Heating oil survey shows prices rising along with crude

AUGUSTA – The governor’s energy office has released a summer survey of heating oil prices in Maine, and it’s not good news for people who heat their homes with oil.

The survey released Thursday says the average heating oil cost is currently $3.59 per gallon, a 32-cent increase from the last survey, on June 25. The survey found a high of $3.80 in northern and eastern Maine and a low of $3.40 in southwestern Maine.

State officials say heating oil is tracking with crude oil prices, which have gone from $79 a barrel in June to a current high of more than $90.

The U.S. Department of Energy will release its winter projections in October. A draft report suggests heating oil costs will be 4 percent lower than last year.

Maine among states getting Johnson & Johnson settlement

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire are receiving a total of $9.6 million as part of a nationwide settlement between the drug company Johnson & Johnson and the 34 other states.

The $181 million nationwide settlement with Johnson and Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals is believed to be the largest multi-state consumer protection settlement ever.

Vermont’s share is $4.1 million. New Hampshire’s is about $2.8 million and Maine’s is $2.7 million.

The states allege that Janssen improperly marketed the anti-psychotic drugs Risperdal, Risperdal Consta, Risperdal M-Tab and Invega.

The complaint alleges that Janssen engaged in unfair and deceptive practices when it marketed Risperdal for unapproved uses.

The settlement restricts Janssen from promoting some of its anti-psychotic drugs for “off-label” uses that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Markets on hold awaiting Bernanke’s speech Friday

The late-summer lull is about to end.

Stocks fell Thursday, with investors too worried about high gas prices and stagnant employment to be impressed by higher consumer spending.

But trading volume was light, the market’s direction was steady, and there wasn’t much in the way of major economic news.

That could all change Friday. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to speak at 10 a.m., and investors will be listening closely for his opinion on the economy and whether the Fed will take more action to try to prop it up.

Scott Freeze, president of Street One Financial in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., had the feeling that he was experiencing the calm before the storm. He went golfing Thursday morning with clients, figuring there wouldn’t be many more chances to leave the office.

Many of his employees and clients planned to come to work Friday morning, stick around to see what Bernanke says, and then leave early for the long weekend if it’s nothing of consequence.

“There’s so little going on, it’s all wait and see before Bernanke’s speech,” Freeze said. “I’m sure next week will be a much different scenario.”

Some thought Bernanke’s speech, for all the hype, would end up being a non-event. The statements from Fed officials are sometimes too ambiguous to really guide the market.

— From staff and news services