Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Investors who had a case of Triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13, were relieved on Friday, when the government reported on the impact of inflation on the U.S. economy.
The Labor Department's Producer Price Index, which measures the cost of wholesale goods, rose a modest 1 percent in March due to higher gasoline and food prices. More importantly, the Core PPI, which omits volatile food and energy prices, remained flat.
The report was welcomed on Wall Street and all of the broader indices traded higher on the news.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit improved for a second straight month in February and is running at an annual rate of $704 billion this year. That's down 8 percent from the record imbalance of $765.3 billion recorded in 2006.
The trade gap posted new records five consecutive years going into 2007, and the U.S. lost more than 3 million manufacturing jobs during that time period.
Many of those jobs went to Mexico, but that hasn't stopped a flood of immigrants from entering the U.S. illegally in search of higher wages. And this week, President Bush headed for the border to push his brand of immigration reform.
After touring sections of the border near Yuma, Arizona, President Bush emphasized the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
President Bush: "It's important for people not to give up, no matter how hard it looks from a legislative perspective. It's important that we get a bill done."
The President's immigration plan has been revamped in recent months after discussions with key Republican lawmakers. One policy option for a guest worker program would require illegal immigrants to leave the country immediately then re-enter and pay the U.S. government nearly $10,000 to enroll in the program.
President Bush: "And that way, our Border Patrol can chase the criminals and the drug runners, potential terrorists, and not have to try to chase people who are coming here to do work America's not doing."
While the President was pushing for immigration reform some migrant workers in Florida were declaring victory in a dispute with fast-food giant McDonalds. After a two-year campaign by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the "Golden Arches" have agreed to pay an extra cent per pound for Florida-grown tomatoes.
The deal, which passes the extra penny per pound directly to farm workers, is similar to one reached in 2005 with Taco Bell's parent company Yum! Brands.
Worker advocacy groups applauded this week's development and coalition co-founder Lucas Benitez, said the deal sends a "strong message to the rest of the fast food industry."
Currently, Florida farm workers are paid about 40-cents per 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick. The extra penny per pound from McDonalds nearly doubles their wages to 72-cents per bucket.
Rival fast food company Burger King has said it cannot force suppliers to increase worker wages. McDonalds, however, will require its suppliers to adhere to a worker-created code of conduct policy.
According to the agreement, a third-party will monitor whether farm workers receive the extra pay and McDonalds pledges the cost will not be passed on to consumers.