Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Aquasearch reports its quarterly loss narrows

Aquasearch Inc. said it lost $833,234 in the second quarter, a 37 percent decrease from the firm's $1.33 million loss in the same period last year, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company, a Kona-based seller of dietary supplements, did not report revenues.

The company yesterday notified the SEC that its quarterly report will be late because its accountants have not finished their review.

WTO today approves admission of Taiwan

GENEVA >> Members of the World Trade Organization formally cleared Taiwan for admission today, a day after China was approved.

Terms for Taiwan's admission were completed 18 months ago but the final decision was delayed because of a 1992 understanding that China would join first.

The 142 WTO governments today approved a 1,200-page document setting out the terms for Taiwan's membership in the body that sets global rules on international trade.

Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of Chinese territory, at first objected to Taiwan's joining at all. It finally agreed Taiwan could join the WTO because it is a separate customs territory with different rules on importing goods. It will not be regarded as a country in its own right. Hong Kong and Macau, both recently handed back to China, are also separate members of the WTO.

Today's decision opens the way for both China and Taiwan to be formally approved for membership at a meeting of trade ministers planned for Doha, Qatar, in November.

European markets slide, Asia loses momentum

LONDON >> European stocks finished lower today but a late rally sparked by a modest rise in U.S. shares cut the losses. A strong performance across Asia lost momentum, and some markets there fell into the red.

Stocks declined on all major European markets despite of interest rate cuts by central banks around the world, including a quarter percentage point cut by the Bank of England at midday.

Investors appeared more concerned with possible military action against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban than with the series of confidence-building cuts in key interest rates that began Monday with the U.S. Federal Reserve's half-point reduction.

The European Central Bank followed with a similar cut, and the Bank of Japan dropped a key rate earlier today.

The FTSE 100 index of British blue chips closed down 1.02 percent, or 50.20, at 4,848.70. The CAC 40 index of leading French shares finished the day down 1.13 percent at 3,970.18. The Xetra DAX index on Germany's Deutsche Boerse was 1.02 percent lower at 4,191.30 in evening trading in Frankfurt, after trading down as much as 2.66 percent earlier in the day. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index finished with a loss of 0.1 percent. The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average finished up 175.47 points, or 1.9 percent, at 9,679.88.

U.S. eases mortgage rules for attack victims

WASHINGTON >> The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development yesterday  announced it would ease mortgage repayment conditions for people directly affected by Tuesday's terror attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington.

In addition, mortgage bankers have pledged to provide similar relief, HUD secretary Mel Martinez said in a conference call with reporters.

All Federal Housing Administration-approved lenders will adopt a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures for FHA-insured loans, Martinez said. In addition, those lenders will waive late charges and suspend reporting of late payments to credit bureaus for those loans, he said.

Mortgage bankers have pledged to take the same steps for conventional mortgages for those affected by the attacks.

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