Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Business digest



From staff and wire reports

Fed interest rates unlikely to move

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and his colleagues, meeting Tuesday for the first time this year, are likely to decide after reviewing the economy's progress to hold short-term interest rates at a 45-year low, economists say.

Fed policy-makers opened a two-day meeting that will wind up today with the Fed's announcement of its interest-rate decision in the afternoon.

Economists widely expect the central bank will hold a key short-term interest rate steady at 1 percent, a 45-year low. Analysts also expect Fed policy-makers will retain a pledge to keep short-term rates at near rock-bottom levels for a considerable period.

Some economists predict the Fed will leave short-term rates alone into 2005. But others believe the Fed will begin to nudge up rates later this year.

Steelcase to close Indiana, N.C. plants

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Steelcase Inc. said Tuesday it will close two wood-furniture factories, eliminating 640 manufacturing jobs, and also cut 130 salaried positions within its North American operations.

The plants in New Paris, Ind., and Fletcher, N.C., employ 160 and 480 people, respectively.

The combined 770 manufacturing and salaried job cuts amount to about 5 percent of its overall work force.

The closings will take place within six to 12 months.

Amazon.com posts fourth-quarter profit

SEATTLE - Boosted by what it called its busiest holiday season ever, Amazon.com Inc. Tuesday reported sharply higher profits in its fourth quarter and said it had turned a profit for the year.

The Internet retailing giant said net income for the quarter ended Dec. 31 was $73.2 million, or 17 cents per share, far better than the $2.7 million or 1 cent per share in the fourth quarter of 2002.

U.S. developing mad cow strategy

WASHINGTON - The United States is working with other countries to avoid shutting down trade when a single cow is found with mad cow disease, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Tuesday.

Veneman testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee, a day after the government said it is banning use of cattle blood in livestock feed to ward off a mad cow outbreak.

Countries across the globe halted beef imports from the U.S. after Veneman announced last month that a single cow had mad cow disease.

The United States has similarly banned imported beef from countries that discovered mad cow.

Cintas Corp. will increase dividend

Cintas Corp., the Mason uniform supplier, said Tuesday its board approved a 7 percent increase in its annual dividend from 27 cents a share to 29 cents. The new dividend is payable March 16 to shareholders of record Feb. 10.

Rules for disabled topic at luncheon

Thomas Fricke, chief executive of Fort Wright-based Comprehensive Educational Services, will discuss at a lunch today how businesses and agencies can comply with government regulations pertaining to people with disabilities. The meeting at the Holiday Inn, 1717 Airport Exchange Blvd., Erlanger, is open to the public and will feature a discussion regarding working with individuals with disabilities and the implications of the American Disabilities Act.

Call Kim Kremer of the Kentucky Business Leadership Network's Northern Kentucky chapter at (859) 371-4410 for more information or to make reservations. The fee for non-network members is $10.




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