Pinnacle deposits up 42.3% in Chattanooga

Chattanooga was the fastest-growing market last year for deposit growth at one of Tennessee's fastest-growing banks.

Pinnacle Bank, Tennessee's third biggest bank with more than $23.5 billion in deposits at the end of 2020, reported its biggest deposit growth in the Chattanooga market which Pinnacle entered in 2015 with the purchase of CapitalMark Bank. In Chattanooga, Pinnacle deposits grew 42.3% to top $1.5 billion during 2020, despite a drop in total loan volume in Chattanooga during the fourth quarter. Statewide, Pinnacle deposits grew more than 34% last year.

Pinnacle CEO Terry Turner said Pinnacle expects loan growth in 2021 in the high single to double-digit growth, excluding the Paycheck Protection Program loans through the Small Business Administration.

"Having hired 85 new revenue producers in 2019 and 90 in 2020, we believe we are well positioned to grow loans as a result of the new clients we expect these associates will bring to us even in an economy that is likely to offer only limited organic loan demand in the near term," Turner said.


Airfares hit new low as air travel slumps

Average airfare hit a record low in the third quarter of last year with the pandemic-driven decline in travel.

The average U.S. domestic airfare was $245 in the July-to-September quarter of 2020, according to figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation. That's the lowest average quarterly airfare on record, based on inflation-adjusted data going back to 1995, and marked a nearly 30% decline from $349 a year earlier.

For domestic flights departing from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the average airfare in the third quarter of 2020 was $250.26, down from $362.13 a year earlier, according to the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The drop in airfare came as airlines struggled to attract passengers. The number of passengers was down about 68% in the third quarter compared with the same period a year ago.

Airlines have struggled throughout the pandemic, but a second round of federal stimulus grants and loans should help. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines got a $1.4 billion installment last Friday. That's part of $2.9 billion in payroll support payments Delta is due to receive from the U.S. Treasury Department this quarter, in exchange for 2.1 million shares of Delta stock.


Work halted on Keystone pipeline

The Canadian company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline said Wednesday it has suspended work on the pipeline in in anticipation of incoming U.S. President Joe Biden revoking its permit.

Biden's Day One plans included moving to revoke a presidential permit for the pipeline.

The 1,700-mile (2,735-kilometer) pipeline would carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

"TC Energy will review the decision, assess its implications, and consider its options. However, as a result of the expected revocation of the Presidential Permit, advancement of the project will be suspended," the Calgary, Alberta-based company said in a statement.

First proposed in 2008, the pipeline has become emblematic of the tensions between economic development and curbing the fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change. The Obama administration rejected it, but President Donald Trump revived it and has been a strong supporter. Construction already started.

Canadian officials tried to make the case for the pipeline to the incoming Biden administration. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised Keystone XL as a top priority when he spoke with Biden in a phone call in November. The project is meant to expand critical oil exports for Canada, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world.


Trump pardons Google engineer

President Donald Trump pardoned a former Google engineer who was sentenced to prison last year for stealing trade secrets from the tech giant related to robotic vehicles.

Anthony Levandowski left Google in early 2016 where he worked in the autonomous vehicle division to start his own company called Otto. That company was acquired by Uber for $680 million as the ride-hailing venture pursued its own autonomous vehicle division.

Before leaving, Levandowski downloaded a trove of Google's self-driving car technology, leading eventually to 33 counts of intellectual property theft against him. He plead guilty to one count and was sentenced to 18 months in prison last summer.

Levandowski was among the more than 140 people included in a flurry of clemency action in the final hours of Trump's White House term. In a White House statement, the administration said the pardon was supported by one-time Trump supporter and tech billionaire Peter Thiel, former Disney executive Michael Ovitz, and Palmer Luckey, founder of the virtual reality company Oculus VR.

Uber sold its autonomous vehicles development arm four months after Levandowski was sentenced.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner