Factory Growth on Upswing

Manufacturers produced more goods and booked more orders last month, a trade group says, leading to the fastest growth in factory activity since May 2010. Meanwhile, construction spending rose for a third straight month in November.

This comes from the  Institute for Supply Management which reported that its index of manufacturing activity rose to 57 in December from 56.6 in the previous month. Any reading over 50 indicates growth. The latest is well above the recession’s low of 32.5, hit in December 2008. But it’s below the reading of 60.4 in April, the highest level since June 2004.

Gasoline Prices Expected to Soar

Oil prices shot past $92 a barrel on Monday to a 26-month high. This means that drivers in the USA could be paying as much as $3.75 a gallon for gas this spring, oil experts predict.

Prices at the gas pump have inched up all year as the cost of crude oil neared $100 a barrel. On Christmas Day, the average nationwide price of self-serve regular hit $3, a record for that day. By year’s end, the average price reached $3.06.

Prices creeping toward $4 a gallon could have dire consequences for some industries and slow the economic recovery, analysts say.

Consumer Bankruptcies Rose Sharply Last Year

U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings rose 9 percent last year compared with 2009, reaching 1.53 million, according to the  American Bankruptcy Institute, which projected 2010 bankruptcies totaling 1.6 million.

The pace of bankruptcy filings slowed in the last quarter, with fewer petitions in October and November than during the same period a year earlier, according to the Alexandria, Virginia-based ABI. The slowdown at the end of the year was the result of more consumers reducing debt and cutting spending, ABI Executive Director Samuel J. Gerdano said today in an interview.

New Drug for Breast Cancer Found in the Ocean

The recent U.S. approval of Eisai Co.’s Halaven represents some vindication for a small group of researchers who believe, that molecules from nature hold promise against hard-to-treat diseases.

The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Halaven in November for treating late-stage breast cancer was a triumph of chemistry and tenacious research. Its path, extending nearly three decades from the first studies, demonstrates not only potential benefits but also some of the hurdles in the hunt within nature’s bounty for drugs of the future.

In this case the powerful molecules come from creatures that live in the sea.

Deep Water Drilling to resume in Gulf

Deep-water drilling  for oil in the Gulf of Mexico could resume shortly under a policy announced Monday by the Obama administration.

Oil and gas exploration in the Gulf’s deep waters has been stopped since May, when President Barack Obama announced a six-month drilling moratorium in the wake of the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.