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BUSINESS TODAY

TRADE DEFICIT HITS RECORD HIGH: America's trade deficit surged to an all-time high of $435.4-billion last year, the Commerce Department reported. The deficit in the current account was up a sharp 31.3 percent from the previous record of $341.5-billion set in 1999. The fourth-quarter deficit rose to $115.3-billion, a 1.9 percent increase from the $113.1-billion third-quarter imbalance. The trade deficit has climbed steadily over the past five years as the strong U.S. economy and seemingly insatiable American consumers drew in a flood of imports from around the world.

COMPAQ CUTS JOBS, FORECAST: Compaq Computer Corp. will cut 5,000 jobs, about 7 percent of its work force, and warned that its first-quarter earnings will fall far short of analysts' estimates. Compaq, which has 67,000 employees worldwide, now expects earnings of between 12 cents and 14 cents per share. Analysts had forecast 18 cents per share.

DEADLINE SET FOR CARNIVAL SETTLEMENT: Carnival Cruise Lines passengers have until April 10 to opt out of a settlement with the cruise line. Carnival agreed to give vouchers worth $25 to $55 to 4.5-million people who sailed on its cruises between April 19, 1992, and June 4, 1997, ending a class-action lawsuit claiming the company had inflated port charges to increase its profits. The vouchers can be used for a future cruise or redeemed for cash at 15 percent or 20 percent of face value for up to 60 days. The certificates will be mailed later this year and are transferable, good for four years and can be combined for a larger value. Carnival, which denies wrongdoing, also will pay up to $5-million in court-determined attorney fees.

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