Business briefs 04/01/05

Friday, April 1, 2005

Farmers limit soybean planting, increase cotton

WASHINGTON -- U.S. farmers are afraid of a rapidly spreading soybean disease and are anticipating lower prices, so they are planting fewer soybeans despite a drought that has wreaked havoc on crops in Brazil, the Americans' biggest competitor. U.S. farmers also will devote less acreage to wheat, but slightly more to cotton and corn crops, the Agriculture Department reported Thursday.

J.C. Penney stocks rise on sale rumor

NEW YORK -- Shares of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Saks Inc. each climbed more than 8 percent Thursday, fueled by published reports this week that both retailers could be selling their businesses. Women's Wear Daily reported that Cerberus Capital Management LLP and the Carlyle Group are teaming up to make a bid for Penney, which is based in Plano, Texas.

Flight attendents reject Continental deal

HOUSTON -- Continental Airlines flight attendants rejected a tentative deal to cut wages and benefits, but the nation's fifth-largest carrier said it would implement concessions approved by other unions including those representing pilots and mechanics. Continental said early Thursday it would continue discussions with flight attendants, noting that their "current levels of pay and benefits for flight attendants are not sustainable."

U.S. incomes rise during February; spending is up

WASHINGTON -- Americans' incomes, bolstered by strong gains in hiring, rose by 0.3 percent in February while consumer spending climbed at an even faster pace of 0.5 percent, the government reported Thursday. The Commerce Department said the gain in spending followed a much smaller 0.1 percent increase in January and reflected the fact that auto sales rebounded last month.

Qwest calls in higher bid after MCI accepts offer

DENVER -- Qwest Communications International Inc. boosted its bid for MCI Inc. again on Thursday, offering $8.94 billion just two days after the long-distance phone company accepted a sweetened $7.51 billion proposal from Verizon Communications Inc.

World Bank approves Wolfowitz as new head

WASHINGTON -- The World Bank approved Paul Wolfowitz as its new president Thursday, affirming the administration's choice of a Bush loyalist to take the helm of the 184-nation development bank. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary who helped plan the Iraq war, will begin his five-year term on June 1. The bank's stated mission is to fight poverty and improve the living standards of people in developing countries.

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