Court won’t close locks; Carp DNA in Lake Michigan

The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to order the immediate closure of shipping structures near Chicago to prevent Asian carp from infesting the Great Lakes, before authorities said DNA from the ravenous invaders had been found in Lake Michigan for the first time.

The court rejected Michigan’s request for a preliminary injunction to shut the locks and gates temporarily while officials and interest groups debate a long-term strategy. The court’s one-sentence decision included no explanation and didn’t say whether the justices would consider the case on its merits.

Hours later, federal officials said two DNA samples taken beyond the final barriers between Chicago-area waterways and the lake had tested positive for carp — including one in the lake’s Calumet Harbor. [Read the full article]

Fitch Ratings offered a negative outlook on the U.S. health care industry on Tuesday, saying high unemployment and potentially sweeping reforms may make it harder for health care companies to get credit.

Analyst Michael Zbinovec said growth may be limited for drugmakers, for-profit hospital operators and medical device makers, as they will have to manage a number of issues to maintain good credit. He noted that unemployment levels are high, and many people have little ability to handle health care expenses such as copayments and out of pocket costs. Zbinovec said the same issues have hurt growth over the last few years.

Questions about the passage and the details of health care reform, and their eventual effects on government reimbursement rates, health insurance coverage, and competition are also creating uncertainty in the industry, Fitch said.

Crude oil followed the stock market up on Tuesday, settling higher for the first time in five sessions.

Investors boosted health stocks, watching a Massachusetts election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Some hoped for a Republican victory that would make it more difficult for Senate Democrats to pass a health care bill. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up nearly 100 points in afternoon trading.

Wholesale gasoline prices also moved higher after the MasterCard SpendingPulse report for the week ended Friday showed gasoline consumption rose 3.2 percent with the week before and 2.3 percent from the same week a year ago. Traders have been looking for signs that gasoline demand is starting to pick up to justify oil prices that have more than doubled in the past year.

SpendingPulse is a division of MasterCard Advisors that tracks total sales paid for by credit card, checks and cash. [Read the full article]

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM – News) posted a positive earnings report after the bell Tuesday. For the company’s 4th quarter of 2009, its $3.59 per share beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.47 by 12 cents, and was up 10% year over year.

Quarterly revenue of $27.2 billion was essentially flat from the year-earlier level (up 0.8%), but down 5% if we exclude the impact of exchange rates. Quarterly gross margin of 48.3% was up from 47.9% from the year-earlier period.

For the full-year 2009, earnings of $10.01 per share were up 13% year over year, and net income of $13.4 billion rose 9% from fiscal year 2008 totals. Both figures also happen to be record numbers for IBM. For fiscal year 2010, the company now expects earnings of at least $11 per share, up from a previously expected $10-11 per share range.

Analysts covering IBM had been standing pat in their earnings estimates over the past month. [Read the full article]

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