Business digest 12/02/03

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Manufacturing rises for fifth straight month

The nation's manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest clip in nearly 20 years in November, its fifth consecutive month of growth. The Institute for Supply Management reported Monday that its manufacturing index rose to 62.8 last month from 57 in October. Analysts had expected the reading to be 58.1. An index reading above 50 indicates expansion; one below 50 indicates that manufacturing activity is contracting. From March through June, the manufacturing index was below 50.

USPS expects 20 billion pieces of mail this season

WASHINGTON -- An improving economy means the Postal Service will handle 20 billion letters, packages and other items being sent to relatives, friends and Santa Claus this holiday season. Chief operating officer Patrick Donahoe said Monday the service has already seen a 1 percent increase in volume compared to the 2002 holiday season, and he expects that to go higher.

Advisers urge president to drop steel tariffs

WASHINGTON -- Top White House advisers are recommending that President Bush roll back steep tariffs on foreign-made steel to avoid a global trade war, administration and industry officials said on condition of anonymity Monday. Bush imposed the tariffs in March 2002 to ease foreign competition while the beleaguered U.S. steel industry consolidates and restructures. The White House said the matter was still being discussed with domestic steel producers, consumers and members of Congress.

Automaker accused of fraud during merger talks

WILMINGTON, Del. -- Executives from Daimler-Benz engaged in "plain, old-fashioned fraud" during merger talks with Chrysler five years ago, Terry Christensen, an attorney representing billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, told a federal judge Monday. Christensen spoke during opening arguments on the first day of a trial that is the culmination of a three-year battle between Kerkorian's investment arm, Tracinda, and automaker DaimlerChrysler AG. DaimlerChrysler says the 1998 merger was one between equals. Tracinda claims the deal was a veiled takeover, orchestrated to bilk shareholders out of billions in compensation.

Militants in Nigeria release oil hostages

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Ethnic militants freed the last of seven oil workers they were holding hostage in Nigeria's restive oil delta, a British diplomat said Monday. Ethnic Ijaw militants took the hostages Thursday in the Niger Delta in Nigeria's oil-rich south. It was not immediately clear whether any ransom was paid. Hostage-taking is common in Nigeria's oil delta, but hostages are rarely harmed.

French diplomats stage unprecedented strike

PARIS -- French diplomats and other Foreign Ministry personnel staged an unprecedented strike Monday to protest planned budget cuts, shutting down embassies and consulates around the globe and hindering services at home. From Madagascar to Washington, embassy personnel walked off the job for the one-day strike, according to the leading union at the ministry, known as UNSA-USMAE.

-- From wire reports

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