Business digest 03/12/05

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Chinese imports raise U.S. trade deficit

WASHINGTON -- The monthly trade deficit hit $58.3 billion in January, the second-highest in history, as clothing imports from China surged with the lifting of global quotas. The Commerce Department's trade report released Friday showed a January trade gap that was 4.5 percent higher than December's $55.7 billion deficit and was just below the all-time monthly record of $59.4 billion set last November.

Poll finds consumer confidence rebounding

WASHINGTON -- Consumer confidence, which had plunged sharply in February, jumped by the largest amount in seven months in early March as Americans were heartened by a big surge in hiring. The AP-Ipsos consumer confidence index rose to 84.2 in early March, a gain of 6.4 percent from a February reading of 79.1. It was the largest one-month gain since a 13.9 percent rise last August. The March rebound came from stronger confidence about current economic conditions, job prospects and personal finances.

Qwest plans to make better offer for MCI

DENVER -- Qwest Communications International Inc. plans to sweeten its $8 billion offer for MCI Inc. as the long-distance carrier weighs it against a proposal it has already accepted from Verizon Communications Inc., a source Friday. The Denver-based regional Bell is expected to submit a revised offer next week, ahead of a Thursday deadline to conclude negotiations with MCI, said a source close to the negotiations speaking on condition of anonymity. The revised terms were not available.

Music company to sell $750 million in stock

NEW YORK -- Warner Music Group Corp., home to Madonna and Linkin Park, on Friday revealed plans for an initial public offering, filing with regulators to sell up to $750 million of common stock. The company did not estimate how many shares or at what price it planned to offer its stock. Proceeds from the deal will be used to repay debt and for general corporate purposes.

Court upholds switching rules for cell numbers

WASHINGTON -- A federal court on Friday upheld the bulk of Federal Communications Commission rules that allow consumers to keep their phone numbers when they switch providers. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that smaller traditional phone companies didn't have to honor customer requests to transfer a landline number to a cell phone. The court said the agency needed to study further the impact of the new rules on small companies before the guidelines could go back into effect in those cases. The companies, which serve mainly rural areas, can still voluntarily switch home numbers to a cell phone. The ruling was one of two decisions from the appeals court Friday involving the FCC's number-switching rules. The court upheld the remainder of those rules.

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