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Business Today

By wire services
Published February 25, 2005


TRIAL DATE SET FOR ENRON'S LAY, SKILLING: The fraud and conspiracy trial of Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling has been set for Jan. 17, 2006, a federal judge said Thursday. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake yielded to defense requests for more time to prepare their case and sought to avoid conflicts over the year-end holidays.

ORDERS FOR BIG-TICKET GOODS DROP: Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell 0.9 percent in January, the worst showing in three months, as demand for commercial aircraft fell sharply, the government reported Thursday. The Commerce Department said demand for durable goods, items expected to last three or more years, dropped by $1.7-billion last month to a seasonally adjusted $200.4-billion. The weakness was led by a 27.1 percent plunge in orders for commercial aircraft.

JOBLESS CLAIMS AVERAGE AT FOUR-YEAR LOW: The Labor Department said Thursday the number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week rose by 9,000 to 312,000. The slight increase had been expected given that weekly claims had been declining in recent weeks. The four-week moving average of claims, designed to smooth out week-to-week volatility, dropped by 3,250 to a four-year low of 308,750.

DEVELOPER DROPS PLANS FOR WAL-MART IN BIG APPLE: A real estate developer scrapped plans to build the city's first Wal-Mart store amid intense pressure from residents and union leaders. The decision, announced by city officials Thursday, comes as a blow to the retail giant, which has sought for years to move into the lucrative New York City market. The company had announced Dec. 6 that it would open a new store in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens.

TIVO SHARES SOAR: Shares of TiVo Inc., down 57 percent in the past 12 months, rose 2.3 percent Thursday on speculation that the company may be acquired. Stock in TiVo, a maker of digital video recorders, gained 10 cents to $4.48 in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. Apple Computer Inc., Time Warner Inc., Liberty Media Corp., Sony Corp. and Comcast Corp. have been named as potential buyers by analysts.

UPS CLOSES PLANT, CUTS 1,400 JOBS: UPS Inc., the world's largest shipping carrier, said Thursday it plans to close its recently acquired freight sorting hub in Dayton, Ohio, in 2006, eliminating 1,400 jobs, in a move the company said would make its operations more efficient. The facility is the company's only sorting hub for heavy airline freight. A new hub for handling cargo weighing more than 150 pounds will be built at a UPS facility in an effort to improve efficiency, spokesman Norman Black said.

NORTHWEST HIKES TICKET PRICES: Northwest Airlines on Thursday raised ticket prices on flights in the United States and Canada as the spring travel season approaches. Spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said fares for routes shorter than 1,000 miles were boosted by $5 each way. For longer routes, the airline increased fares $10 each way.

EX-WORLDCOM CHAIRMAN SAID EBBERS WAS UNAWARE: The former chairman of WorldCom Inc. testified Thursday that finance chief Scott Sullivan told him in 2002 that chief executive Bernard Ebbers did not know about the company's improper accounting entries. Bert Roberts, who held the title of honorary chairman of the board at the time, said he questioned Sullivan on June 20, 2002, as WorldCom's wide-reaching accounting fraud was beginning to come to light.

EARNINGS

J. C. Penney Co.: The department store chain swung to a profit and beat Wall Street expectations in the fourth quarter as sales at stores open at least a year rose 3 percent from a year ago.

Viacom Inc.: The media giant that owns CBS, MTV and the Paramount movie studio posted a fourth-quarter loss because of hefty charges to write down the value of its holdings in radio stations and outdoor advertising.

[Last modified February 25, 2005, 01:03:50]


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