Productivity Up in 1st Quarter

U.S worker productivity rose at a quicker pace in the first quarter, and businesses' labor costs rose more slowly, the Labor Department reported yesterday. Productivity, output per hour of non-farm labor, increased at a 2.9 percent annual rate in January through March, up from the 2.3 percent pace of the previous quarter. Non-farm labor costs per unit of output, a key source of inflation pressures, grew at a 3.3 percent annual rate, less than half the 7.7 percent rate of the fourth quarter of last year.


Luxury, Teen Sales Gain the Most

Retailers generally performed well in May. The big winners were luxury stores such as Nordstrom, whose same-store sales rose 7.4 percent, and teen retailers including Bebe Stores and Abercrombie & Fitch, whose same-store sales rose 40.3 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Wal-Mart, whose core consumer is the most vulnerable to the economy's woes, said same-store sales rose 2.5 percent. Discount rival Target reported a 5.1 percent gain in same-store sales, with a 12.1 percent rise in total sales. Limited Brands had a 1 percent decrease in same-store sales. J.C. Penney posted a 3.5 percent same-store sales gain in department stores, and its total sales rose 5.4 percent.


Jury Gets Case in Tyco Trial

The jury in the trial of two former top executives of Tyco International began deliberations Thursday on whether the defendants stole more than $500 million from the company.

Former chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski, left, and former chief financial officer Mark H. Swartz are being tried on 31 counts that include grand larceny, falsifying business records and securities fraud. They are accused of taking unauthorized pay and bonuses, abusing loan programs and selling their company stock at inflated prices after lying about Tyco's finances.

Qwest Ex-Officer to Plead Guilty

Robin R. Szeliga, Qwest Communications International's former chief financial officer, will pleaded guilty to criminal charges of insider trading related to the sale of company stock in April 2001, the Justice Department said.

Szeliga, 44, sold 10,000 Qwest shares for $410,000 while she had inside information about the company's financial performance, the department said.


General Mills Says Inquiry Is Over

General Mills said the Securities and Exchange Commission is ending its investigation of the cereal maker's sales practices and related accounting without taking enforcement action. Last year, the SEC issued a preliminary decision to recommend civil action against the company, its chief executive and its chief financial officer.


Black Quits Hollinger Board

Conrad M. Black quit the board of Hollinger International, the Chicago-based publishing company he founded. Black's wife, Barbara Amiel Black, also resigned from the board, the company said. Hollinger International publishes, among other newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times.

Black previously was forced out as chief executive and chairman after an internal review found that he and several associates had improperly siphoned millions of dollars from the company. Hollinger is still trying to recover the money from Black through legal action. Black, meanwhile, must submit to questioning in a Canadian civil investigation, an Ontario judge ruled, dismissing Black's objection that his answers may be used in a U.S. probe.

Black, 60, resisted a request to be interviewed by the accounting firm Ernst & Young, which was appointed to investigate unauthorized loans involving companies Black controlled.


Fake Coupons Kill 'Sub Club'

Subway is ending its "Sub Club" free-sandwich promotion over concerns that people were creating and selling copies of the restaurant chains proof-of-purchase stamps and cards. The promotion has been used in some for since the 1980s.

The company noticed thousands of stamps for sale at online auction sites, and franchise owners were more frequently discovering fake stamps. The promotion will be phased out by Oct. 1.


Toyota, Chrysler Efficiency Rises

Toyota Motor and DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group were among the best 2004 performers in a productivity study that automakers watch closely. The latest Harbour Report said Toyota improved its overall productivity by 5.5 percent last year, the most of any major automaker. Chrysler led automakers with a 19 percent improvement in the past three years. General Motors had the most productive assembly plant at Oshawa, Ontario, where workers spent 15.85 labor hours per vehicle. It overtook Nissan Motor and its Altima assembly line in Smyrna, Tenn., which rose to 16.1 hours per vehicle from 15.3 in 2003.