Originally created 08/30/97

Business briefs



Reports indicate healthy economy

WASHINGTON - Fresh signs of a robust economy emerged Friday, but they fed concerns about a new round of inflation. Financial markets slid further.

The Commerce Department reported that consumer spending shot up 0.8 percent in July, fastest in six months, while sales of new homes rose 0.9 percent, the third straight advance. But new home purchases fell 2.5 percent to a 348,000 annual rate in the South.

At the same time, the Purchasing Management Association of Chicago said its index of area business activity rose to 64.3 percent in August, more than recovering a slight drop to 60.6 percent in July. A reading above 50 percent indicates the manufacturing sector is expanding.

The reports preceded a roller-coaster day on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average, after bouncing around throughout the day, ended down 72.01 to 7,622.42, extending the week's decline to 265.49 points, or 3.4 percent. Bond prices also were lower amid fears the continued economic growth could spur the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this year to prevent prices from spiraling upward.

New Bassett store opens

The new Bassett Furniture Direct store is open at its new site in Augusta - 1254 Augusta West Parkway in west Augusta. The store held a ribbon-cutting ceremony an hour before its noon opening Friday.

UPS delays layoff decision

ATLANTA - United Parcel Service deliveries are near normal, but the company said Friday the volume might be pent-up demand from the strike and no decision will be made until next week on whether to lay off employees.

The company said it was expecting to pick up 11 million packages Friday and deliver 12.2 million. UPS, the nation's largest shipping company, delivered 12 million packages a day before the strike.

But company spokesman Norman Black said pickups were trailing off as the backlog is cleared, while deliveries were expected "to skyrocket in the next three or four days."

UPS projected it would deliver 12.2 million packages Thursday, but delivered only 11.6 million. UPS officials said no decision on layoffs can be made until a post-strike surge in backlogged deliveries levels off.

Duncan Hines up for sale

CINCINNATI - Procter & Gamble Co. said Friday it may sell its Duncan Hines line of baking mixes and is already taking bids.

The company said the Duncan Hines line does not fit into its strategy of building market-leading food and beverage brands. P&G management said it sees potential in juice, coffee, snacks and Olean, its new calorie-free, fat-free cooking oil.

P&G is soliciting bids for Duncan Hines, but will retain the brand if no acceptable offers are received within the next several months, said Stephen P. Donovan, president of P&G's food and beverage business.