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Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Tuesday, May 14, 2002



U.S. business economists raise growth forecast

WASHINGTON >> Responding to the surprising strength of the U.S. economy in the first quarter, a panel of business economists yesterday sharply raised its forecast for growth this year as it struggled to catch up to reality.

The National Association for Business Economics said the U.S. economy would likely expand at an average rate of 2.8 percent, a much better performance than the 1.5 percent projected in February. The projection represents the consensus of a panel of 30 professional forecasters.

The February forecast reflected a belief that U.S. gross domestic product would grow at a 1.3 percent rate in the first quarter -- instead it rocketed ahead at a 5.8 percent pace.

Overseas travel from Japan plunged last year

TOKYO >> The number of Japanese who went abroad plunged 9 percent last year as the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States kept travelers at home.

A total of 16.2 million Japanese went overseas in 2001, compared with the previous year's record 17.8 million, Transport Ministry official Daisuke Idesawa said today.

He said the biggest factor contributing to the reduction was the Sept. 11 terror attacks, which prevented many potential travelers from making overseas trips for the rest of last year.

By country, the number of Japanese who went to the United States last year saw a sharp 18.5 percent drop from 2000, the Idesawa said. Still, the country remained the most popular overseas destination among Japanese with 4.12 million travelers visiting there, he said.

Andersen auditor admits obstructing justice

HOUSTON >> David B. Duncan, the government witness whose very freedom could depend on how well he paints former employer Arthur Andersen LLP as guilty of obstruction of justice, stands at center stage as the company's trial approaches its climax.

Duncan, 43, was the chief auditor on the Enron Corp. account who pleaded guilty to the same charge April 9 with the understanding that prosecutors might recommend a sentence far closer to the minimum -- zero years -- than the maximum 10 allowed by law if he cooperates.

That effort began in earnest yesterday when he fingered Andersen before his seat was even warm.

"I obstructed justice," the Lake Charles, La., native said in a monotone. "I instructed people on the (Enron audit) team to follow the document retention policy, which I knew would result in the destruction of documents."

Casino union expects to sign contract by June 1

LAS VEGAS >> The International Culinary Union expects to sign a contract with at least one of the large casino companies before the current five-year agreement ends, the Las Vegas Sun reported, citing the union president.

The union has a membership vote scheduled Thursday to authorize a strike if an agreement isn't reached by May 31. Once one contract is signed with a company, President John Wilhelm told the paper, he expects other casino companies to go along.

Park Place Entertainment Corp. and Harrah's Entertainment Inc. submitted "constructive" offers that may meet a union demand for free health coverage for its members, said D. Taylor, the secretary/treasure for the local union.

In other news ...

WASHINGTON >> As part of its plan to reduce airline delays, the Federal Aviation Administration wants to reduce the space between planes in flight. The plan would affect flights that reach altitudes of 29,000 to 41,000 feet, primarily those of at least one hour, an FAA spokesman said. Shorter flights don't travel as high in the sky. Under the FAA's proposal, planes could fly within 1,000 feet of each other, rather than the current 2,000 feet.





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