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    Arkansas Business headlines for Jan. 18

    7:26 AM, Jan 18, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Business) -- Jobs and housing boosted Wall Street on Thursday. 

    The Dow gained 85 at 13-5-96. The Nasdaq scored 18 to 31-36. The S&P climbed 8 to 14-81 -- its highest mark since 2007. 

    Investors pleased about two reports from the government. First, the Commerce Department said domestic home construction grew at its fastest pace in four years last month, up 12 percent from November.

    The report also said 2012 was the best year for residential construction since the beginning of the recession.

    Second, the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment fell last week to its lowest point in five years -- a bigger decline than had been forecast.

    Here in Arkansas, Home BancShares Inc. of Conway reported record net income for the year and its fourth quarter.

    The publicly traded bank company -- the parent company of Centennial Bank -- said profit for the full year reached $63 million, up from about $55 million in 2011.

    Stock in Home BancShares was up 15 cents to $34.25 per share.

    Elsewhere, an ownership change at North Little Rock's Wild River Country.

    A company called Aquapark says it has purchased the water park -- billed as the state's largest -- and it has installed new management.

    Aquapark said Chris Shillcutt of North Little Rock is the park's new vice president of operations.

    As of 2009, Wild River Country was owned by Hugh Hall's Halcyon Attractions of Arkansas.

    Here in Arkansas, the first week of the Legislative session wrapped up yesterday.

    The House and Senate taking the day off Friday and planning to reconvene on Tuesday after Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

    The week ended with legislative leaders saying they need much more information about the possible Medicaid expansion.

    Republicans, in particular, wonder what flexibility the state will have if it expands the program, and they want better data on how much of a shortfall the program faces.

    Senate President Michael Lamoureux said lawmakers want answers on whether the state could opt for a smaller expansion than the federal health care law calls for -- despite the Obama administration telling states that partial expansion wasn't possible.

    Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has advocated a full expansion that would include 250-thousand more Arkansans, but has said he'll talk with the Obama administration about what alternatives -- if any -- there could be.

    And some final bills filed this week included a pair of bills by two Republicans -- Sen. Bryan King of Green Forrest and Rep. Denny Altes of Fort Smith -- that would expand the places where people can carry concealed handguns - including churches and college campuses.

    Republican Sen. Bart Hester of Cave Springs filed legislation that would allow certain relatives of the victim of a crime for which a death row inmate is being executed to be present at the inmate's execution.

    And Republican House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs filed his plan to limit the growth of state spending from year to year.

    (Source: Arkansas Business)

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