LOWE'S DELAYS STORE OPENINGS: The chief executive at Lowe's Cos. says a soft housing market and tight credit is creating a tough sales environment. Lowe's President Larry Stone told analysts Tuesday that he remains optimistic that conditions will improve. But he said the company can't wait for the "housing gods to help us" and is taking steps to improve profit. Lowe's plans to delay the opening of about 20 new stores this year in several hard-hit markets, including California. Lowe's is the nation's second-largest home improvement retailer. Last month, the Mooresville, N.C.-based company reported lower fourth-quarter earnings. The decline resulted from slower home sales, lower home prices and tightening of credit standards, which hurt consumer spending.
BUYOUTS AT SACRAMENTO BEE: The Sacramento Bee announced that it will offer voluntary buyouts to a limited number of employees. "At the end we expect that less than 2 percent of our work force would be approved to participate in the program," said Ed Canale, the paper's vice president for business development. The paper has about 1,400 employees, said Linda Brooks, vice president of human resources. Eligible workers received information on the plan Monday. Canale said buyouts will be approved primarily in the newspaper's support areas, including finance, human resources, production and parts of circulation. He said the company will offer a package that includes combinations of pay and extended company-paid health insurance. The buyouts come as the newspaper increases its focus on online and niche products. "In order to support these efforts we must look for ways to operate more efficiently," Sacramento Bee Publisher Janis Heaphy said in a statement. Like all newspapers, The Sacramento Bee faces increased competition from other media and the Internet, and has been hit hard by a decline in advertising tied to the steep drop in the region's housing market. The McClatchy Co., the nation's third-largest newspaper publisher, owns The Sacramento Bee as well as The Modesto Bee, The Fresno Bee and Merced Sun-Star.
DMV SITE HELPS FIGURE WHAT YOU OWE: The fees you pay to the Department of Motor Vehicles often change from year to year -- sometimes you need a smog check, sometimes you don't. A new online calculator at https://mv. dmv.ca.gov/FeeCalculatorWeb/index.jsp can help consumers determine what they'll pay this year. By entering your license plate number, vehicle identification number, county of registration and other information, you can find out how much you'll pay in fees, penalties or transfer costs, and tax, if applicable. You also can determine fees due on new and out-of-state vehicle registrations and how much you've paid in past license fees.
$18M FOR AT&T CHIEF: Randall Stephenson, the AT&T Inc. chief executive who replaced a long-serving predecessor last year, earned roughly $18 million as the company reported growth in its wireless business and worked to integrate the purchase of BellSouth Corp. Stephenson, 47, earned a salary of $1.16 million, but compensation including performance-based pay and stock awards boosted the total to more than $18 million, according to a statement filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
GAS PRICE HITS HIGH: The cost of filling up the family car climbed to a record high Tuesday, adding to the challenges consumers already face with falling home values and rising food prices. Gas prices rose overnight to a record national average of $3.2272 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. That's a tad higher than the previous record of $3.2265, set in May. Soaring gas prices worsen the financial plight of consumers suffering through a downturn in the housing market. Food prices also are on the rise, partly because of rising fuel costs. A year ago, rising demand and a string of refinery outages had raised concerns about supplies. Now, the record price of crude oil is the culprit, propelling gas higher though supplies are at 15-year highs.
BEE NEWS SERVICES
$28 billion: Combined projected spending on cosmetic surgery in Europe and the United States by 2011, according to a report by market analyst Datamonitor.
20 to 30: Percentage of women in Europe and the United States who have considered cosmetic surgery.
73: Percentage who cited body shape as a major concern.
50: Percentage of consumers in Europe and the United States who are concerned about signs of aging.
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