Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Thursday, March 18, 1999

Pacific trade talk set

SUVA, Fiji -- South Pacific trade ministers will meet in June to discuss laying the groundwork for a free-trade treaty covering the region's 14 independent island countries.

Officials said today they wanted the islands' prime ministers and presidents to give them a mandate to begin negotiations for a Pacific Island free-trade treaty.

Hawaiian Air sees business increase

Hawaiian Airlines Inc. carried 438,478 passengers in February, a 12.1 percent increase from 391,078 in February 1998.

The airline said its systemwide load factor -- the percentage of available seats occupied by paying passengers -- was 77.4 percent last month, an increase of 9.3 points from 68.1 percent in the year-earlier month. The figures are from the airline's total business, which consists of interisland, mainland-Hawaii and Hawaii-South Pacific services.

Mortgage rates slip but still above 7%

WASHINGTON -- The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell this week for the first time since late January but remained above 7 percent for the third consecutive week.

The average declined to 7.01 percent, down from a 10-month high of 7.11 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac, the mortgage company.

Fifteen-year mortgages averaged 6.64 percent this week, down from 6.75 percent. One-year, adjustable-rate mortgages averaged initial rate of 5.75 percent, down from 5.88 percent.

AMR: Pilots' sickout cost $200 million

DALLAS -- The sickout last month by the American Airlines pilots will cost parent company AMR Corp. more than $200 million in pretax earnings during the first quarter. American was forced to cancel more than 6,600 flights over a 10-day period in February because of the disagreement with pilots over the acquisition of Reno Air.

AMR is projecting earnings in the range of 30 to 35 cents a share, while Wall Street analysts surveyed by First Call Corp. had been projecting 65 cents a share.

Japan stock index falls 3.4 percent

TOKYO -- Japan's main stock index fell nearly 3.4 percent today after a rally this week that had propelled the average to an eight-month high.

The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average fell 550.19 points, or 3.38 percent, to finish the day at 15,717.92. Yesterday, the average closed up 195.29 points, or 1.22 percent, to 16,268.11 -- its highest close since July 31.

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