Originally created 09/26/03

Business briefs



Manufacturing orders decline in August

WASHINGTON - U.S. manufacturers saw demand for big-ticket products drop by a sizable 0.9 percent in August, raising new questions about whether the sector is losing a grip on its own fragile recovery.

The decrease in new orders for "durable goods" - manufactured items expected to last at least three years - was the first and biggest decline in four months. It marked a reversal from the 1.5 percent increase in orders in July, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

30-year mortgage rates fall slightly

WASHINGTON - After rising sharply since late June, rates on benchmark 30-year mortgages retreated for the third week in a row, a trend that should help keep the housing market humming.

For the week ending Sept. 26, the average rate on 30-year mortgages fell to 5.98 percent from 6.01 percent a week ago, the mortgage company Freddie Mac reported Thursday.

U.S., Canadian Levi plants will close

TORONTO - Levi Strauss & Co. will close two sewing and finishing plants in San Antonio by year's end and lay off 800 workers, the struggling jeans makers said Thursday. The company also will shut its three remaining manufacturing plants in Canada, which employ 1,180 people, by March. The company will contract with foreign plants.

Mortgage company reports more errors

WASHINGTON - Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said it underreported its earnings by $4.5 billion or more because of errors and manipulations of accounts, possibly exceeding the upper level of its previous estimate.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the restatement of its earnings for the 2000-02 period, originally expected by Sept. 30, will be delayed until November.

Stock exchange director resigns

NEW YORK - H. Carl McCall resigned unexpectedly Thursday from the New York Stock Exchange board, the first director to leave since Chairman Dick Grasso was ousted a week ago over a pay scandal.

In a letter to new interim Chairman John Reed, Mr. McCall said his resignation would take effect Monday.



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