Nashville Hilton, NAMM failed to fill 40 percent of the room nights the hotel had projected for this weekend, General Manager Ray Waters said. The convention ends today.

Attendance at the trade show is projected as low as 12,000 or 13,000 this year, down from a peak of 23,000 attendees in 2004. Last year, NAMM returned to Nashville for the first time since 2004 and drew nearly 17,500 registered attendees.

The weakened attendance mirrors a broader downward spiral in national business travel. The volume of hotel bookings by conventions and groups was off 15 percent in Nashville in May from a year earlier, according to Hendersonville-based Smith Travel Research. Revenue from group business here declined 16 percent for the same period, the research firm said.

Dave Keller, a business partner for Main Street Music store in Summerville, S.C., said he's not in Nashville this weekend for the trade show largely for financial reasons.

Keller and two store employees generally go to NAMM to meet with music manufacturers, and he confers with his business partner later to figure out which products to buy.

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Don’t let summer’s laze reach your walletInvestor Report: Seamless Short Sales

Experts point out where good buys might be

WASHINGTON — For the third quarter, market strategists said there are still many good buys. "The bargains are fewer than they were months ago, but the bargains exist," said John Coumarianos, a mutual-fund analyst for Morningstar.
Jeffrey Kleintop, market strategist for LPL Financial Services, said the industrials sector is one to consider because those companies will benefit from the resurgence of economic activity. Small-cap stocks, or shares of small companies, are safer investments than large-cap stocks, or shares of large companies, because smaller companies have more exposure to the American economy.

Large-cap companies are more dependent on exports, which won't recover as quickly, he said. Corporate and high-yield bonds probably will post higher returns than government bonds, a trend Kleintop said was seen in the second quarter.

Now is a good time for investors to review their asset allocation but not to abandon any long-term plans.

More Biz in Tough Market: Success Secret #11Don’t let summer’s laze reach your wallet

Don't let summer's laze reach your wallet

CHICAGO — Summertime and the livin' is easy, which often means letting decisions about your finances slide. Who wants to think about tedious money matters during vacations and downtime?
But this year in particular, it may be a good idea to sit down and reset some things as midyear statements roll in.

The dust from the market crash has largely settled, and government decision-makers are in the midst of taking actions that will reverberate throughout the economy, the markets and beyond. You want to be prepared for the consequences.

Summer also is generally a golden opportunity for those willing to use some of their extra time to tighten their finances.

"It's like the fable of the ant and the grasshopper," said Eleanor Blayney, consumer advocate for the nonprofit Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. "The grasshopper fiddles away the summer while the ant puts away food for the winter. Which one do you want to be?"

Be an ant, at least for a little while, when it comes to your financial affairs this summer.

Here are seven midyear financial resolutions, as recommended by certified financial planners, that should pay off in the long run:

• Review financial statements and strategy. If you're among the many who have developed a habit of not opening account statements or delaying looking at them since the market crash, break it.

It's not just that stocks have bounced strongly higher since early March, making midyear statements tolerable to look at. Disengagement can lead to bad things while your investments are on autopilot — portfolios can get out of whack, becoming too risky or conservative for your situation.

Besides looking at recent results, make sure your holdings and investment allocations still make sense in this economy. And rethink your strategy periodically from now on, either on your own or with a planner's help.

"Don't just assume you can throw money into an indexing strategy, or a couple of actively managed funds, and let them go," said Ron Myers of Associated Financial Consultants in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "That may not be the case any more."

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More Biz in Tough Market: Success Secret #11