ExxonMobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, said Thursday that record crude prices helped its first-quarter profit climb 17 percent to $10.9 billion -- the second-biggest U.S. quarterly corporate profit ever. But the results still fell short of Wall Street's lofty forecasts, and ExxonMobil shares fell more than 4 percent in early afternoon trading. The company's refining operations limited its overall earnings growth, because prices for crude oil rose even faster than the increase drivers see at the gasoline pump. Lower production to start the year hurt too. ExxonMobil, based in Irving, Texas, said earnings for the first three months of the year came to $2.03 per share, up from $9.3 billion, or $1.62 per share, a year ago.
Lawmakers close in on farm bill pact
Lawmakers late Thursday came close to wrapping up a farm bill that offers record spending for fruits and vegetables while falling short of some demands for crop subsidy reform. Capping a long and tumultuous ride, House and Senate negotiators effectively endorsed the farm bill that's expected to cost about $280 billion over five years. Though final numbers won't be firmed up until next week, negotiators did complete certain provisions, including a new $986 million specialty crop chapter closely watched in Florida and California. "They've made me happy on some things," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. Cardoza chairs the House horticulture and organic agriculture subcommittee.
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West Coast cargo traffic came to a halt Thursday as port workers staged daylong anti-war protests to commemorate May Day, terminal operators said Thursday. Thousands of dockworkers did not show up for the morning shift, leaving ships and truck drivers idle at ports from Long Beach to Seattle, Pacific Maritime Association spokesman Steve Getzug said. Workers were expected to return for the start of the evening shift, he said. The West Coast ports are the nation's principal gateway for cargo container traffic from Asia. The one-day walkout isn't expected to have any long-term impact on shipping.
One idea for preventing another mortgage disaster is designed to reduce the number of unscrupulous or unlicensed brokers and loan officers who move from state to state preying on borrowers. "Color of Money" columnist Michelle Singletary thinks it's one of the few proposals that could work.