Business briefs

Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 11:20 p.m.

Fed likely to keep rates low, economists say

WASHINGTON - Americans who have been treated to the lowest interest rates in 40 years on home mortgages and many other types of loans should be able to take advantage of those low rates at least until summer, private economists said Monday.

They pointed to turbulence on Wall Street over rising worries about a war with Iraq as a primary reason the Federal Reserve will leave interest rates at a 41-year low.

The Fed's top policy-making group, the Federal Open Market Committee, will hold a two-day meeting todayTuesday and Wednesday to decide what it should do about interest rates.

Philip Morris changes its name to Altria

NEW YORK - Philip Morris Companies Inc., the New York tobacco and food company, changed its name on Monday to Altria Group Inc., a move critics said was aimed at downplaying its tobacco interests.

The name Philip Morris isn't going away entirely. Philip Morris still will be used for Altria's tobacco companies, Philip Morris International Inc. and Philip Morris USA Inc. Its food group will continue to be called Kraft Foods Inc. Shares also will continue to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the company's old symbol, MO.

Former Dynegy trader faces fraud charges

HOUSTON - A fired Dynegy Inc. trader has been indicted on federal charges of wire fraud and reporting false trade information that could have influenced the price of natural gas.

Michelle Marie Valencia, 32, was arrested Monday at her Houston home. She pleaded innocent before U.S. Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley, who set her bond at $100,000. Valencia's trial was set tentatively for March 10.

The indictment, unsealed Monday, alleged Valencia reported 43 fake natural gas trades on three occasions from November 2000 to February 2001 to an industry newsletter., ''Inside FERC Gas Market Report.''

Supreme Court ruling frees airwave slices

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ordered the government Monday to return billions of dollars worth of unused wireless licenses to NextWave Telecom Inc., a decision that could lead to better service and more options for cellular customers in many major American cities.

The airwaves slices have been in limbo during a protracted fight between NextWave and an agency that confiscated the licenses and resold them at a huge profit after NextWave filed for bankruptcy protection.

Kmart questions role of former leadership

DETROIT - As Kmart Corp. stumbled toward bankruptcy, the discount retailer believes, some of its former executives were attending to their personal well-being instead of making the company work.

The company's decline into bankruptcy came amid tough competition with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. and followed slow sales and a stock drop - but analysts say the actions of executives being examined by the company may have accelerated its decline.

Kmart on Friday revealed details of its investigation into the way the company was managed before its bankruptcy, saying it might have legal claims against some of its former leaders for being ''grossly derelict'' in performing their duties.

- Compiled from

The Associated Press

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