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Archive for Saturday, February 19, 2005

Briefcase

February 19, 2005

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Wholesale inflation sends warning signal

Wholesale prices rose 0.3 percent last month as the costs of everything outside of food and energy jumped by the largest amount in more than six years.

The price spike could set off alarm bells at the Federal Reserve and perhaps lead to steeper increases in interest rates if inflation pressures do not subside.

The increase reported Friday in the Labor Department's Producer Price Index, which is designed to track inflation pressures before they reach consumers, reversed a 0.3 percent decline in December.

While the overall figure was in line with expectations, prices outside of food and energy jumped by 0.8 percent, four times what analysts had been expecting.

Profits

Exxon passes GE in stock market value

Buoyed by rising profits from lofty oil prices, Exxon Mobil Corp. passed General Electric Co. Friday to become the largest U.S. corporation by stock market value.

The two Goliaths traded places after Exxon Mobil shares gained more than 2 percent -- having surged 43 percent from a year ago -- while GE's stock slipped.

That vaulted Exxon Mobil ahead of GE in market capitalization, topping $383 billion compared with about $379 billion for GE.

A spokesman for Exxon Mobil, which just set a record for quarterly operating profits by a U.S. corporation, said the Irving, Texas-based company wasn't counting.

Mutual funds

Regulators take aim at American Express

New Hampshire regulators are seeking at least $17.5 million in penalties from American Express Co., alleging the company illegally rewarded financial advisers who steered clients toward underperforming in-house mutual funds.

In one sales contest, American Express Financial Advisors, an American Express subsidiary headquartered in Minneapolis, offered its advisers who sold the most company funds a free one-year lease on a Mercedes Benz, according to the complaint filed Thursday.

Regulators called the company's disclosures of the incentives "inadequate, obscure and misleading."

American Express Financial Advisers Inc. spokesman David Kanihan said Friday the company was cooperating with regulators.

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