Business memo 12/16/02

Monday, December 16, 2002

Spartech Corp. reports decline in sales figures

Spartech Corp. has reported a 4 percent decline from last year. For 2002, sales totaled $898 million, down from last year's $937.1 million. The plastics company, which has a plant in Cape Girardeau, blamed the decline on a one-week reduction in the reporting period and mixed signals in the economy which hurt consumer confidence.

There were positive signs at the end of the year. For the fourth quarter, sales were up 10 percent from last year to $237 million.

DED director says state economy's future cloudy

Missouri's economic conditions remain clouded as the national recession continues to have a major impact on the state by limiting sustained growth, Missouri Department of Economic Development director Joseph Driskill said last week.

The current recession, which began in March 2001, is having a considerably longer effect on Missouri's economy than previous recessions of the past two decades.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty and no clear signs that this national recession's grip on Missouri has eased," he said.

Retail sales up across nation in November

Energized shoppers boosted sales at the nation's retailers in November by the largest amount in three months, reinforcing the belief that consumer spending will keep the economy out of a new recession.

The Commerce Department report Thursday that retail sales in November were 0.4 percent higher than in October also raised hopes that the holiday shopping season will see people acting more like Santas than the Grinches some had feared.

Shoppers hit the stores with more enthusiasm in November than in the previous two months: Retail sales fell by 1.5 percent in September and edged up by just 0.1 percent in October.

Sprint boosts its forecast for earnings

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Sprint Corp. boosted its fourth-quarter earnings forecast for its long-distance division on Thursday.

The news came a day after Sprint announced it would cut 2,100 jobs over the next year as it restructures operations and continues to reduce costs.

Sprint said it now expects fourth-quarter earnings per share for the long-distance division of 37 cents to 39 cents, compared with its previous forecast of 34 cents to 36 cents.

-- From staff, wire reports

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