High gas costs raise hackles overseas

Persistently high gas prices have convinced Europeans to buy small, fuel efficient cars and invest in public transportation, but rapidly rising fuel prices are now causing anger and sometimes-violent protests from London to the Netherlands. Gas is currently about $8.20 a gallon in France. (The New York Times) Countries in Asia and the Middle East are being forced to sharply cut gas subsidies, similarly causing protests. (The Daily Telegraph) In the U.S., the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission said it has opened an investigation into whether speculation by large investors, like pension funds, has contributed to rising gas and oil prices. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)

Dell passes global tipping point

Dell, the world’s No. 2 computer maker, reported a 3.7 percent rise in quarterly profit, to $784 million, in a sign that the company’s turnaround plan could be taking hold. The earnings beat Wall Street expectations. Sales also rose a better-than-expected 9 percent, to $16.08 billion, led by a 43 percent jump in laptop sales and 21 percent rise in server sales. ( Dell said that international revenue topped U.S. revenue for the first time, and that in five years, two-thirds of sales could be outside of the U.S. (Reuters) Luckily for Dell, U.S. tech spending “is turning out a little better than expected,” said analyst Shaw Wu at American Technology Research. Dell shares rose 9.9 percent in extended trading. (AP in Yahoo! Finance)

Silverjet ceases flights amid oil spike

U.K.-based Silverjet, a business-class-only airline with routes from London to Newark and Dubai, ceased operation after investor Viceroy Holdings declined to extend it a $5 million drawdown. Silverjet sought emergency funding to deal with the 50 percent jump in fuel costs since January. (MarketWatch) The airline, which hasn’t turned a profit since its launch in January 2007, is the 12th carrier to fail in the past six months, including the other two London-U.S. business-only airlines, MAXJet and Eos Airlines. “Silverjet was the last of a particular breed but I think we’ll see other failures across different parts of the market in the next 12 months,” said airline consultant John Strickland. (Bloomberg)

Surf’s down

It’s a dire time for the U.S. surfboard industry, and many of the causes are familiar—a drop in spending, foreign competition, and a rise in oil prices. But behind it all is the 2005 closure, after 44 years, of Clark Foam Inc., the dominant maker of foam cores, or blanks, for surfboards. At first, Clark’s folding led to a boom in blanks, but the boom became a glut, and many of the businesses that took off after 2005 are now also calling it quits. But the exit of Clark has also spurred innovation in a stagnant industry. “The companies that have said, ’I’m going to offer a wide range of technology,’ I think, will find themselves doing better over the long run,” said Sean Smith of the surf industry trade group. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)