Business Briefs – March 6, 2016

Federal Probe of Bid-Rigging Goes Beyond Chesapeake Ex-CEO

DALLAS (AP) – As advanced drilling technology opened untapped sources of oil and natural gas, it triggered fierce competition among energy companies to scoop up rights to drill on vast swaths of land across the country.

The rush caused lease prices to skyrocket in the most promising fields. In a few cases, gas companies responded by cutting secret deals to rig the bidding and hold down their costs. Federal officials are now investigating to see if these shady practices are more common than believed.

The first big indictment of an executive came this week, when former Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon was charged with conspiring to rig bids for gas leases in Oklahoma from 2007 to 2012. Prosecutors moved Thursday to drop the charges after McClendon died in a fiery crash one day after the indictment was handed up by a federal grand jury in Oklahoma City.

Strong U.S. Job Growth in Feb. Helps Dispel Recession Fears

WASHINGTON (AP) – A robust February jobs report showcased a resilient U.S. economy just as fears of a new recession had begun to surface.

Economic reports in recent weeks had fueled anxieties about a looming downturn: Manufacturers were slumping. Stocks had plummeted. China was slowing sharply along with other emerging markets. The rising dollar had crushed exports.

But last month, U.S. employers sent a clear message of confidence. They added a healthy 242,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate held at a low 4.9 percent, the government said Friday. The gains showed that the economy is surmounting its challenges without suffering much damage.

Fed Proposes Rules to Boost Stability of Financial System

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Reserve has put forward new rules aimed at addressing one of the primary causes of the 2008 financial crisis — the financial exposures that the biggest banks had with each other.

The Fed is proposing new limits on that exposure. It hopes the new rules will prevent the type of crisis that engulfed the U.S. financial system in September 2008 when the collapse of Lehman Brothers raised fears about the stability of other banks that had made loans to Lehman.

The central bank on Friday approved by unanimous vote putting the new rules out for a 90-day comment period.

U.S. Trade Gap Widens To $45.7 Billion in January

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. trade deficit rose in January as American exports fell for a fourth straight month, the Commerce Department said Friday.

The gap between exports and imports climbed to $45.7 billion in January from a revised $44.7 billion in December. Exports of goods and services fell 2.1 percent in January to $176.5 billion, the lowest since June 2011. Exports of industrial equipment and supplies were down. American exporters have been hurt by weakness around the world and by a strong dollar that makes U.S. products more expensive overseas.

The high dollar should be helping imports by making them cheaper in America. But imports slid 1.3 percent to $222.1 billion in January, the lowest since April 2011. Lower oil prices explain part of the drop. Petroleum imports of $11.2 billion were the lowest since November 2003. But January imports of autos and auto parts hit a record $30.6 billion.

HP Enterprise Shares Surge 14 Percent After Strong Report

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s stock rose nearly 14 percent on Friday, a day after the commercial technology vendor reported solid earnings in its first quarter as an independent company.

Analysts said the results were better than expected, showing the new company can increase sales and become more profitable after spinning off from the old Hewlett-Packard last fall.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. sells commercial tech products and services, while another spin-off, HP Inc., is focused on personal computers and printers.