Creighton report predicts economic expansion
A leading economic indicator for the state fell in December but still points to growth in the months ahead, according to a report released Wednesday by Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
Oklahoma's Business Conditions Index sank to 52.1 from 56.1 in November. The gauge, taken from a survey of businesses, is derived from new orders, production or sales, employment, inventories and delivery lead time.
A number greater than 50 signals expansion in the next three to six months, and a number less than 50 points to economic contraction.
Oklahoma expanded its labor force over the past year, which is a good signal as people entered the labor market in hopes of finding work, Ernie Goss, director of Creighton's Economic Forecasting Group, said in a phone interview. That wasn't the case at the U.S. level, as many states saw their labor force shrink dramatically as people became discouraged and left the labor market, he said.
"Despite growth in the labor force by approximately 42,000, Oklahoma added jobs at a pace that reduced its unemployment rate significantly over the past year," Goss said in written comments.
"Since the national economic recovery began in July 2009, Oklahoma gained almost 12,000 manufacturing jobs. Our surveys over the past several months point to positive job and economic gains for the first half of 2013."
- LAURIE WINSLOW, World Staff Writer
Matrix Service buys rival Louisiana cleaning firm
Matrix Service Co. will strengthen its industrial cleaning business with the acquisition of a Louisiana rival, the Tulsa-based maintenance and repair company announced Wednesday.
The deal to buy the assets and keep the employees of Pelichem Industrial Cleaning Services LLC closed this week. Pelichem, based in Reserve, La., serves customers in the refining and petrochemical industries.
"Pelichem has been a premier provider of high-quality industrial cleaning services for over a decade," Matrix Service CEO John Hewitt said in a statement. "This acquisition significantly expands our industrial cleaning business and further extends our geographic reach along the Gulf Coast."
Matrix Service gains a new operating facility in Reserve to go along with existing industrial cleaning sites in Baton Rouge, La.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Tulsa.
The transaction was paid with cash on hand and totaled less than $10 million, Matrix Service said.
- ROD WALTON, World Staff Writer
Two Quality Jobs Program entrants may add 177 jobs
Startup pump manufacturer Summit ESP LLC and established shipper Melton Truck Lines Inc. could add as many as 177 jobs after the Tulsa-based companies received the go-ahead to participate in the state's Quality Jobs Program in December.
The state Department of Commerce announced Wednesday that Summit ESP, an electric immersible pump manufacturer, could hire 72 people as it ramps up production. It said the Quality Jobs Program could net the company $2.45 million in payroll tax rebates during the next 10 years.
Jill Endicott, director of accounting at Summit, said the company decided to locate its headquarters in Tulsa, at 835 W. 41st St., because of its proximity to so many major manufacturers and producers in the oil and natural gas industry.
"Several of the major players in the industry are really large companies, and they've lost sight of customer service," she said. "We're trying to come in and provide something that others aren't."
The Tulsa office and factory employs about 50 people.
Summit ESP also has facilities in Powell, Wyo., and Odessa, Texas. It has about 100 employees among the three locations, Endicott said.
Melton Truck Lines could add 105 jobs during the next decade, mostly truck drivers, mechanics and support staff, said Angela Buchanan, vice president of safety and human resources for the company.
- KYLE ARNOLD, World Staff Writer
Tulsa Index soars 15.6 percent in 2012
The Tulsa Index, coupled with two national stock gauges, logged impressive gains in 2012 despite a volatile year.
While the Tulsa Index rose 15.6 percent for the year, the Standard & Poor's 500 - a composite of the nation's largest companies - rose 16 percent and the Russell 2000, an index of smaller companies, gained 16.3 percent.
The Tulsa Index consists of companies with headquarters or other significant operations in the Tulsa World's readership area.
"During 2012, the U.S. stock market had a surprisingly good year despite a contentious pre- and post-U.S. election environment and continued financial crisis worries out of Europe, as well as the market's year-end obsession with the fiscal cliff. Even with all of that, the U.S. equity markets surged and investors cheered throughout 2012," said Jake Dollarhide, CEO of Longbow Asset Management Co.
Dollarhide, who tracks the Tulsa Index, noted that the S&P 500 primarily outperformed the local index last year because the technology and the financial sectors, its two largest components, had good years.
Bank of America Corp. - the Tulsa Index's top performer for the fourth quarter and also one of the year's biggest gainers - saw its stock price rise 109.9 percent in 2012.
But the Tulsa Index's energy sector weighting - its largest - saw mixed results last year, Dollarhide said, noting that 19 of the 21 companies that posted negative returns in the local index were from that industry.
- LAURIE WINSLOW, World Staff Writer
AAA reports record high gasoline prices for 2012
Motorists in the U.S. paid record high prices for gasoline in 2012, as severe weather and political tensions drove up the cost of fuel.
The national average price of gasoline in 2012 was $3.60 a gallon, 9 cents more than the previous annual record set a year ago, according to Heathrow, Fla.-based AAA, the nation's largest motoring group.
Prices touched $3.94 a gallon on April 5 and 6 after crude oil rallied as the U.S. and European nations imposed an embargo on Iranian oil exports to pressure the Persian Gulf nation over its nuclear program. Prices sank as low as $3.22 a gallon on Dec. 20 amid lower demand and higher supply in winter, when motor fuel emissions regulations are more loose.
"Factors as volatile as major hurricanes, refinery outages and tension in the Middle East resulted in significant frustration for people filling up their cars," Avery Ash, a spokesman for AAA, said in an emailed statement.
Hawaii, Alaska and California were the three most expensive states, while South Carolina, Missouri and Mississippi were the cheapest.
Gasoline prices will probably drop more this year than in 2012 because of increased domestic crude production and lower motor-fuel demand, Ash said.
- STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS