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Stocks level off

STOCKS LEVEL OFF. Auto stocks rolled up strong gains Friday, but the rest of the market drifted aimlessly. The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials slipped .68 to 3,245.97, finishing the week with a net gain of 20.57 points.

MORTGAGE RATES MIXED. Fixed-rate home mortgages averaged 8.73 percent this week, up from 8.67 percent last week, according to a national survey released Friday by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. On one-year, adjustable-rate mortgages, lenders were asking an average initial rate of 5.78 percent this week, down from 5.87 percent last week. The rates do not include add-on fees known as points.

Nation

U.S. industrial

output plummets

The nation's industrial output dropped by its largest margin in nearly a year last month as virtually every industry from autos to chemicals sustained cutbacks in production, the government said Friday.

The weak economy and falling energy prices continued to keep inflation well in check with wholesale prices declining 0.3 percent in January, their biggest drop in 10 months.

The worse-than-expected 0.9 percent drop in industrial production was particularly disappointing because it came only a day after reports showing a big jump in auto sales in early February and rising retail sales last month.

Before adjustments for seasonal variations, the Producer Price Index stood at 121.7 in January compared to 122.3 a year ago. That meant that a marketbasket of goods costing $122.30 in January 1991 would have cost only $121.70 last month.

McCRORY STRUGGLES. McCrory Corp., the financially strapped parent of a chain of five-and-dime variety stores, said Friday it would miss a debt payment and hinted that it might file for bankruptcy court protection. The payment, on $3.37-million in debt securities, was due today. The company said it is "considering its restructuring options," one of which might include seeking Chapter 11 protection. McCrory has announced plans to close 200 of its 1,200 stores.

Tampa Bay/State

BANKER STILL MISSING. Searchers on Friday dragged the Apalachicola River near Interstate 10 and Greensboro, Fla., for missing Panhandle banker C. Bowers Sandusky. "We did not find anything but will continue our search in that area," said Nancy Stone, spokeswoman for the Calhoun County Sheriff's Department. Sandusky, president of C&L Bank of Blountstown, disappeared Jan. 26 while taking a Sunday drive. His car was found about 30 miles from Blountstown off I-10 near the river.

GENERAL CABLE CUTS BACK. New Jersey-based General Cable is closing its Tampa plant and laying off approximately 117 employees who work there. The plant, which manufactures telephone wires and cables, will be closed by mid-May, according to Susan Chang Johnson, who works in the South Plainfield, N.J. office. General Cable's seven other plants will remain open.

BUSINESS HONORS BESTOWED. The Alumni Society at the College of Business Administration at the University of South Florida honored Hillsborough Chief Judge F. Dennis Alvarez Friday with its award for merit. Cathy Schnaubelt Rogers, president of Schnaubelt Shorts Inc., received the entrepreneur of the year award. Catherine Heron, treasurer of Times Publishing Co., the parent of the St. Petersburg Times, received the executive of the year award. Jeffrey C. Marple, supervisor of treasury operations for Lykes Brothers Inc., was named young alumnus of the year.

BELMAC RAISES CASH. Belmac Corp. of Tampa said Friday it has raised an additional $11.6-million in equity through a private offering of common and preferred stock. Belmac is a pharmaceutical company with operations in France and Spain.

GTE LENDS EAR TO PETTY. Legendary stock car driver Richard Petty has teamed with GTE Corp. to develop communications and safety technology for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Petty will debut the equipment at the Daytona 500 race this weekend. One product is a cellular-equipped racing helmet that eliminates the driver's need to push a button to talk. In effect, the driver could communicate with the pit crew over one cellular telephone conversation lasting the entire race.

REVCO PLAN APPROVED. A bankruptcy judge has approved the disclosure statement accompanying the latest version of Revco D.S. Inc.'s reorganization plan. The action by Judge Harold White clears the way for creditors to vote on the plan. Clearwater-based Jack Eckerd Corp. withdrew a bid to take over the rival drugstore chain Thursday.

BELIEVE THIS. A new Ripley's Believe It or Not museum in Orlando will contain nearly 300 oddities from around the globe when it opens in July. The building, designed to appear as if it is falling into a Florida sinkhole, will house exhibits such as a two-thirds scale model of a Rolls-Royce built with more than 1-million match sticks.

DOW DOLLAR YIELD

30 Industrials VS Japanese Yen 30-Year U.S. Bonds

3245.97 127.80 7.91

-0.68 +0.15 +0.01

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