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Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Greenspan warns about risky loans

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Bankers should be wary of making loans with the expectation that the U.S. economy's expansion will continue at its current pace, said Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

"A broader and more troubling trend is that many banking institutions view current strong economic conditions as no longer extraordinary and exceptional but rather as ordinary and expected," Greenspan said in a speech to the Independent Community Bankers of America's convention in San Antonio.

Greenspan said bankers must assess the creditworthiness of their borrowers and analyze how they "might perform under more stressful conditions."

Intel follow rival with quick chip

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Two days after chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. began selling one of the fastest processors yet on the market, rival Intel Corp. began shipping its own version of a gigahertz processor today.

The gigahertz chips -- Intel's Pentium III and AMD's Athlon -- can speed up numerous computer tasks, such as high-end computer games and other complex software. The processor is essentially the heart of the computer, performing a certain number of instructions per second. The faster the clock speed of the processor, measured in megahertz, the quicker it goes.

Most consumers now have computers that run at less than 500 megahertz, according to research firm Dataquest -- adequate for most programs on the market. Analysts believe the additional speed provided by a gigahertz chip, or 1,000 megahertz, will become more necessary as the home computer shifts from being primarily used for word processing and surfing the Internet to a central hub connecting various devices in the home.

AMD unveiled its Athlon processor on Monday, months ahead of schedule.

Starwood Hotels expands in Europe

MILAN, Italy -- Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. said it will open more of its luxury Westin hotels in Europe within 18 months as the world's No. 1 hotels owner seeks to boost the money it makes on each room.

The company said it already spent more than $100 million upgrading nine hotels in Italy, Spain and Austria to add to the five hotels the Westin chain already runs in Europe. It plans to build or convert a further 11 by the middle of next year.

Starwood is renovating its hotels around the world to bring in more guests and boost revenue per available room, a key profit measure for lodging companies.

Japan intervention moves yen higher

NEW YORK -- The yen edged higher in New York today after the Bank of Japan intervened in Asia to yank the yen below yesterday's all-time high against the euro and five-week peak against the dollar. The Japanese central bank surprised the market during Asian trading today, buying dollars for yen for the second time this year, forcing the yen as high as 107.50 per dollar and 103.19 per euro.

Analysts say the central bank was acting to smooth the yen's rapid ascent which threatened to become unruly ahead of the end of Japan's fiscal year this month. In late trading in New York today, where it was at 106.82, up .63 yen from yesterday, and at 102.90 yen per euro.

In other news . . .

Bullet PARAMUS, N.J. -- Toys "R" Us Inc., the largest U.S. toy chain, said fiscal fourth-quarter earnings fell 27 percent because of costs at its Internet site. Net income fell to $235 million, or 98 cents a share, from profit from operations of $323 million, or $1.28, a year ago. Sales rose 1.8 percent to $5.03 billion in the quarter ended Jan. 29, from $4.94 billion. The earnings beat the 92 cent-a-share average estimate of analysts.

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