Originally created 09/12/98

Business briefs



Ford descendant to head automaker

DEARBORN, Mich. -- A great-grandson of Henry Ford was picked to become chairman of the No. 2 automaker, putting a member of the founding family at the top of Ford Motor Co. for the first time in nearly two decades.

William Clay Ford Jr., 41, will become chairman in January and will run the company along with Jac Nasser, who will become president and chief executive. The two replace Alex Trotman, whose retirement takes effect Jan. 1.

The appointment of Mr. Ford and Mr. Nasser to run the world's second-largest automaker was no surprise, but the timing of Mr. Trotman's retirement was a year ahead of what the industry had expected.

Mr. Trotman, 65, said two years ago he planned to retire as chairman, president and chief executive officer at the end of 1999.

It was still unclear then whether his Ford 2000 reorganization and cost-cutting program would work, and the board wanted some time to consider possible successors.

Merger to cost 110 positions

COLUMBIA -- JB White's merger with Dillard's will put 110 Columbia employees out of work when the JB White distribution center in West Columbia closes Nov. 2, according to a document filed with the state.

Dillard's decided it didn't need the JB White distribution center because it already had six in the Southeast, said Dillard's spokeswoman Julie Bull.

There is no distribution center in Augusta, and Dillard's has said employment changes, if any, have not been determined yet.VW approves slave labor fundBERLIN -- In what it called a moral rather than a legal duty, Volkswagen approved a $12 million fund Friday to compensate former slave laborers forced to work for the company by the Nazis during World War II.

The automaker, one of several German businesses facing lawsuits in the United States and threats of more at home from former slave laborers, is the first to agree to direct payments.

The first payments, to be administered by the accounting firm KPMG, will be made before the end of the year, the company said in a statement.

Japan's recession gets worse

TOKYO -- Japan slid even deeper into recession, hit by feeble consumer spending and the financial meltdown elsewhere in Asia.

The world's second-largest economy shrank at an annual rate of 3.3 percent in the April-June quarter, the government said in figures released Friday.

The third straight quarter of shrinkage is Japan's worst contraction since 1955.

Farm prices likely to fall

WASHINGTON -- Farm prices are likely to fall even further as harvest time approaches because of forecasts for large corn, soybean and wheat crops amid stagnant exports, the Agriculture Department reported Friday.

The latest report is likely to influence debate in Congress over how much aid to provide farmers, who no longer have a government safety net to ease them through price downturns.

The worst price slide is expected in soybeans, which many farmers planted as an alternative this year because they offered better income potential than other crops.

Sebate banking committee approves bill

WASHINGTON -- Breaking a logjam, the Senate Banking Committee on Friday approved new compromise legislation that would overhaul the nation's financial services laws. Only a few weeks remain for Congress to enact the sweeping package.

The legislation, which in May squeaked through the House, 214-213, would lift Depression-era barriers separating banks, securities firms and insurance companies. It would "give a sea anchor of financial stability to this country" at a time of global economic turbulence, said Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C.

The committee voted, 16-2, to send the measure to the full Senate. Sens. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and other critics of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act contend that banks shouldn't be subject to federal mandates dictating with whom they can do business.

Brazil boosts interest rates

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Brazil, trying to stop the hemorrhaging of dollars from the country and keep financial turmoil from ruining its economy, boosted interest rates for the second time this week.

The nation's central bank, which on Monday raised its basic lending rate from 19 percent to 29.75 percent, pushed the rate even higher late Thursday, to 49.75 percent.

On Friday, financial markets rebounded after skidding lower this week as foreign investors withdrew their money from Brazil. Analysts credited the latest rate increase and rumors that the International Monetary Fund was working on a $30 billion bailout package for Brazil. On Friday, the Bovespa Index on the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange, Latin America's largest, closed up 13.3 percent.

Brazil's economy had appeared recently to be gaining strength. But it has struggled along with other emerging market countries. Confidence in the economy has waned, unemployment has grown and the country appears headed toward recession.

Beetle-free wood may triger trade battle

BEIJING -- Setting up a potentially bruising trade battle, the United States on Friday announced strict regulations to force China to keep a hungry beetle out of U.S.-bound exports. Over the past seven years, the beetles have eaten $8 million worth of U.S. trees.

From late-December on, Chinese exporters must certify they have treated all wood crates and pallets to make them beetle-free. Even exports without wood-packaging need documents declaring the contents wood-free.

About a third to a half of all Chinese exports to the United States are packed in solid wood. That trade could be at risk if Chinese exporters cannot meet the 90-day deadline to comply with the new regulations. The Chinese government said it is looking into the regulations and their potential impact on trade.

Coffee futures dive

Coffee futures prices dived to their lowest in nearly two years and grain futures retreated but soybeans, meat and livestock futures prices gained.