Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. U.S. companies sold more computers, heavy machinery and telecommunications equipment to foreign markets in April, pushing exports to an all-time high.
According to the Commerce Department, April exports of U.S. goods and services rose 1.3 percent to a record $175.6 billion. Imports declined nearly one-half of one percent to $219.2 billion as shipments from Japan plunged more than 25 percent reflecting the impact of the March earthquake and tsunami.
All told, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed by more than 6.5 percent in April to $43.7 billion. That sparked a rally on Wall Street Thursday, where stocks snapped their longest daily losing streak in more than a year. But the gains were short-lived...
The Dow lost 172 points Friday, and settled well below 12,000 for the first time since March, in the market's sixth consecutive weekly loss. That's its worst losing streak since 2002.
And the Agriculture Department predicted this week that U.S. food prices will increase through 2012 due the impact of inclement weather in the Grain Belt.
According to USDA, heavy rains -- particularly in the eastern Corn Belt -- prevented farmers from planting about 1.5 million acres of corn. And flooding along the Mississippi River and other regions wiped out about 400,000 acres that WERE planted.
Floodwaters have receded along the Mississippi in recent days, but that is definitely NOT the case along the Missouri River.
This week, U.S. Army Corps of Engineering officials increased the outflow from the massive Oahe Dam in Pierre, South Dakota. Currently, 150,000 cubic feet of water race out of the dam and into the Missouri River every second. So far, levees along the swollen river are handling the increased pressure. But some water is making its way into low-lying areas, like in the Dakota Dunes, in extreme southeast South Dakota. Last week, volunteers helped sandbag areas that now have been overtaken by flood waters. This golf course, along with residential areas on the links are now a giant hazard. National Guard chinook helicopters are working feverously to stay ahead of the water and continue air drops of sandbags to shore up vulnerable areas. Farm fields near the west central Iowa town of Blencoe are filling up with flood water. Even as residents prepare structures against the approaching water, emerging corn is drowning and ironically the only things visible in some fields are parts of irrigation equipment. Interstate 29 is expected to be closed in several areas as water approaches the road. The first section is just north of the Omaha/Council Bluffs metro. In Omaha, where flood waters haven't been this high since 1952, the riverfront is starting to expand as on-lookers get snapshots of what could become history. The last time the Missouri River crested this high was before most of the major dams upstream were built. Officially, the Missouri in this area has been above flood stage since May 31, and the National Weather Service predicts it will stay that way until late summer. Businesses along Interstate 29 in southeast Nebraska have closed. Near Nebraska City, all owners can do is wait and try to keep a sense of humor. Until mid-June, the Corps plans to release more water than ever, putting even more pressure on already stressed levees and dams. The Corps' lead-up strategy came under fire from Iowa Republican Governor, Terry Branstad. Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa: "The real question comes to the management of the river by the Corps of Engineers, which is federal. And I think, after its all over we'll want to do a, review of this and determine what could have been done different. Right now I think we all need to work together. Could there be a better management? I have felt for a long time that the downstream states have not been adequately protected in the flood mitigation work of the Corps of Engineers. The question really comes on the release of water, could they have released it sooner? Maybe not release as much as they are right now, questions like that." Further downstream, near the southwest Iowa town of Hamburg, residents have packed up and moved to higher ground. The lower elevated downtown is deserted, with temporary levees erected to protect that part of the city. Just outside of town, the Corps and private citizens continue shoring up levees to guard against approaching water. Earlier this week, a levee collapsed on itself creating a 10 to 15 foot wide breach. A temporary repair was made, but officials are unsure how long that patch will hold. Other breaks followed in that same area and were repaired. But if the levee fails further downstream in Missouri, a worst-case scenario puts 8-10 feet of water in low-lying areas near Hamburg. Those waters threaten thousands of acres of flat farmland and are expected to remain for a month or more.