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Business Today

CONSUMER PRICES CLIMB: Consumer prices rose by a modest 0.3 percent in October as falling prices for air fares and cigarettes helped to temper the biggest increase in gasoline costs in six months. The increase in the Consumer Price Index, the government's most closely watched inflation gauge, came after a 0.2 percent advance in September and matched the 0.3 percent gain in August, the Labor Department reported. Excluding energy and food prices, which tend to swing widely from month to month, the "core" rate of inflation rose by 0.2 percent in October, up slightly from a 0.1 percent gain. The readings matched analyst expectations.

TRADE DEFICIT NARROWS SLIGHTLY: The nation registered a $38.03-billion trade deficit in September, the second highest on record, reflecting a surge in demand for foreign cars and airplanes. The Commerce Department said the September deficit was down $254-million from the all-time high of $38.28-billion set in August, disappointing economists who had been looking for a decline of about $1-billion. The 0.7 percent decline in the overall deficit from month to month reflected that imports dropped by 0.5 percent, mainly because the volume of oil shipments was down sharply.

PSC APPROVES FPL PLANTS: The Florida Public Service Commission approved Florida Power & Light's plans to build new power plants in Manatee and Martin counties. With combined generating capacity of nearly 1,900 megawatts, the two plants will make up the state's largest-ever electric-generation construction project. After twice soliciting competitive bids for the project, FPL of Juno Beach selected its own self-build option. The project is subject to approval by the governor, who is expected to review it in May. The PSC is considering possible revisions to rules governing how power plant construction bids are evaluated and is scheduled to hear testimony on the matter next month.

PARADYNE OPENING INTERNATIONAL OFFICES: Paradyne Networks Inc. said it is opening four new sales offices in Greece, South Africa, Russia and Brazil. The Largo maker of high-speed Internet access equipment said Scott Eudy, vice president of sales and corporate development, will assume responsibility for Paradyne's new emerging-market operations. In a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Paradyne said international markets accounted for 43 percent of its total equipment sales in the first nine months of 2002, versus 31 percent in the same period last year. Paradyne's shares closed at $1.75, up 10 cents, or 6 percent.

XEROX CUTTING 2,400 JOBS: Xerox Corp. said it will cut more than 2,400 jobs, or 3.4 percent of its worldwide work force, through a combination of layoffs and voluntary departures in a bid to reduce costs and boost efficiency. The cuts include the previously announced closing of a call center in St. Petersburg, resulting in a loss of 160 jobs. The center will be consolidated with a similar operation in Lewisville, Texas. The cuts will result in a pretax charge against earnings of $350-million to $400-million in the fourth quarter.