Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Tuesday, April 20, 1999

Microsoft earnings beat expectations

REDMOND, Wash. -- Microsoft Corp., the world's biggest software maker, said fiscal third-quarter profit jumped 43 percent, beating estimates, on strong sales of its Windows NT and Window 98 operating systems.

Earnings for the period ended March 31 climbed to $1.92 billion, or 35 cents a share, from $1.34 billion, or 25 cents a share, a year earlier. The average analyst estimate was 32 cents a share, according to First Call Corp. Revenue rose 15 percent to $4.33 billion from $3.77 billion a year earlier, in line with expectations.

Microsoft, whose Windows 98 program runs 90 percent of the world's new PCs, benefited from falling PC prices because they underpinned demand while Microsoft held steady its own prices for software loaded onto the machines.

That insulation protected the software powerhouse from revenue shortfalls seen at chipmaker Intel Corp. and computer maker Compaq Computer Corp. in the latest quarter.

U.S. trade gap hits record $19.44 billion

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. trade deficit soared to a record $19.44 billion in February as imports of cars, consumer goods and other manufactured goods hit records while U.S. exports fell, the government said today.

The February jump in the deficit was much higher than the $16.9 billion gap anticipated by Wall Street economists and surpassed January's record $16.8 billion deficit.

The Commerce Department said trade gaps with key commercial partners Japan, Western Europe and Mexico widened in February, while the deficits with China and Canada narrowed slightly. The Asian financial crisis has hurt U.S. exports to the region as the robust U.S. economy attracted record imports.

"This is absolutely a terrible report. Exports declined a fourth straight month," said Steve Wood, analyst at Nationsbanc Montgomery Securities.

In other news . . .

Bullet NEW YORK -- Citigroup Inc. said it will split its stock 3-for-2 and boost its quarterly dividend 16.6 percent, on a post-split basis.

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