Originally created 04/01/04

Business briefs



Card shop closes downtown store

Salutations is saying goodbye to downtown. The greeting card and stationary store at 134 Eighth St. closed Wednesday after 11 months in business.

Store owner Mary Scott said she did not get the foot traffic she expected.

"We tried for a year, and there hasn't been enough traffic to support the business," Ms. Scott said.

The building's owner, John Patterson, offered Ms. Scott a few months free rent, but the deal was not enough to save the shop. Ms. Scott said she intends to focus her efforts on her Merry Times store in Surrey Center.

Visitors bureau offers discount

The Augusta Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau has teamed with nine downtown attractions to create the Augusta Gallery Pass.

The Gallery Pass, which costs $20 and provides access to nine locations, will be available next week at the Visitor's Center, located in the Augusta Museum of History. Individually, tickets to all nine attractions cost approximately $40.

The pass is good for 10 days at the nine attractions, which include the Augusta Canal Interpretive Center, the Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson, the Ezekiel Harris House and the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History.

S. Carolina has fourth highest jobless rate

COLUMBIA - South Carolina had the nation's fourth-highest unemployment rate in February at 6.3 percent, the U.S. Department of Labor said Wednesday.

The rate, little changed from a revised 6.2 percent in January, is expected to stay high for a while, a Clemson University economist said. The national unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in February.

"Some of the manufacturing jobs will come back," Clemson economics professor Bobby McCormick said. "It's just not going to be in the same numbers."

Tyco trial jurors ask for clarification

NEW YORK - Jurors in the Tyco International case asked a judge Wednesday to clarify three counts related to the prosecution's charge that two former executives stole $38.5 million from the company by disguising it as forgiven loans.

Three counts of grand larceny, the top counts against former CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski and former Chief Financial Officer Mark Swartz, were the subject of the jury's focus on the 10th day of deliberations.

Monsanto reports strong earnings

ST. LOUIS - Agriculture biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. said Wednesday that its second-quarter earnings rose on stronger corn seed sales and higher profits for biotech corn and soybean products, beating Wall Street's expectations.

The St. Louis-based company said it earned $154 million, or 57 cents per share, during the quarter ending Feb. 29, compared with $100 million, or 38 cents per share, a year ago.

New Best Buy stores boost fourth quarter

Fourth-quarter earnings at Best Buy Co. Inc. jumped 51 percent to $469 million as the company benefited from new stores, sales gains and the absence of its former Musicland division.

Meanwhile, Circuit City Stores Inc., the nation's No. 2 consumer electronics chain, reported $89.6 million in earnings, a 26 percent increase in fourth-quarter net income.

Cardboard box, paper maker expects loss

STAMFORD, CONN. - Paper company MeadWestvaco Corp. Wednesday said it expects to record a loss for the current quarter despite pocketing $68 million from the sale of forestland.

Stamford-based MeadWestvaco blamed higher wood costs and sluggish market conditions for the expected loss. The maker of cardboard boxes and specialty papers projected a loss of 10 cents to 15 cents a share for the first quarter ending March 31.

Judge throws out most of H&R Block lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, MO. - H&R Block Inc. on Wednesday claimed a "significant victory," after a federal judge tossed all but one count against it in a 6-year-old class-action lawsuit regarding tax-refund-anticipation loans.

The company said a U.S. District judge in Chicago threw out every claim in the lawsuit except one racketeering count.

The plaintiffs allege that H&R Block and co-defendant Beneficial National Bank deceived customers seeking tax refunds into obtaining high-interest loans.