Friday, March 5, 2004

Business digest

ImClone shares climb as Icahn adds holdings

Shares of ImClone Systems Inc., maker of the Erbitux cancer drug, rose 5.7 percent after billionaire financier Carl Icahn and affiliates boosted their stake in the company to 6.9 percent.

Icahn and affiliates paid an average of $19.58 a share, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The last time ImClone stock closed below $20 was in May 2003. Icahn stepped up his buying this year, adding about 1.63 million ImClone shares in the past two months, according to the filing.

Icahn now controls 5.24 million ImClone shares. ImClone, based in New York, won U.S. approval last month to sell its Erbitux colon-cancer drug, the centerpiece of an insider trading scandal involving company founder Sam Waksal and celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart.

The stock purchase makes Icahn ImClone's second-biggest shareholder as of December, behind drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. according to SEC filings

Jobless claims fell to 345,000 last week

The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment benefits last week fell to 345,000, close to a three-year low, a government report showed.

First-time claims dropped by 7,000 in the week that ended Saturday from 352,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department said in Washington. In the last week of December and during the week ended Jan. 24, claims reached 339,000, the lowest since January 2001.

Clear Channel to pay $755,000 FCC fine

Clear Channel Communications Inc., the largest U.S. radio broadcaster, agreed to pay a $755,000 fine for airing lewd material on its Bubba the Love Sponge show. It's the second-biggest U.S. fine ever for indecency.

"We fully accept our responsibility for airing inappropriate content," Clear Channel Radio president John Hogan said.

Target Corp. drops 'smart' credit card

NEW YORK - In a blow to "smart card" technology, Target Corp. plans to phase out chip-embedded credit cards that allowed cardholders to download special coupons.

Target's was the largest use of the technology on a nationwide basis by a major retailer, according to Catuity Inc., the Detroit-based company whose software runs the system for Target.

Ex-Adelphia director recounts Rigas talks

NEW YORK - A former Adelphia Communications Corp. director testified Thursday he believed the Rigas family paid cash for its purchases of company stock, and did not know the family was instead using borrowing arrangements guaranteed by the cable company.

Adelphia's board of directors was told the Rigases' purchases of securities issued by the company was important as a "public vote of confidence in the company," former director Dennis Coyle testified in the fraud trial of former Adelphia Chairman John Rigas and two of his sons.

Up to two dozen in specialist scandal

NEW YORK - As many as two dozen individual specialists working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange were involved in allegedly illegal trading that led to a $240 million settlement on the part of five specialist firms, sources close to the matter confirmed Thursday.

The firms are working with the Securities and Exchange Commission to finalize the settlement, reached last month. Part of that settlement includes releasing the names of 24 stocks that were the subject of the questionable trades, three people told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Mortgage rates mixed as one rises, others fall

WASHINGTON - Mortgage rates around the country were mixed this week, with rates on benchmark 30-year mortgages edging up and rates on other types of mortgages nudging down.

The average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages was 5.59 percent, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday. This week's rate was up only slightly from the seven-month low of 5.58 percent in the previous two weeks.

For 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, rates dipped to 4.88 percent this week from 4.89 percent last week. Rates for one-year adjustable mortgages decreased to 3.47 percent.

From wire reports

Ham operators dread power-line Web access
Bell to keep jobs downtown
Fiorini wants change of venue for his fraud trial
Landscapers hope to reap big returns
Show homes to reach $2 million
P&G deal launches products for boys
Critics: Disney needs a broom
Company's stock rise adds to uncertainty over Eisner
Federated raises sales, earnings forecasts
Consumer confidence boosts retail for 3rd straight month
Games Inc. predicts profit
Ask Jeeves buys out Excite
Founder stepping down as CEO of Dell
Lens maker seeks 1,250 volunteers to leave
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