LEADING INDICATORS TICK UP: The Conference Board's Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators , closely watched because it forecasts trends in the economy in the next three to six months, now stands at 114.3, surpassing the previous high set in November of 114.1. The index stood at 100 in 1996, its base year. December also marked the ninth consecutive monthly gain for the index, which rose a revised 0.2 percent in November. In December, seven of the 10 factors that make up the index increased, including stock prices and building permits.
JOBLESS CLAIMS DROP AGAIN: the Labor Department reported that for the second week in a row, fewer people filed new claims to collect unemployment benefits. For the work week ending Jan. 17, new applications filed for unemployment insurance dipped by a seasonally adjusted 1,000 to 341,000, the lowest level since the end of December _ and better than the expectations of analysts, who had forecast a rise of about 2,000 for last week. The more stable four-week moving average of claims dropped by 3,250 last week to 344,500, the lowest level since the week ending Jan. 27, 2001.
TROPICAL TO FIRE 65: Struggling Tropical Sportswear Int'l Corp. is terminating 65 of its 900 employees effective March 14. The Tampa apparel maker has been shrinking its operation and restructuring its finances for the past year. Many of the latest job cuts are at Tropical's fabric cutting facility on W Waters Avenue in Tampa.
CERIDIAN REPORTS SEC SCRUTINY: Ceridian Corp., parent of Ceridian Human Resources in St. Petersburg, said Thursday that the Minneapolis company has received a request for documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said it is cooperating with the request and that the documents focus on revenue items previously reviewed by both internal and outside auditors. Ceridian said earnings for the quarter ended Dec. 31 had risen to $45.6-million, or 30 cents a share, on revenues of $352.2-million. That compares to year-ago quarterly earnings of $28.8-million, or 19 cents a share, on revenues of $314.5-million. Full-year earnings were $128-million, or 85 cents a share, on revenues of $1.27-billion, compared to 2002 net income of $93.7-million, or 62 cents a share, on revenues of $1.19-billion. Ceridian has 9,400 employees, including 1,200 in St. Petersburg.
CLEARWATER BUSINESSES HONORED: TBE Group, a consulting, engineering and planning firm, was named Large Business of the Year Thursday by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes a company that makes more than $5-million in annual revenues. Medium Business of the Year _ with $1-million to $5-million in revenues _ went to Jiffy Reprographics, a digital graphics and printing center that specializes in construction documents. Reliable Moving & Storage was named small Business of the Year, with less than $1-million in revenues. Holly H. Duncan, president and chief executive officer of Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation, was installed as chairwoman of the Clearwater chamber.