Business briefs

Published: Saturday, January 29, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2005 at 10:57 p.m.

Wall Street stocks fall despite big merger

  • NEW YORK - Disappointing growth in the nation's gross domestic product pushed stocks lower Friday even as investors welcomed a $57 billion merger between Procter & Gamble Co. and Gillette Co. Despite the losses, the major indexes eked out the first winning week of 2005.
    While investors were cheered by P&G's bid for Gillette and strong profits from Microsoft Corp., surprisingly weak economic data robbed the markets of any buying momentum. With elections in Iraq on Sunday, a Federal Reserve meeting beginning Tuesday and the Labor Department's monthly job creation report due next Friday, investors used the GDP figure as another reason to sell stocks ahead of these uncertainties.
    ''The thought is that the GDP was a disappointment, but I don't know if anybody really cares about GDP. It's not the end of the world,'' said Brian Pears, head equity trader at Victory Capital Management in Cleveland. ''This market has been in a very strong bearish trend for the entire year, such as it is. It's like people walk in every day to find a reason to justify that trend because they're afraid.''
    The Dow Jones industrial average fell 40.20, or 0.38 percent, to 10,427.20.
    Broader stock indicators also gave ground. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 3.19, or 0.27 percent, at 1,171.36, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 11.32, or 0.55 percent, to 2,035.83.

    OPEC expected to keep oil output steady

  • DAVOS, Switzerland - OPEC will likely keep oil output unchanged, despite concerns about oversupply and prices hovering around the $50 a barrel mark, petroleum ministers and analysts said ahead of a key meeting this weekend.
    Delegates arriving for the gathering in Vienna, Austria, said they were concerned about increased inventories, but pointed to the second quarter as the time for new cutbacks.
    ''That's certainly the consensus view,'' Adam Sieminski, an oil price strategist with Deutsche Bank in London, said Friday. ''There is some possibility they might want a small token cut in April.''
    Most ministers expect that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries plans no change in output.

    Molson shareholders in favor of Coors merger

  • MONTREAL - Shareholders of Canada's biggest brewer, Molson Inc., on Friday voted overwhelmingly in favor of merging with Adolph Coors Co., the third-largest brewery in the United States.
    The $6 billion merger would form the world's fifth-largest brewery if Coors shareholders also approve next Tuesday, as widely expected.
    The combined Molson Coors Brewing Co., with headquarters both in Montreal and Denver, would own brands that include Coors Original, Coors Light, Keystone, Molson Canadian and Carling.
    Molson officials said more than 80 percent of the shareholders agreed to the merger, whose chances were increased earlier this month after the brewers dramatically increased a special dividend to persuade wavering Molson shareholders to approve their deal.

    McDonald's sees strong fourth-quarter profits

  • CHICAGO - McDonald's Corp. reported Friday that fourth-quarter profits more than tripled behind the momentum of strong U.S. sales, but the fast-food chain still fell slightly short of analysts' expectations.
    Net earnings for the three months ended Dec. 31 were $397.9 million, or 31 cents per share, up from $125.7 million, or 10 cents per share, a year earlier.
    The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said it had to correct an accounting error for prior quarters that cost it $104.5 million, revising the way it calculates lease expenses. Excluding that charge and other items, operating profits were 45 cents per share, a penny shy of the estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call. Revenues jumped 10 percent to $5.01 billion from $4.56 billion as McDonald's continued to benefit from menu additions and extended operating hours in its U.S. restaurants.
    New chief executive officer Jim Skinner, who succeeded Charlie Bell in November, said the company will add a net 350 McDonald's restaurants in 2005 as it keeps up a modest expansion pace. He also said it is exploring ways to expand Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has more than 400 restaurants, based on that business' growing popularity.
    ''Our consolidated performance continues to reflect the underlying strength of our U.S. business, which generated impressive sales and margin improvements for the second consecutive year,'' Skinner said.
    Bell died last week, eight weeks after leaving the top job because of cancer. He served seven months as CEO and chairman.
    For the full year, McDonald's reported net income of $2.28 billion, or $1.79 per share, up 55 percent from $1.47 billion, or $1.15 per share, in 2003. Revenues climbed 11 percent to $19.1 billion from $17.1 billion.
    -Compiled from The Associated Press
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