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BUSINESS TODAY

WALTER DISCLOSES JOB CUTS: Walter Industries Inc. of Tampa said its municipal water pipe subsidiary fired 274 workers, or 12 percent of the unit's work force. The May job cuts were in response to increased price competition as well as a rise in the cost of raw materials, particularly iron scrap. In a conference call Wednesday with Wall Street analysts, Walter also said it plans to make several acquisitions before year-end, and that an Alabama coal mine that was shut after a fatal accident last September is again fully operational.

FERRY PLANS TAMPA-MEXICO ROUTE: Scotia Prince Cruises of Maine will begin sailing twice-weekly cruises between Tampa and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in November. Company officials will release details this afternoon at a news conference in Orlando. The company has said it planned to bring the cruise ferry M/V Scotia Prince to Tampa for a six-month test run and establish year-round service later next year if the route is successful. The vessel, which runs between Maine and Nova Scotia from April through October, can carry 1,100 passengers, 210 vehicles and container cargo.

SEC WANTS STOCK PICKS VERIFIED: Wall Street analysts must affirm that their stock picks aren't influenced by compensation or their employer's investment banking business under a proposed rule backed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The regulation follows a new SEC requirement that the 1,000 largest corporations provide sworn statements from their chief executives vouching for the accuracy of financial reports. The rule is subject to public comment and another vote, but SEC chairman Harvey Pitt says analysts should adopt the practice now.

PITT WANTS TO ELEVATE SEC: Embattled Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt has asked Congress to elevate the SEC to full Cabinet status and to raise the chairman's salary from $138,200 to $166,700. Pitt wanted the changes as part of legislation to crack down on corporate fraud. The White House says Pitt was acting on his own in making the request. Spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush learned about it by reading news accounts.

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