SATURDAY BIZ BRIEFS 05.06

Business leaders tour Coast

amid insurance concerns

BILOXI Securing insurance on the storm-battered Gulf Coast is a “tough issue” but should not discourage companies from investing in the region, White House hurricane recovery czar Donald Powell assured a gathering of business leaders on Friday.

Powell joined U.S. Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in leading a 32-company delegation on a tour of the coast this week to sell them on opening or expanding business in Mississippi and Louisiana.

The delegation included representatives of 11 different business sectors, including retail, banking, real estate and construction.

One of the executives on the tour was Home Depot chairman, president and CEO Bob Nardelli, whose company announced Thursday that it will spend $57 million to open new stores and repair old ones on the coast.

New hiring slows while

jobless rate holds steady

WASHINGTON New hiring slackened last month to the slowest pace since last fall, as retailers cut thousands of jobs. Manufacturers and other businesses boosted employment, though, and the national jobless rate held steady at 4.7 percent.

Employers boosted payrolls by just 138,000 in April. That was the smallest increase since October when businesses still reeling from the blows of the Gulf Coast hurricanes added only 37,000 jobs.

Average hourly earnings climbed to $16.61, a big 0.5 percent jump from March. Over the last 12 months, earnings rose 3.8 percent, the largest 12-month gain in nearly five years.

On the payroll front, retailers cut just over 36,000 jobs in April, the most since September. Information companies, including publishers, shed 2,000 jobs during the month.

But at other industries the hiring picture was much brighter. Manufacturers boosted payrolls by 19,000, the most in nearly two years. Professional and business services added 28,000 positions. Financial firms increased employment by 26,000. Construction companies added 10,000 jobs.

Americans borrowed

less freely in March

WASHINGTON Americans increased their borrowing in March at the slowest pace in four months as people cut back on their credit card charges.

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that consumer borrowing rose at an annual rate of just 1.4 percent in March. That was down from a 2.5 percent pace in February and represented the smallest increase since November when consumers actually sliced their borrowing.

Jobs data sends Dow

to new six-year high

NEW YORK Wall Street barreled higher Friday, sending the Dow Jones industrials up 138 points to a new six-year high after a report of modest job growth bolstered hopes that the Federal Reserve will end its interest rates hikes. All three major indexes finished the week with gains.

The Dow rose 138.88, or 1.21 percent, to 11,577.74, its best showing since the Dow reached its all-time high of 11,722.98 on Jan. 14, 2000. The Dow is now just 145.54 away from setting a new record.

Broader stock indicators were higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 13.51, or 1.03 percent, to 1,325.76, its highest level since Feb. 15, 2001; the Nasdaq composite index advanced 18.67, or 0.8 percent, to 2,342.57.

TVA’s Browns Ferry nuke

plant gets NRC renewal

ATHENS, Ala . The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Friday approved a 20-year license renewal for all three units at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, which will allow the Tennessee Valley Authority to operate the plant into the 2030s.

Before granting the license renewal, the NRC conducted a comprehensive two-year review and conducted on-site inspections. The renewal includes the license for Unit 1, which is scheduled for restart in May 2007.

TVA submitted its application for license renewal in December of 2003. The NRC license approval will allow TVA to continue operating units 1, 2 and 3 until 2033, 2034 and 2036, respectively.