Union members OK pact for Tropicana staff

Members of Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 overwhelmingly voted Friday to ratify a new five-year collective bargaining agreement for nearly 750 workers at the Tropicana.

The workers had been working under an extended contract since the last agreement expired May 31, 2007.

Highlights of the new pact include a five-year contract retroactive to June 1, 2007:

• Family health coverage with no premiums for workers.

• Maintaining the employee pension plan.

• Annual wage increases with back pay to June 1, 2007.

• Increases in guaranteed gratuities for tipped workers.

The agreement was reached during the first negotiating session since Scott Butera, Tropicana Entertainment’s chief executive officer and president, took over operational control from embattled hotelier Bill Yung III earlier this year.


New parking lot will open at McCarran

A new parking lot will open Monday at McCarran International Airport.

The 1,950-space lot will temporarily serve as the airport’s main surface parking area, especially after Sept. 2 when the existing economy lot is permanently closed to accommodate construction.

The new lot is along Gilespie Street between Warm Springs Road and the Las Vegas Beltway.

Drivers are urged to call McCarran’s parking hot line at 261-5122 for more information.


Russian troop pullback sends oil prices down

Oil prices tumbled more than $6 a barrel Friday — the biggest one-day percentage plunge in nearly four years — after a rebounding dollar and a Russian troop pullback in Georgia sparked another frenzied sell-off.

Crude’s nosedive wiped out all the gains from the previous day’s big rally and reaffirmed the belief that high energy prices and a softening global economy are still cutting into consumer demand for fossil fuels in the U.S. and overseas.

Light, sweet crude for October delivery fell $6.59, or 5.43 percent, to settle at $114.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

It was crude’s largest single-day price drop percentage-wise since Dec. 27, 2004, when prices dropped 6.47 percent. In dollar terms, it was oil’s steepest one-day slide since Jan. 17, 1991, just after the start of the Gulf War.


Benfield Group bought for $1.6 billion by Aon

Aon Corp., the world’s biggest insurance broker, said Friday it has agreed to buy Britain’s Benfield Group Ltd. for almost $1.6 billion in cash.

Chicago-based Aon said combining Benfield, a leading independent reinsurance intermediary, with its existing reinsurance operations would create a global, diverse franchise.

Under the deal, Aon will pay 3.50 pounds ($6.55) per share in cash for each Benfield share, a 29 percent premium over Benfield’s closing price Thursday.

It will also assume 91 million pounds ($170 million) of Benfield net debt in the deal, boosting the overall value of the transaction to about 935 million pounds ($1.75 billion).


Federal regulators close bank in Kansas

Federal regulators on Friday shut down Kansas bank Columbian Bank and Trust Company.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of Columbian Bank of Topeka, Kan., which had $752 million in assets and $622 million in deposits as of June 30.

The FDIC said the bank’s deposits will be assumed by Citizens Bank and Trust of Chillicothe, Mo. Its nine offices will reopen Monday as branches of Citizens Bank. Depositors of Columbian Bank will continue to have full access to their deposits, the agency said.

It was the ninth failure this year of an FDIC-insured bank.

That compares with three failures in all of 2007. More banks are in danger of failing this year, agency officials have said.


Auction-rate securities investors to recoup cash

Federal regulators said Friday that investors who bought risky auction-rate securities from Merrill Lynch & Co. before the market for those bonds collapsed will be able to recover up to $7 billion under a new agreement.

The largest U.S. brokerage will buy back the securities from thousands of investors under a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and other state regulators over its role in selling the high-risk bonds to retail investors. Under that deal, announced Thursday, Merrill agreed to hasten its voluntary buyback plan by repurchasing $10 billion to $12 billion of the securities from investors by Jan. 2.

Merrill also agreed to pay a $125 million fine in a separate accord with state regulators.


Treasury bonds slip after Fed chief speaks

Treasury bonds declined Friday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said inflation pressures are likely to moderate, which would therefore lessen the need for an interest rate increase.

In late trading, the 10-year Treasury note fell 0.34 points to 101.03. Its yield rose to 3.87 percent from late Thursday’s yield of 3.83 percent, according to BGCantor Market Data. Yields move in the opposite direction from prices.


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