Utility requests 40 pct rate hike for some in Kan.

State regulators are having a hearing next week on a proposal to raise some southeast Kansas residents’ electric rates by 40 percent.

The proposal is from Joplin, Mo.-based Empire District Electric Co., which serves about 10,000 customers in southeast Kansas.

The utility wants to raise an additional $5.2 million a year. The new revenues would cover rising operating expenses and costs associated with three new power plants and upgrades to pollution controls at existing plants.

The KCC says residential customers would see an average increase of $25 in their monthly electric bills. [Read the full article]

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The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Corporate Expectations Barometer rose to 7.0 in December from 6.3 in May of last year.

The index shows business sentiment gradually improving, in line with GDP growth and rebounding stock markets. Respondents say prospects appear to be improving for their individual companies and for the global economy as a whole.

Overall, respondents have raised their 2010 global GDP growth forecast to an average of 1.8% in December, up from 0.2% in May. Twenty-nine percent of the executives queried expect their work force to grow. Only 19% expect it to shrink.

A report says small stores and restaurants saw a drop from a year earlier in credit and debit card sales in the holiday-influenced fourth quarter.

However, the report by financial services provider Capital Access Network says the fall in credit card spending wasn’t as sharp for smaller brick-and-mortar retailers as it was in the third quarter of 2009. [Read the full article]

The U.S. economy lost 20,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department said Friday, defying expectations for a slim gain. But the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 9.7% from 10% in December.

Stocks opened up, sold off, then staged a big rally late to end higher. The Dow rose 0.1%, the S&P 500 0.3% and the Nasdaq 0.7%.

Job losses in the recession have been much worse than previously calculated, new benchmark revisions showed. The U.S. has lost 8.4 million jobs since the start of the slump. The old estimate was 7.2 million.

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The jobless rate is based on the separate household employment survey. That showed a huge gain of 541,000 jobs last month, the best in nearly five years.

“The pace of job losses has slowed pretty substantially and new hiring is just beginning to pick up,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James. [Read the full article]

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