Originally created 03/05/02

Business briefs



NEW YORK - Showing a determination to buy not seen in months, investors bid stocks sharply higher Monday with a broad advance that propelled the Dow Jones industrials up more than 200 points for a second straight session.

The rally reflected a growing consensus among investors that an economic recovery is beginning. Blue chip and technology stocks soared despite an earnings warning from tech bellwether Oracle.

The Dow has advanced 479.93 since Friday, its biggest two-session point gain since December 2000.

Union rejects offer by Lockheed Martin

WASHINGTON -A union representing Lockheed Martin workers has rejected the company's latest contract offer and voted to strike as early as next Monday, barring an agreement.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said Monday that 96 percent of the workers it represents turned down the company's three-year proposal and that 94 percent approved a walkout if the company refused to improve job security, wages and health insurance.

"The decision to strike is never easy," union spokesman John Crowdis said. "But in this case, Lockheed gave its workers little choice. We will make a stand here and now, or we will surely watch this company ship our jobs out of state and overseas."

Chrysler's PT Cruiser will go convertible

DETROIT -DaimlerChrysler AG announced Monday at the Geneva Auto Show that it will build a convertible version of its popular Chrysler PT Cruiser.

A "styling study" of an open-air PT Cruiser was first shown at last year's New York Auto Show, and public reaction was so positive the automaker decided to build a production version.

Production will begin during the first quarter of 2004 at the Toluca, Mexico-based assembly plant, and the two-door cars will arrive in showrooms soon thereafter, the automaker said. Pricing has not been set.

Supreme Court affirms power competition

WASHINGTON -The Supreme Court on Monday upheld federal rules intended to give people choices for electricity service but rejected arguments by Enron Corp. for even freer access to the nation's power grids.

The justices, in a case involving states' rights and federal authority over electricity markets, also turned back an argument by nine states that the government overstepped its authority when it directed utilities to open power lines to competitors.

Enron, which before its bankruptcy was one of the nation's top electricity traders, had maintained that federal regulators had not given power marketers the same access to electricity grids as held by traditional, state-regulated utilities.

BRIEFLY

HAVANA - The Cuban government has signed a new round of contracts to buy $32 million of food from American agricultural firms, a trade group said Monday - a move sure to whet the appetites of U.S. food companies eager to increase their sales to the island.

Cuba last year agreed to buy $35 million in American food to replenish its reserves after Hurricane Michelle battered the island in early November. The communist government at first said it would not buy any more U.S. food, then hinted it might - especially if it saw positive signs from Washington.

The second round of sales has no link to the hurricane, the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council said in its weekly newsletter, released Monday.

BIZ BITES

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The man who developed the first 401(k) plan 22 years ago says it's still a great way to plan for retirement, despite the Enron Corp. crash.

Ted Benna said he thinks workers and businesses should try to fix any 401(k) problems, and that Congress should intervene only if the companies cannot or will not do so.

"What is unfortunate here is that a relatively small number of plans are giving the 401(k) a black eye," Mr. Benna said.

Of the roughly 400,000 401(k) plans in the United States, only about 100 have caused problems, Benna said.