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Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Thursday, March 2, 2000

Hawaii retail sales keep leading nation

Retail stores in Hawaii continued to lead the nation in sales improvement in February, as measured by purchases paid for by checks.

Same-store sales in the state were up 5.8 percent, according to TeleCheck Services Inc., a transaction-approval business that says checks are used to pay for about one-third of all retail purchases. Nationally, sales were up 4.8 percent, TeleCheck said. Contributing to the increase was extra day in February 2000 because of Leap Year.

Starting with the sales period right after Thanksgiving, no state has had a higher year-over-year improvement than Hawaii.

Higher sales boost Costco's bottom line

ISSAQUAH, Wash. -- Costco Wholesale Corp., the largest U.S. chain of warehouse-club stores, said fiscal second-quarter profit rose 19 percent on higher sales. Net income for the quarter ended Feb. 13 rose to $181.6 million, or 39 cents a share, from $152 million, or 33 cents, a year ago. Sales rose 17 percent to $7.61 billion from $6.48 billion. Results matched analysts' estimates. Profit for the Issaquah, Wash.-based retailer got a boost from a 14 percent increase in sales at stores open at least a year.

Mortgage rates slip to 8.27% average

WASHINGTON -- The average interest rate on 30-year mortgages slipped to 8.27 percent this week, down from 8.31 percent last week before, mortgage brokerage Freddie Mac said today.

Fifteen-year mortgages also fell with an average rate of 7.84 percent, vs. 7.92 percent last week. One-year, adjustable-rate mortgages averaged an initial rate of 6.68 percent this week, down from 6.73 percent.

In other news . . .

Bullet NEW YORK -- The index of Leading Economic Indicators rose in January, buoyed by rising consumer optimism and an increase in building permits, a private industry research group reported. The Conference Board's index gained 0.3 percent, the same as in December, for the third consecutive rise.

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