In Brief: Avista earnings buoyed by cold winter
Avista Corp. reported a 14 percent increase in earnings during the first quarter, citing higher energy sales from a colder-than-normal winter.
Residential electric use increased 4 percent per customer, and residential natural gas use increased 1 percent.
The Spokane-based utility reported a profit of $48.5 million, or 81 cents per share, for the quarter, compared with $42.3 million, or 71 cents per share, during the first quarter of 2013. Company revenues were $490.9 million during the quarter.
Avista also benefited from rate increases approved by regulators across its service territory in Washington, Idaho and Oregon, Chairman and CEO Scott Morris said in a news release.
In other news, Avista is considering the sale of its energy management subsidiary Ecova, which serves more than 700 clients representing 720,000 sites in North America.
Morris said Avista is evaluating offers for Ecova but hasn’t made a decision. If a sale doesn’t go through, the company will continue to support Ecova’s growth initiatives, he said.
Ecova’s revenues totaled $44.4 million during the first quarter.
Fed’s Yellen: Economy mending but jobs tight
WASHINGTON – Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that the U.S. economy is improving but noted that the job market remains “far from satisfactory” and inflation is still below the Fed’s target rate.
Speaking to Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, Yellen said that as a result, she expects low borrowing rates will continue to be needed for a considerable time.
The comments signal that the Fed has no intention of acting soon to raise its key target for short-term interest rates even though the job market has strengthened and economic growth is poised to rebound this year. The Fed has kept short-term rates at a record low near zero since December 2008.
Consumer borrowing increases in March
WASHINGTON – Consumers increased their borrowing in March by the largest amount in more than a year, using their credit cards and taking out more auto and student loans.
Consumer borrowing increased $17.5 billion in March, up from a gain of $13 billion in February, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday. It was the biggest monthly increase since a $19.3 billion advance in February 2013.
The category that includes auto and student loans rose $16.4 billion while the category that covers credit card borrowing increased $1.1 billion.
The overall increase in consumer debt pushed total borrowing to a record $3.14 trillion.
Gains in borrowing are seen as an encouraging sign that people are more confident and willing to take on debt.