HOUSTON -- Gasoline imports are the highest in a year and ethanol production is at a record as Americans drive more than ever.
U.S. drivers traveled 988 billion miles in the first four months of 2015, shattering 2007's all-time high of 965.5 billion, the Federal Highway Administration said Wednesday.
That's pushed gasoline consumption to the highest for this time of year since 2007. Last week, imports jumped to the most in over a year, the Energy Information Administration said.
This is good news for U.S. ethanol. Distillers have never seen this much demand for the fuel, which makes up about 10 percent of gasoline. Ethanol inventories shrank to 19.8 million barrels last week, the lowest since Jan. 2, even as production climbed to a record.
Florida small businesses on rise, survey shows
Florida small businesses are reporting higher company sales and have an improved economic outlook in the Florida Chamber's Small Business Index Survey released Wednesday at the 2015 Annual Florida SBDC Network Conference in Miami.
The survey, conducted in conjunction with the Florida SBDC Network in May, shows 55 percent of small businesses reporting higher company sales compared to last quarter, 62 percent reported higher company sales compared to the same time period last year, with only 14 percent of businesses reporting lower sales.
Top issues facing small businesses included economic uncertainty (24 percent), workforce quality (15 percent), government regulations (12 percent), access to capital (10 percent) and growth management processes (10 percent). Notably, access to capital has dropped from tying as the single biggest issue from more than a year ago, to the fourth overall issue during the latest survey.
Looking ahead, 78 percent of respondents expect the economy to improve in the next 12 months, with 18 percent expecting the economy to "improve significantly," more than double the amount from the Florida Chamber Q2 2014 survey. In the poll, 57 percent responded that their business is better off than six months ago.
U.S. stocks decline amid Greek debt talks drag on
NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell, halting two days of gains that brought equities near a record, amid declines in raw- material and railroad shares as Greek debt talks dragged on.
Kansas City Southern and CSX Corp. dropped more than 2.7 percent to weigh on industrial shares. General Motors Co. slumped 3.1 percent, while Ford Motor Co. gained after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. flipped its preference on the two. Netflix Inc. erased a rally of as much as 3.7 percent after Carl Icahn said he had exited his stake. Apple Inc. added 0.9 percent after positive comments from Morgan Stanley.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 0.7 percent to 2,108.58 at 4 p.m. in New York, after earlier rising to within 0.3 percent of a record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 178 points, or 1 percent, to 17,966.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.7 percent from an all-time high. About 5.8 billion shares traded hands on U.S. exchanges Wednesday, 8 percent below the three-month average.
-- Herald staff report