Friday, October 3, 2003

Business digest

From wire reports

Analyst urges job cuts at Sun Microsystems

NEW YORK - A Merrill Lynch analyst took the unusual step of sending an open letter to Sun Microsystems Inc. on Thursday, urging it to cut costs and to focus on its core product, high-end corporate computers.

Noting that "Sun has reached a point of crisis," analyst Steven Milunovich recommended that the company cut 5,000 to 7,000 jobs.

Sun spokesman Michael Hakkert said the company isn't considering any major restructuring involving layoffs, though it has not ruled it out either.

Mortgage rate for 30 years drops to 5.77%

WASHINGTON - Rates on 30-year mortgages dropped for the fourth week in a row.

For the week ending Oct. 3, the average rate on 30-year mortgages dipped to 5.77 percent, down from last week's rate of 5.98 percent, Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant, reported Thursday in its weekly nationwide survey of mortgage rates.

For 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, rates dipped to 5.10 percent this week from 5.30 percent the previous week. Rates for one-year adjustable mortgages edged down to 3.72 percent, from 3.77 percent.

Toyota hybrid orders top expectations

TOKYO - The new gasoline-electric hybrid car from Toyota Motor Corp. is selling better than the Japanese automaker had expected.

Orders received for the revamped Prius in Japan in September totaled 17,500, more than five times Toyota's target of 3,000, the automaker said Thursday.

The new Prius, which hit Japanese showrooms Sept. 1, will start selling in North America this month.

Enron's Lay ordered to prove files are private

Former Enron chief executive Kenneth Lay was instructed by a federal judge yesterday to prove why documents in his possession sought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission should not be turned over to the agency.

Lay, who presided over the second-biggest U.S. bankruptcy amid charges of accounting fraud, has refused to turn over the documents, citing his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, the SEC said in an application filed with U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in Washington on Sept. 29.

Lay must "show cause why he should not be ordered to produce certain documents pursuant to a subpoena" from the SEC, the judge wrote in an order Wednesday posted on the court's Web site.

Barr Labs to buy 'morning after pill'

WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. - Barr Laboratories Inc. said Thursday it agreed to acquire the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B, or the "morning-after pill" and other assets of privately held Women's Capital Corp.

Terms were not disclosed.

Ex-hedge fund broker guilty of late trading

NEW YORK - A former broker with Millennium Partners hedge fund pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony charge for illegal late trading of mutual fund shares, part of a quickly broadening investigation that has touched many of the best-known names in the business.

Steven B. Markovitz, 41, admitted that he and other traders "intentionally engaged in fraud, deception (and) concealment" to buy and sell mutual fund shares at the closing price after the New York market closed.

His plea requires him to cooperate in an investigation of the mutual fund industry that has cast a shadow over a main investment vehicle for many Americans.

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