Originally created 01/01/02

Business briefs



NEW YORK - Wall Street ended one of its most dreadful years on a down note as investors sent stocks sharply lower Monday to minimize their tax bills.

The selloff seemed an appropriate finish to 2001 for the market, which saw its major indexes lose ground for a second straight year - their worst performance in nearly three decades.

But despite the yearend decline, analysts said investors, holding on to the optimism that marked trading in recent weeks, were already focusing on next year.

It was "a year to forget and 2002 is a year to look forward to," said Alan Ackerman, market strategist with Fahnestock & Co.

For the year, the Dow dropped 7 percent, the Nasdaq lost 21 percent and the S&P fell 13 percent. The last time all three indexes fell for two consecutive years was in 1973 and 1974. (The Dow also dropped in 1977 and 1978, but the other indexes did not have a two-year losing streak.)

Trading volume was light throughout the session as many investors took the day off ahead of the New Year's holiday. Fewer buyers and sellers made stocks more susceptible to sharp spikes or declines.

Monday was also the last day to sell stocks for any write-offs on 2001 tax bills, so analysts weren't surprised at the market's tone.

AT&T will increase long-distance fee

NEW YORK -Starting today, AT&T Corp.'s long-distance customers will pay 16 percent more in fees related to their out-of-state toll calls.

The carrier said its plunging consumer long-distance revenues left it with no choice but to raise the fees it collects from customers that are earmarked for the Federal Communications Commission's universal service fund.

The fund subsidizes Internet use in public libraries and schools, and phone service for low-income customers and rural health care providers.

AT&T is raising its fee to 11.5 percent, so that a customer who spends $50 on long-distance will pay $5.75 in fees, up from $4.95.

Company's shares drop after FDA drug refusal

NEW YORK -Shares of ImClone Systems Inc. fell 19 percent early Monday after the Food and Drug Administration refused to accept the company's application for its new cancer drug, Erbitux.

Erbitux has been touted as a possible blockbuster drug that could treat several types of cancer including colon, pancreatic and some lung cancers. The application refused by the FDA was for colorectal cancer.

Three months ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. agreed to co-develop and co-promote the drug in the United States, Canada and Japan. As part of that deal, the company was to pay ImClone $1 billion in three cash installments after reaching certain milestones. One of the milestone was completing the submission with the FDA.

States fight request for time from Microsoft

WASHINGTON -Nine states on Monday opposed Microsoft's request for more time to produce evidence in the antitrust case against the company.

The states told U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly their broad proposed penalties should come as no surprise to Microsoft. The states rejected the company's claim that it needs nine months to sift through millions of documents.

The current schedule calls for a trial in March to determine what extra penalties Microsoft should face for anti-competitive practices.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly also plans to review the Bush administration's settlement with Microsoft in March.

Hot Jobs

There were 58,000 physician assistant jobs in 2000 but that job category is expected to skyrocket 53.5 percent by 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. That means 31,000 more jobs are forecast.

Compare that to the number of elementary school teachers, 1.532 million in 2000. That job category is expected to grow "only" 13 percent by 2010. But that means 202,000 new elementary teaching positions are expected -- nearly seven times the number of new physician assistant jobs.

Possible updates may be found in the bureau's 2002-03 Occupational Outlook Handbook, which has an Internet version at www.bls.gov//emp; the print version should be published early in 2002.

POCKETSIZE STORAGE

Looking for electronic storage in a form that's small enough to clip onto a shirt pocket? The Dallas Morning News reports that the IBM 8MB USB Memory Key is a portable storage device for sharing data between notebook and desktop systems with USB ports -- without the use of a floppy disk.

Click on ibm.com or call 1-888-SHOPIBM.

FIGHT FRAUD

Consumer Sentinel, or www.consumer.gov/sentinel/, is a Web site designed to combat fraud over the Internet, through the mail and over the phone.

The site contains updated information on the latest scams, ranging from work-at-home schemes to identity theft to prize promotions.

It includes links to help consumers report fraud to law enforcement. It also keeps track of the types of complaints coming in, with identity theft currently topping the list.

It's sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau, National Consumers League and the National Association of Attorneys General.

PRAYON INC. LAUDED

The Prayon Inc. plant in Augusta has received a 2001 Safety, Health and Environmental Conference Award. State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond calls it one his department's top 10 annual statewide awards.

Prayon safety/health specialist Richard Davis credited the plant's employees as he accepted the award.



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