Quieting some of the recession talk, the government reported that orders for costly, interest-sensitive goods staged a comeback last month after three straight declines.
Analysts said the surge in durable goods orders, led by demand for aircraft and business equipment, was consistent with a slowing economy, not a recession.
The Commerce Department said Friday that orders rose 2.5 percent in May, the first advance since January and the biggest in six months. While the size of the increase caught analysts by surprise, they cautioned against exaggerating its significance.
Financial markets generally took the report in stride, registering modest losses as the development called into question a hoped-for interest rate cut.
PROGRESS HINTED IN TRADE TALKS. U.S. and Japanese trade negotiators appeared to have made progress in one of the countries' worst trade disputes, but the threat remained of U.S. tariffs that could price Japanese luxury cars out of the market. After more than five hours of talks Friday afternoon, Japanese negotiator Yoshihiro Sakamoto indicated the talks had reached a more profound stage. Negotiators in Geneva agreed to extend their bargaining sessions through the weekend.
HOUSEHOLD PRODUCT GIANTS IN MERGER TALKS. Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Scott Paper Co. are discussing a $7-billion merger that would create a formidable global force in household basics, threatening the market share of Procter & Gamble Co., which sells Charmin and other well-known products. The Wall Street Journal reported in Friday's editions that the companies were discussing a tax-free merger.
GM PRICES CLIMB. General Motors is raising base prices by an average of 2.7 percent on its 1996 models, company officials said. But because the figure is for base prices, at which few vehicles are sold, actual figures could vary widely. Generally, the stronger a model is selling, the more its price will go up. Ronald Zarrella, GM group executive, said the goal of the '96 pricing strategy was to simplify it. That doesn't mean dealers won't negotiate, he said, but the general intention is to minimize haggling.
INTERNET SHOPPING HURDLE ADDRESSED. Visa and Mastercard said Friday they've joined forces to devise technical standards that would make credit card purchases over the Internet safe from cyber-thieves. The agreement should help remove one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of electronic commerce: lack of security.
WINN-DIXIES WON'T CLOSE. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. has decided to keep all 114 of its stores on Florida's west coast open 24 hours a day. Winn-Dixie tested the idea at 47 stores in February. The stores all offer postage stamps, money orders and indoor ATMs.
ENTREPRENEURS HONORED. Three Tampa Bay businessmen are among nine recipients of this year's Florida Entrepreneur of the Year awards: Daniel M. Doyle, president of Danka Industries Inc., St. Petersburg; Michael B. Fernandez, chief executive of Physicians Healthcare Plans Inc., Tampa; and Vincent J. Naimoli, chairman of Harvard Industries Inc., Tampa. The awards were presented Thursday in Orlando. The Florida winners advance to national competition.
ATA has jet service to some Florida cities from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, and Continental flies jets from Tampa International Airport to Fort Lauderdale. A story Friday about Air South had incorrect information about jet service within Florida from the Tampa Bay area.
DOW DOLLAR YIELD
30 industrials vs. Japanese yen 30-year U.S. bond
4585.84 84.30 6.49
-3.80 -0.25 +0.02