Hello, I'm Paul Yeager. Mark Pearson is off this week. Wall Street wrapped up 2010 on a down note Thursday, as public and private reports were mixed in their assessment of the U.S. economy.
The Conference Board, a private research group, said its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 52.5 in December, down nearly two points from November. Unlike many indices in which anything over 50 is considered positive, the Consumer Confidence Index must be pegged at 90 or above to indicate a healthy economy. The last time the index was that high was in December 2007, at the dawn of the "Great Recession."
But, the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index for December revealed improving business conditions in the Midwest. The index, which surveys Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, was pegged at 68.6, up more than 6 points from November. Economists had been expecting the index to drop to 61.
There was also positive news in the labor market this week, as the number of people applying for initial unemployment benefits fell to 388,000 last week... its lowest point in more than two years. But that development was tempered Thursday when the average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages rose to it's highest level since May.
And in a week known on Wall Street for light trading and profit-taking, the Dow Jones Industrials settled Thursday with a loss of 13 points.
Keep in mind though; the Dow rallied 1,000 pts in 2010 and traded briefly last week at a two-year high.
Those kinds of numbers are not lost on the so-called,"Oracle of Omaha," Warren Buffet. And this week, MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Buffet's famed Berkshire Hathaway, announced plans to greatly expand the amount of power it generates from wind.
The extension of the wind energy tax credit, coupled with a new federal rule allowing the cost of transmission lines to be split between energy customers and state governments, is expected to reenergize wind turbine construction across the United States.
But even before these regulations were authorized by Congress earlier this month, Iowa-based MidAmerican Energy and German wind turbine-maker Siemens began work on an agreement to increase renewable power generation in the Hawkeye State.
Announced this week, MidAmerican will place nearly 260 Siemens turbines across the Iowa landscape. The power plants will be assembled at Siemens facilities in Iowa and Kansas. Along with the temporary construction jobs, MidAmerican officials say the agreement will create long-term maintenance jobs and infuse cash into the farm economy through rental payments to landowners.
When construction is completed in late 2011, nearly 36 percent of the energy company's power will be generated by renewable sources. MidAmerican Energy, whose majority stockholder is Warren Buffet's Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway, claims number one status as the nation's wind-power leader for rate-regulated utilities.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, or AWEA, MidAmerican is the number four manager of wind energy in the U.S. today. Statistics from the AWEA reveal Texas has the largest amount of installed capacity while Iowa is first in the percentage of wind produced electricity at just over 14 percent.