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Business Today

By Compiled from Times wires
Published August 15, 2003

NOTE TO READERS: Thursday's power outage in the northeastern United States affected reporting of market numbers. As a result, some listings on today's stock pages may be incomplete.

MORTGAGE RATE DROPS: Rates on 30-year mortgages, which have been rising steadily since late June, dropped this week. Refinancing activity, however, continued to slow. The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages for the week ending Aug. 15 was 6.24 percent, down sharply from last week's rate of 6.34 percent, which marked the highest rate seen in a year. Rates on 30-year mortgages were at a record low of 5.21 percent the week ending June 13.

JOBLESS CLAIMS UP SLIGHTLY: New claims for jobless benefits inched up last week but were still at a level suggesting the pace of layoffs is stabilizing. The Labor Department reported that new applications filed for unemployment insurance edged up by a seasonally adjusted 2,000 to 398,000 for the work week ending Aug. 9. Even with the rise, claims have been under 400,000 - a level associated with a weak labor market - for four straight weeks, an encouraging sign, economists said. The more stable, four-week moving average of new claims fell last week to 394,250, the lowest level since the week ending Feb. 15.

WHOLESALE PRICES UP: The Labor Department reported that wholesale prices inched up by just 0.1 percent in July. The small increase in the Producer Price Index, which measures prices before they reach consumers, came after wholesale prices rose by 0.5 percent in June and matched economists' expectations.

TROPICAL TUMBLES: Tropical Sportswear's stock took a pounding Thursday in heavy trading, dropping 23 percent, or $1.17 per share, to an all-time low of $4. The plummet came a day after analysts at Standard & Poor's and Merrill Lynch expressed uncertainty over the apparel maker's future, and two days after Tropical's board fired the company's CEO, chief financial officer and general counsel and announced that it would not seek a buyer.

DIGITAL DELAYS FILING: Digital Lightwave Inc. filed notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying it would be late in reporting its earnings for the quarter ended June 30. The Clearwater maker of fiber-optic testing equipment has been negotiating with creditors to try to restructure its debt. Unless it raises additional funds, the company has said it will be unable to meet its short-term financial needs.

AS DOES REPTRON: Reptron Electronics Inc. said it will delay the release of its second-quarter financial results until Tuesday. The Tampa electronics manufacturing services company, which was scheduled to release its quarterly results on Thursday, said it needed more time "to complete the proper disclosure required" for the June 13 sale of its electronics components distribution division to Jaco Electronics Inc.

COMCAST COOLS TO VIVENDI: Comcast Corp. said it won't bid for the entertainment assets of Vivendi Universal. The largest cable TV company did not say why it was not making an offer. Last month, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. withdrew its $11.5-billion all-cash offer for the properties, which include the Universal movie and TV studios, several cable channels including Sci-Fi and Trio, and the Universal theme parks.

RJR REFUSES TO TURN OVER DOCUMENTS: R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., under subpoena by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in an investigation of possible violations of securities law, has refused to turn over some documents to the agency. RJR spokesman Seth Moskowitz said the company would turn over all of the requested documents if the SEC agreed not to share them with other agencies - particularly the U.S. Justice Department.

EARNINGS

Dell Inc.: The Texas personal computer giant reported profits for the quarter ended Aug. 1 rose 24 percent on strong sales of servers and data storage equipment. The company said it expects third-quarter volumes to grow more than 25 percent, leading to record revenue.

Target Corp.: The Minneapolis retailer reported a 4 percent increase in profits for the quarter ended Aug. 2 as the addition of new Target stores and growth in its credit-card operation offset revenue declines at the company's Marshal Field's and Mervyn's stores. The company's namesake upscale discount stores continued to be the biggest contributor to the bottom line.

[Last modified August 15, 2003, 01:17:11]

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