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Moody’s upgrades Avista credit rating

Moody’s Investor Service raised Avista Corp.’s credit rating this week, following a similar move two weeks ago by Standard & Poor’s.

Corporate credit ratings are like consumer credit scores, with higher ratings leading to more favorable borrowing terms.

“It will lower our overall interest costs and save customers money,” said Jessie Wuerst, an Avista spokeswoman.

Moody’s raised Avista’s overall credit rating to Baa2 from Baa3. The upgrade reflects Avista’s improved liquidity through a new $400 million credit agreement, which expires in 2015, Moody’s said.

Moody’s also mentioned Washington, Idaho and Oregon regulators’ approval of higher electric and natural gas rates for Avista as a factor in the company’s credit upgrade.

Becky Kramer

Spokane man guilty in workers’ comp case

A Spokane man was found guilty Thursday of stealing more than $30,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.

A Spokane County Superior Court jury ruled Christopher Koker, 53, continued to collect time-lost benefits under a 1999 claim for a work-related injury while organizing 11 gun shows in 2006 and 2007.

Department of Labor & Industries investigators also found Koker helping at a Spokane gun store.

The jury convicted Koker on 26 counts of second-degree theft. The verdict could bring a jail sentence of up to 29 months. He is also responsible for $31,309 in restitution.

Koker is scheduled to be sentenced April 6. 

Carl Hammersburg, L&I manager of fraud prevention and compliance, said the Koker verdict keeps the department’s 100 percent conviction rate intact.

Bert Caldwell

Earthquake may slow parts for iPad 2 tablet

SEATTLE – Market research group IHS iSuppli said Friday that last week’s earthquake in Japan could cause shortages of Apple Inc.’s iPad 2 tablet computer.

The iSuppli analysts, who regularly do “teardown” analyses to determine what components are used inside consumer electronics, said they have identified at least five parts that come from Japan: storage and memory from Toshiba Corp. and Elpida Memory Inc., an electronic compass from AKM Semiconductor, touch-screen overlay glass that is likely from Asahi Glass Co., and a battery from Apple Japan Inc.

ISuppli said some of these suppliers have said their facilities were not damaged by the earthquake or tsunami. However, they will likely be affected in some way by the resulting logistical problems in Japan, including intermittent electricity and hurdles to transporting raw materials and shipping out products, iSuppli said.

Aftershocks may also keep semiconductor facilities offline, iSuppli said.

Associated Press

Wheat prices rise on Russian forecast

Wheat prices are climbing after Russia cut its forecast for this year’s harvest, renewing concerns that global supplies will tighten.

Wheat settled up 2 percent Friday after a Russian official predicted 84 million to 85 million tons of wheat would be harvested this year. That compares to an earlier estimate of 85 million to 87 million tons.

The news comes after Russia’s wheat harvest was damaged last year by a drought, prompting an export ban that remains in place.

Corn prices are soaring a second day as strong export sales raised expectations for improving demand.

Other commodities are mixed. Oil and other energy products are falling while metals are mostly higher.

Associated Press