UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS: The Labor Department reported new claims for unemployment benefits last week fell by a seasonally adjusted 15,000 to 420,000. Even with the decline, the level of claims pointed to a stagnant job market. The more stable, four-week moving average of claims, which evens out weekly fluctuations, rose last week to a two-month high of 419,750.
TECO STOCK BELOW $10: TECO Energy Inc.'s stock Thursday closed below $10 for the first time in 17 years, adjusting for stock splits, after Moody's Investors Service warned Wednesday that it might cut the Tampa utility's debt rating. Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Fleishman, who has a sell recommendation on the stock, said Moody's seemed to suggest that TECO should consider issuing more stock and reconsider its policy of retaining its dividend. Despite a surge in the broader market, TECO's stock fell 80 cents, or 7.5 percent, on about four times the average trading volume to close at $9.91. It was the stock's lowest finish, adjusting for splits, since March 26, 1986, when it closed at $9.875.
SAN FRANCISCO SUES PROGRESS: The San Francisco city attorney and the San Francisco Unified School District have filed a civil suit against Progress Energy Inc. and its Progress Energy Solutions unit, charging them with "a sophisticated scheme to defraud the School District in connection with a $21.3-million energy savings contract." The suit seeks more than $300-million in damages and penalties. In October, Progress pleaded guilty to two criminal charges of grand theft related to the same contract and paid a $500,000 fine, as well as $500,000 in restitution to the school district. Progress spokesman Keith Poston said the new civil suit "seems more like a money grab than anything else."
BAXTER SUBPOENAED: Baxter International Inc. said it has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Justice Department as part of a 17-month-old government investigation into Baxter's involvement in the deaths of as many as 53 kidney-dialysis patients in Texas, Nebraska and six foreign countries. Shares in the Deerfield, Ill., medical products manufacturer plummeted more than 20 percent to a six-year low after it scaled back its estimate of sales and profits for the first quarter and the year. Baxter's stock fell $5.67, or 20.8 percent, to close Thursday at $21.60 on the New York Stock Exchange.
INSIDER TRADING INDICTMENT: The CEO of information technology firm Computer Horizons Corp. surrendered to the FBI as prosecutors accused him of making more than $150,000 on illegal stock trades from insider information. An eight-page indictment charges John J. Cassese, 56, with insider trading and fraud. He is accused of buying 15,000 shares of California-based Data Processing Resources Corp. on June 22, 1999 _ the day before that company's board approved an acquisition by Michigan-based Compuware Corp. Cassese bought the shares at about $13.25 a share, the indictment charges, and Data Processing Resources shares shot up to $23.50 after the deal was announced. The indictment says Cassese learned of the impending acquisition when Compuware's chief executive officer called him to inform him Compuware was abandoning its bid to acquire Computer Horizons.
KIMMINS REVERSE STOCK SPLIT: Kimmins Corp. said its stockholders approved a 1-for-100 reverse stock split that will be effective today. The Tampa provider of specialty contracting services said the reverse split will enable the company to go private. The company plans to file March 18 to terminate its registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, after which the company's stock will cease trading on the OTC Bulletin Board. The company's stock closed Thursday at 28 cents, down a penny.