Tighter visa rules slow visitor arrivals in Macau

Visitor arrivals in Macau grew by about 12 percent in 2008, slower than the previous year as tighter visa rules and an economic slump curbed travel to the Chinese gambling city, government figures showed Friday.

Total arrivals in the southern Chinese enclave reached 30.1 million last year, up 11.8 percent from 2007, the government’s Statistics and Census Service said in a statement. Last year, arrivals surged almost 23 percent from 2006.

Macau, the only place in China were casinos are legal, has seen its gambling industry cool recently after years of booming growth since Beijing began limiting the frequency and duration of travel here by mainland residents.

Despite the restrictions, visitor arrivals from mainland China increased by 17.7 percent last year compared to 2008, the government said.


Schlumberger reports 17 percent profit drop

Oilfield services giant Schlumberger Ltd. painted a bleak picture of the oil patch Friday, reporting a 17 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings and saying it will cut 5,000 jobs worldwide during the first half of the year, more than previously disclosed.

Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services provider, said its net profit for the October-December period was $1.15 billion, or 95 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $1.38 billion, or $1.12 per share.

Revenue rose 10 percent, to $6.87 billion from $6.25 billion.


Leaders: Construction will survive slump

Industry experts told leaders of Nevada construction companies on Friday they can weather the current economic storm if they downsize operations, keep up on economic news and lobby Congress for a share of the federal stimulus package.

Steve Dominguez, senior vice president at Bank of the West, told about 100 members of the Nevada chapter of the Associated General Contractors to “get small” with their businesses and be realistic about the coming year.

Brian Bonnenfant, analyst for the Center for Regional Studies on the UNR campus, said even as residential home construction continues to sag, the future for commercial construction is promising given the region’s central location in the West.

He joined other speakers in urging his audience to keep tabs on the evolving economic stimulus package moving through Congress. WASHINGTON

General Electric profits decline by 46 percent

General Electric Co. posted a 46 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings on Friday.

GE’s businesses touch on most sectors of an economy mired in a recession, from medical equipment and real estate to TV stations. And its longtime profit engine, GE Capital, has had profits sapped as businesses and consumers limit borrowing or default.

After paying preferred dividends, GE’s earnings totaled $3.65 billion, or 35 cents per share for the three months ended Dec. 31, down from $6.7 billion, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier. Those results included $1.5 billion in charges from a restructuring of GE Capital and increased reserves.

Quarterly revenue slipped 5 percent to $46.2 billion.


Freddie Mac to seek help from government

Mortgage finance company Freddie Mac said Friday it will need an additional $30 billion to $35 billion in government aid as it copes with losses on loans the company backed during the U.S. housing bubble.

The company disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing late Friday that it expects its government regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to make the request from the Treasury Department.

It comes on top of the $13.8 billion the company received last year after it was seized by the government. Sibling company Fannie Mae has yet to request aid but has warned it may need to do so.

Federal regulators seized control of both companies in September after they faced mounting losses from the housing market’s bust.


Harley-Davidson to cut 1,100 jobs, shut plants

Harley-Davidson Inc. said Friday it will cut 1,100 jobs over two years, close some facilities and consolidate others as it grapples with a slowdown in motorcycle sales.

The company said the cuts include 800 hourly production positions and 300 non-production, mostly salaried positions. It said 70 percent of the job cuts will occur this year and the rest in 2010.

The job cuts will result in one-time charges of $110 million to $140 million over 2009 and 2010, Harley said.

Harley said its fourth-quarter profit fell 58 percent to $77.8 million, or 34 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with $186.1 million, or 78 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

Revenue fell 6.8 percent to $1.29 billion from $1.39 billion.


Rivals may mimic Google option reset

Google Inc. is showing its love for its employees by giving them a second chance to profit from their wilting stock options. But the move irked shareholders still stuck with agonizing losses on their investments.

Google already has been joined by coffee chain Starbucks Corp., which unveiled a proposal to allow its employees to swap their existing stock options for new ones that will be more likely to put cash in their pockets.

Shares of the Internet search leader have plunged by 57 percent, or a collective $130 billion, since the stock peaked at $747 per share in 2007.


Downward streak continues for Treasurys

Longer-term Treasury prices have fallen for five straight trading days — suggesting that investors are starting to bet on inflation despite the slumping economy.

On Friday, the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell 0.13 points to 109.75 on Friday. Its yield rose to 2.62 percent from 2.59 percent late Thursday.

The 30-year Treasury bond fell 1.25 to 121.97, and its yield rose to 3.32 percent from 3.26 percent.

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