Originally created 02/23/01

Business briefs



Nasdaq plummets to two-year low

NEW YORK - An industry report suggesting the economy is improving failed to cheer Wall Street on Thursday as investors sent the Nasdaq composite index to its lowest level in more than two years.

Analysts said the market was concerned the upbeat news was temporary and would deter the Federal Reserve Board from cutting interest rates again. They also noted that buyers are sitting out a market in which stronger company profits and stock prices are elusive.

The Nasdaq composite index closed down 23.98 at 2,244.96, its lowest close since hitting 2,208.05 Jan. 4, 1999.

Blue chips were less vulnerable. The Dow Jones industrial average ended the session virtually unchanged, rising 0.23 to 10,526.81 despite sliding as much as 153 points in heavy trading. Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 2.45 to 1,252.82.

U.S. issues new veterans benefits

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will pay about $13.7 million in dividends to nearly 35,700 Georgia veterans who served in one of the two world wars or the Korean War.

The policies were issued between 1917-1956. The new dividends are possible because veterans are living longer than originally predicted. Veterans with questions can call (800) 669-8477.

Richmond and Columbia counties are home to about 30,000 veterans, though not all are eligible for the benefits.

Lightning interrupts phone service

Alltel reported an interruption Thursday in wireless phone service for its Augusta customers.

Pete Price, vice president and general manager for the Augusta market, said lightning hit a major transport hub about 7:30 a.m., affecting service until 4 p.m. for many of Alltel's area customers. Mr. Price said 21 of 126 affected cell sites were still down at sundown, but he expected full service to be restored during the evening.

"We understand the importance of uninterrupted service," Mr. Price said.

The service problems were unrelated to a companywide restructuring announced last week that will result in the loss of 1,000 jobs worldwide.

George Smith, vice president of Alltel media services, said the number of local jobs lost would be "about half" of the 25 previously reported, but he declined to give a specific number.

J.C. Penney posts $284 million loss

PLANO, Texas - A disappointing holiday-sales season and charges for store closings left J.C. Penney Co. Inc. with a loss of $284 million in the fourth quarter.

But the retailer's loss excluding the charges was smaller than Wall Street had expected.

The company said Thursday its loss was $1.11 per share for the three months ended Jan. 27 compared with a loss of $12 million, or 8 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding the one-time charges, the loss was 3 cents per share, narrower than the 5-cent loss expected among analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial.

Revenue fell to $9.75 billion from $9.83 billion a year earlier.