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Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Thursday, January 25, 2001

Inouye pushes Japan to open airport

WASHINGTON -- Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta suggested that the United States will urge Japan to open Tokyo's Haneda airport to U.S. carriers if it is allowed to provide international services.

In a congressional hearing yesterday, Mineta said Japan should open up Haneda airport for international flights although there has been much resistance to using it for such services.

"That's something I'd be more than happy to discuss with them (the Japanese)," Mineta said, hinting Washington will press Japan to allocate part of possible international flights at Haneda to U.S. carriers when the two countries hold civil aviation talks in late February.

Mineta was replying to a question by Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, who said Washington should call on Japan to open up Haneda to U.S. airlines. Referring to the Japan-U.S. civil aviation agreement, Inouye said the U.S. should work with Tokyo so that "the intent and the spirit of the bilateral agreement can be carried out." "Otherwise, it's just a paper agreement which is not helping the balance of payments or balance of trade," he said.

Wages, benefits rise 0.8 percent

WASHINGTON -- Americans' wages and benefits rose solidly in the fourth quarter, wrapping up a year that posted the biggest annual gain in compensation costs since 1991.

The Labor Department reported today that its employment cost index, a closely watched gauge of inflation, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent in the last three months of 2000, down from a 0.9 percent rise in the third quarter, reflecting a job market that cooled late in the year from its earlier red-hot state. Many economists expected fourth-quarter compensation costs to post a 1.1 percent gain.

The wages and salaries component of the index, viewed by economists as the best measure of changes in workers' compensation costs, advanced by 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with a 0.8 percent rise in the third quarter. The cost of benefits also moderated in the fourth quarter, rising 0.8 percent, vs. a 1.0 percent increase in the third quarter.

Mortgage rates rise to 7.15 percent

WASHINGTON -- Thirty-year mortgage rates this week rose for the second time in 11 weeks, as the economy showed signs that the slowdown is not as severe as expected, Freddie Mac said today.

Thirty-year mortgage rates jumped to 7.15 percent after averaging 7.02 last week. Fifteen-year mortgages also edged up, reaching an average 6.70 percent from 6.63 percent last week.

One-year adjustable rate mortgages were unchanged at an average 6.64 percent.

In other news . . .

Bullet CHICAGO -- Chiquita Brands International Inc., facing financial problems it blames in part on European banana trade barriers, has filed suit seeking $525 million in damages from the European Commission.

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