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Jan. 21, 2013 at 2:59 PM
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Fed in 2007 slow on the uptake

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Federal Reserve officials tried to steer clear of the word recession at policy meetings through much of 2007, meeting transcripts show.

The official start of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression -- frequently referred to as the Great Recession -- was December 2007.

In the months leading to that point, officials had discussed the symptoms of the recession. But the word "recession" does not appear in transcripts until the summer of 2007, The Washington Post reported Monday.

One official referred to it as "the R word," reflecting the idea that acknowledging an economic contraction was difficult.

When it became clearer that the economy was in trouble, Fed officials then discussed whether or not they should use the word publicly, given the point that a declaration from the Fed could have been premature and seriously jolted the investment community.

"The best guidance would be that we must not ourselves become a tripwire. I rather liked the reference to the Hippocratic oath earlier, 'Do no harm,'" Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said at the August 2007 policy meeting.

Some officials were becoming increasingly concerned. Janet Yellen, the San Francisco Fed president at the time, said in December her optimism was "severely shaken."

Frederic Mishkin, who was a Fed governor at that time, said he was "very, very worried." And Eric Rosengren, another Fed governor, said he had agreed with Yellen. He joked that he and Yellen had taken a "pessimism pill," the newspaper reported.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who has said he was slow to recognize how severe the downturn would be, said in December, "You can tell that I am quite conflicted about it [about making a large interest rate cut], and I think there's a good chance we may have to move further in subsequent meetings."

A large interest rate cut would show "more concern ... about the economy that we in fact don't necessarily have," he said.

Game-maker Atari files for Chapter 11

NEW YORK, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Digital game company Atari Inc. has filed for bankruptcy protection in New York, court papers show.

Atari and three affiliates filed for Chapter 11 to reorganize and to break away from its French parent company, Atari S.A., the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Atari is the company that developed "Pong" and "Asteroids," which were simple digital games that proved three decades ago that the size of the gaming industry could be enormous.

Atari's U.S. operations has only 40 employees now and has not been profitable in about 10 years. About 17 percent of the company's profits come from licensing its name to other consumer products.

In 2008, Atari's assets were bought outright by a French company, which was formerly called Infogrames and is now named Atari S.A.

The French firm has also been losing money for about 10 years. Its fortunes have picked up in the past two years and would be profitable if it were not for another subsidiary that is losing money, Eden Games, analysts say.

A reorganized Atari may develop games for phones and recycle some of its historic moneymakers, including "Pong," and a compilation of its "greatest hits," the Times said.

Anschutz bets Wyo. wind will power Calif.

DENVER, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz is betting $9 billion California will want wind power from Wyoming, even though the Golden State says it doesn't and won't.

Gov. Jerry Brown says California can build its own renewable-energy projects, and state utility executives told The Denver Post if they have to look out of state, they'll look closer than Wyoming, more than 1,000 miles away.

"A couple of years ago it looked to us that the future was going to be large wind projects beyond Nevada, but not now," San Diego Gas & Electric Co. Vice President Matt Burkhart told the newspaper.

Six renewable-energy projects are being built within driving distance of San Diego, he said.

But 73-year-old Anschutz, whose Forbes magazine says is worth some $7.6 billion, is not put off.

The Sierra Madre and Chokecherry Wind Project, the largest commercial wind-generation facility proposed in North America, is "vintage Anschutz," said Martin Fridson, who featured the Anschutz in his book, "How to Be a Billionaire: Proven Strategies From the Titans of Wealth."

"Again and again he has extricated himself from situations that appeared hopeless by heading off in a surprising new direction," Fridson told the Post.

The wind project, taking three to four years to build, would put 1,000 wind turbines on 2,000 acres south of Rawlins, Wyo., at a cost of up to $6 billion.

The wind project got initial federal Bureau of Land Management approval in October. About half the turbines are proposed for public land.

A $3 billion TransWest power line would carry the wind farm's 3,000 megawatts of power 725 miles across four states to a location south of Las Vegas, where it could connect with California's power grid.

To win final BLM approval, Anschutz's Power Company of Wyoming must show that the specific turbine sites will not hurt wildlife.

Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Laramie, Wyo., told the newspaper the BLM estimates the turbines could kill 46 to 64 golden eagles every year.

Crude oil hovers over $95

NEW YORK, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The price of crude oil added 9 cents during the weekend to reach $95.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gasoline dropped 1.33 cents to $2.7867 a gallon.

Home heating oil added 0.09 cents to $3.0509 a gallon.

Natural gas climbed 5.9 cents to $3.629 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, AAA reported the national average price for regular unleaded gasoline rose to $3.305 per gallon from Sunday's $3.304.

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