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Business briefs

First phase of gasoline price inquiry delayed

SEATTLE - The Attorney General's Office will delay publishing the first phase of its gasoline price investigation, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

The initial phase of the publication will be delayed until Aug. 13 to complete, proofread and edit the study, spokeswoman Kristin Alexander said. Attorney General Rob McKenna also will be out of the country on business next week and unavailable for interviews, Alexander added.

The agency announced in April that it would undertake a study to investigate the sometimes wide variation in price and cost of gasoline in Washington. The first phase of the study is expected to analyze gasoline price data in Olympia and eight other cities.

Reports

Ford contributes gains to cost, job cutting

DEARBORN, Mich. - Ford surprised Wall Street on Thursday by posting its first quarterly profit in two years. Then it spoiled the party by warning investors that it still expects big losses in the next two quarters and no return to full-year profitability until 2009.

Ford squeezed most of the gains out through cost cutting, mainly with a roughly 30 percent decline in jobs, and good sales overseas.

Now Ford needs its North American division to start turning a profit. That could be difficult with the company's U.S. rivals and Japanese automakers breathing down its neck.

Exxon Mobil's profit drop still makes record

HOUSTON - Don't let Exxon Mobil Corp.'s 1 percent drop in second-quarter profit fool you. It was still the fourth-best quarterly result for a U.S. company - ever. Analysts say the company's global footprint points to more big quarters.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company said Thursday lower natural gas prices and a drop in production hurt results for the April-June period, contributing to a rare miss of Wall Street expectations.

But Exxon Mobil's net income of $10.26 billion was still off only slightly from the $10.36 billion it earned in the second quarter of 2006 - the third-best U.S. quarterly result. It already has the record for the No. 1 quarterly and annual profits.

Wall Street

Home sales slump adds to investor losses

LOS ANGELES - The national housing slump could lead to billions of dollars in losses for Wall Street investors as it drags on for at least another year and mortgage defaults increase, economists said Thursday.

The outlook on eroding credit quality in the U.S. mortgage market by Moody's Economy.com anticipates that more than 1.2 million first mortgage loans will default this year and another 1.3 million will follow next year. That compares with about 900,000 defaults last year and about 800,000 in 2005, Mark Zandi, the Web site's chief economist, said in a conference call.

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