Business memo 4/1/02

Monday, April 1, 2002

Good weather helps February home sales

Good weather motivated people to house hunt and favorable financing got them to lock in deals, giving new-home sales a solid increase in February.

The Commerce Department reported last week that sales of new single-family homes totaled a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 875,000 last month, a 5.3 percent increase over January's level.

Buying a house is often followed up with additional spending on such things as appliances, furniture and curtains. Given that, economists were hopeful that consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States, would hold up fairly well in coming months and help the country recover from a recession that began last March.

Westerners lead three Japanese automakers

With Rolf Eckrodt from DaimlerChrysler AG set to head Mitsubishi Motors Corp., three major Japanese automakers are now being led by Westerners who have cut jobs, trimmed losses and brought a more global vision at long ailing companies.

Foreign management has made it easier to tackle old-guard resistance to change at stodgy Japanese companies. It has helped cut costs, speed up decision-making and encourage promotion by performance rather than by traditional seniority.

But the foreign chief executives have yet to answer the big question: Can they produce a hit car that really sells in Japan?

Raggedy Ann joins Toy Hall of Fame

Raggedy Ann, that symbol of wholesomeness and simpler times, joined flashy Barbie at the National Toy Hall of Fame on Wednesday -- thanks to the persistence of legions of fans.

The floppy cloth doll with reddish yarn hair, a candy heart and red-striped legs joins Mr. Potato Head, the Hula Hoop, Barbie, the Slinky and Silly Putty at the hall.

Because of tough competition and limited space, Raggedy Ann had been rejected four times by the selection panel.

There were 90 nominees this year, including GI Joe.

Many of Ann's supporters consider the humble rag doll superior to Barbie and were miffed that Ann had been passed over so many times.

-- From wire reports

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