Crude oil futures closed above $40 a barrel for the first time since Oct. 11, 1990, when Iraq was occupying Kuwait, on speculation that a growing global economy will boost demand and lower inventories. Crude oil for June delivery rose $1.13, or 2.9 percent, to settle at $40.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. New York oil prices have gained 13 percent in the past six weeks as attacks in Saudi Arabia and Iraq heightened concerns about the security of supplies from the Middle East. Record gasoline consumption and low fuel stockpiles in the U.S. have also driven oil prices higher.
Cisco Reports Strong Profit Rise
Cisco Systems said third-quarter earnings rose 23 percent, to $1.21 billion, as the company added home-network products and sold more Internet routers and switches to corporations. Sales for the quarter ended May 1 rose 22 percent, to $5.62 billion, the biggest increase in three years.
DPL's chairman reportedly erased at least 740 files from his computer hard drive that an independent counsel had asked the company to keep for its investigation of the electric utility's finances and top executives' compensation. The files were erased by using "scrubbing" software in April, days after the Cincinnati law firm of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister asked DPL Chairman Peter H. Forster and senior managers to retain and preserve their records, according to the counsel's report, which was obtained by the Dayton Daily News. DPL is the parent company of Dayton Power and Light. The audit committee hired Taft on March 17 to investigate concerns raised by DPL Controller Daniel L. Thobe in a memo after he declined to sign off on DPL's 2003 annual report.
Three-year Treasury notes rose to their highest yield level in six years. The yield was 3.199 percent, up from 2.330 percent at the last auction on Feb. 10. The notes will carry a coupon interest rate of 31/8 percent, with each $10,000 in face value selling for $9,979.00.
AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney accepted an invitation from a top Chinese official to visit Beijing and inspect the conditions of workers in that country. "We would like the freedom to develop our own itinerary, make our own travel arrangements and bring our own interpreters," Sweeney wrote in a letter to Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, who invited labor leaders to China during a visit to Washington last month.
NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment plan to announce the conclusion of their merger this morning in New York, according to a source familiar with the two companies. The $5.4 billion deal will combine Universal's movie, theme park and television units -- including USA Network and the Sci-Fi cable channel -- with NBC's television network and cable channels, creating a company worth an estimated $43 billion. The new company, NBC Universal, will be 80 percent owned by General Electric's NBC and 20 percent owned by shareholders of Vivendi Universal, the French conglomerate. The deal was cleared last month by the Federal Trade Commission.
Hollinger International reached a settlement with former director Peter Y. Atkinson over unauthorized payments. Atkinson, who has resigned as director and executive vice president of the Chicago-based newspaper publisher, repaid about $2.8 million in funds he received as so-called "non-compete payments" and through an incentive plan, Hollinger said. Atkinson had not been named in the company's lawsuit of its former chief executive, Conrad Black, and his top deputy, David Radler, for allegedly looting it of more than $380 million.
Levi Strauss is considering selling its Dockers casual-clothing brand. The company said it retained Citigroup to help. Dockers accounted for $1.4 billion of Levi's $4.09 billion in sales for 2003. Levi Strauss has been under mounting pressure to cut costs and debt after years of declining sales since their peak of $7.1 billion in 1996.
NASD has gone to court in an attempt to overturn a Securities and Exchange Commission decision to set aside most of an NASD disciplinary ruling against controversial short-seller Anthony Elgindy. NASD had found that Elgindy and Key West Securities, a brokerage firm he owned, attempted to manipulate the market for Saf T Lok stock in 1997. NASD in 2003 barred Elgindy from association with any NASD firm, expelled Key West and fined Elgindy and his firm $51,000. Elgindy appealed the decision to the SEC, which dismissed most of the findings. Elgindy is now in jail awaiting trial on criminal charges of securities fraud and racketeering.
Mercedes-Benz recalled 680,000 E- and SL-class vehicles worldwide to examine potential problems with its Sensotronic brake control system. The recall applies to E-class Limousines built after March 2002, T model cars built after March 2003 and SL-class vehicles made after October 2001, the DaimlerChrysler unit said.
Chrysler recalled 320,188 Dodge Dakota pickup trucks and Durango sport-utility vehicles from 2003 and other model years because the windshield wipers may fail. Chrysler is recalling the 2002 and 2003 model years of the Durango and Dakota and the 2004 Dakota.
E&B Giftware recalled 187,000 electrical-outlet plugs because touching an exposed plug while inserting the adapter into an outlet can result in a shock, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said. The Worldwide or Universal Electric Outlet Adaptor Plugs have three adapter plugs and "MODEL: 1840" appears on the bottom. They were sold nationwide from January 2001 through March 2004 under brand names Samsonite, Royal Traveller, American Tourister and El Portal.
The European Union agreed to boost disclosure requirements for its roughly 7,000 public companies after rejecting U.S.-style quarterly reporting and giving a reprieve to foreign bond issuers. EU finance ministers endorsed a four-month deadline for annual reports, requirements for more information in half-year reports and a mandate for quarterly updates without financial results.
Ahold reported an 11 percent decline in first-quarter sales, blaming the sale of some operations and the weak U.S. dollar. The global foods retailer, which operates Columbia-based U.S. Foodservice and Landover-based Giant Food and won't release earnings for the quarter until June 14, said unaudited sales were 15.4 billion euros ($18.2 billion). In the United States, sales fell 1.2 percent.
Procter & Gamble said it will pay $1.8 billion to buy the remaining 20 percent of its joint venture in China from its partner, Hutchison Whampoa China.
Host Marriott, the Bethesda-based hotel real estate investment trust, sold its 491-room Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Marriott to Highland Hospitality of McLean for about $59 million in cash. Host Marriott said the proceeds will be used to pay debt and for other corporate purposes.
Danaher, the Washington-based maker of Craftsman tools and Fluke electronic testing equipment, agreed to buy Harris's telecommunications-testing product lines for about $50 million to expand its offerings to that industry.
Fiat sharply narrowed its loss in the first quarter, reduced its automotive operating losses and reaffirmed the group was on track to break even on operations this year. Fiat said it lost $230 million (194 million euros) for the January-March period, compared with a loss of 681 million euros in the first quarter of 2003.
May Department Stores, the owner of Hecht's, said first-quarter profit rose 5.6 percent, to $76 million, the smallest gain in three quarters. Sales fell last month but climbed 3.1 percent for the quarter, to $2.96 billion.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.