Originally created 01/26/01

Business briefs



Wary investors eye earnings forecasts

NEW YORK - Investors decided to stick with safer bets on Wall Street on Thursday while they contemplated the future of earnings and the economy. The market bid blue chips higher but cashed in recent gains in the battered tech sector.

Although big-name companies reported fourth-quarter results largely in line with expectations, analysts said investors kept their focus on forecasts for 2001.

The Dow Jones industrial made a solid advance, closing up 82.55 at 10,729.52. The Nasdaq composite index fell 104.87 to 2,754.28, and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 6.79 to 1,357.51.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 13-to-10 on the New York Stock Exchange where volume was 1.25 billion shares, compared with 1.28 billion at the same point Wednesday.

Mortgage rates rise from slump

WASHINGTON - Rates for 30-year and 15-year mortgages continued to climb this week after hitting their lowest levels in 21 months two weeks ago.

The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 7.15 percent, up from 7.02 percent last week, according to a survey released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the mortgage company.

A year ago, the rate on 30-year mortgages stood at 8.25 percent and was rising. In mid-May, rates on 30-year mortgages hit a five-year high of 8.64 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, edged up to 6.70 percent last week, up from 6.63 percent the previous week. A year ago, 15-year mortgages averaged 7.84 percent.

On one-year adjustable-rate mortgages, lenders were asking an average initial rate of 6.64 percent, unchanged from the week before. Last year, the one-year mortgages averaged 6.65 percent.

The rates do not include add-on fees known as points, which averaged 1 percent of the loan amount for all three types of mortgages.

Sara Lee cuts garment, food jobs

CHICAGO - Consumer products giant Sara Lee is slashing 7,000 jobs - mostly in its underwear and food operations, which are under increasing pressure from tough competition and the U.S. retail slowdown.

The worldwide layoffs, which include some jobs in other businesses, are part of a continuing makeover of the conglomerate, which sells everything from shoe polish to socks to sausages.

The jobs being eliminated this year amount to more than 4 percent of Sara Lee's work force of 154,000 employees in 40 countries.

Spokeswoman Julie Ketay confirmed Thursday that the layoffs will come mainly from the Chicago-based company's two biggest operations - intimates and underwear, along with food.

The company, whose brands range from Ball Park franks, Pickwick Tea and its namesake baked goods to Wonderbra, Hanes underwear, Endust furniture polish and Kiwi shoe polish, is shedding businesses to focus on its strongest brands.

Sara Lee earned $1.22 billion on worldwide sales of $17.5 billion in worldwide sales in fiscal 2000.

GE scales back train business

ERIE, Pa. - General Electric's transportation business will lay off 160 workers at plants in Erie and Mercer counties that make trains, a company spokeswoman said.

GE Transportation Systems said the layoffs in Erie and Grove City are among 200 in the division.



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