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Archive for Friday, February 7, 2003

Briefcase

February 7, 2003

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Stewart prosecutor ponders criminal charges

Federal prosecutors have let Martha Stewart know they have enough evidence to file criminal charges against her, sources say.

Jim Comey, U.S. Attorney for New York, is considering several charges -- including securities fraud, obstruction of justice and lying to an FBI agent, two sources familiar with the matter told the New York Daily News.

Comey has yet to make a final decision whether to actually make Stewart a defendant in the ongoing probe of her timely sale of ImClone stock.

Economy

Productivity takes dip

The productivity of U.S. companies dipped at an annual rate of 0.2 percent in the final quarter of 2002, the worst showing in more than a year, as the nation's economic recovery faltered.

The decline came after productivity -- the amount of output per hour of work -- went up by a strong 5.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The fourth quarter's performance -- weaker than the 0.7 percent rise economists were predicting -- marked the biggest decline in productivity since the first quarter of 2001, when the economy was heading into its first recession in a decade.

Still, even with the fourth-quarter decline, productivity for all of 2002 grew by a stellar 4.7 percent, the strongest showing since 1950, and a marked improvement over the 1.1 percent increase posted in 2001. Economists called 2002's performance impressive.

Report

Retail sales sluggish

The nation's retailers contended once more with a difficult sales climate during January.

As retailers reported their January results Thursday, the extent of their troubles was reflected in the performance of Wal-Mart, usually the industry leader. The discounter reported that its sales at stores open at least year, known as same-store sales, came in below Wall Street forecasts.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd. reported that a same-store sales tally of 78 retailing companies was up 1.8 percent for the month, compared with a 1.0 percent increase in December.

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