Around the World November 25, 2001

PHOTO/James MacPherson/AJOC
aroundworld.jpg STATE

ACS rate hike wins tentative approval

ANCHORAGE -- Many local phone customers will pay 24 percent more for basic telephone service and other optional features Nov. 24 under a rate increase tentatively approved by state regulators.

Local residential customers signed up with Alaska Communications Systems, the city’s biggest local phone company, will pay the new rates, said Agnes Pitts, spokeswoman for the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. Basic residential rates will jump from $9.70 to $12.05 a month.

Rates on optional features such as call waiting will also increase 24 percent for both residential and business phones.

ACS asked for the increases last month, arguing that it is losing money. The company also sought a rate increase for business phone service, but regulators have not decided whether to approve it.

An ACS competitor in Anchorage, AT&T Alascom, also asked for a local rate increase. But General Communication Inc., which has about a third of the market, plans no rate hike.

BP moves exploration management for Alaska

ANCHORAGE -- BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. will no longer manage its more speculative Alaska oil exploration from Anchorage, moving the responsibility for those drilling decisions to Houston.

The move affects 30 to 35 BP workers in Alaska, but the company says it will try to find jobs for them in Alaska or elsewhere in BP.

"I think it’s fair to say we are changing the way we are managing exploration in Alaska," said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell. "The personnel who develop frontier exploration strategy for Alaska will be in Houston." Frontier exploration is drilling that’s not in or near existing fields.

Chappell said BP expects to increase net production from Alaska by 10 percent next year, with much of that coming from the new Northstar field. But the company is drilling just one well on the North Slope this winter, although it is participating in several others being drilled by partner companies.

Fish board keeps crab season in January

ANCHORAGE -- A proposal to change the opening date of the Bering Sea snow crab fishery from January to April failed Nov. 14, with the Alaska Board of Fisheries voting 0-6 against it.

Proponents of the change, among them fishermen from Homer and Unalaska, said the fishery should be moved to April, arguing that weather conditions are less severe, and the opilio have a higher meat content.

Others, including the Alaska Crab Coalition, and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Association in Dillingham, urged no change.

"Pressures to fish in dangerous weather conditions intensify when stocks are low and fishing periods are cut short," said Arni Thomson, executive director of the Seattle-based coalition. But Thomson said changing the opening date could pose an economic risk to the industry.

Thomson said major concentrations of market size opilio are currently being found north and west of the Pribilof Islands, an area which in some years is covered by pack ice in mid-March and April, preventing access to fishing grounds.

October unemployment near record low

ANCHORAGE -- Alaska’s unemployment rate posted a month-to-month increase in October, but was near record lows for the month.

Unemployment rose to 5.6 percent last month from 5.2 percent in September. But the October jobless rate is among the lowest for the month in the past two decades, according to a report from the Alaska Department of Labor.

Nationwide, unemployment rose 0.3 percent last month to 5 percent. Both the national and state numbers are the first labor market data available since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. State labor economist Dan Robinson said the numbers indicate Alaska’s labor market is holding steady.

However, a larger-than-normal increase in claims for unemployment benefits may indicate higher unemployment rates in coming months. Claims for jobless benefits rose 50 percent from September to October to 9,619. That represents a 30 percent increase from the same period last year.

Anchorage unemployment was at 3.9 percent; Fairbanks was at 5 percent; Juneau was at 4.9 percent and the Kenai Peninsula jobless rate was at 8.9 percent.


Nordstrom beats reduced expectations

SEATTLE -- Shares in Nordstrom Inc. rose nearly 10 percent in after-hours trading after the clothing store chain said Nov. 15 it beat its severely reduced earnings expectations for the third quarter despite a weak retail environment.

Still, Nordstrom reported a slight decline in sales compared to the same period last year.

For the quarter ended Oct. 31, Nordstrom reported earnings of $10.5 million, or 8 cents per share, compared to a loss of $3.3 million, or 3 cents per share a year earlier.

The 2000 losses included one-time charges of $44 million, or 21 cents per share.

The company also said it would cut 2,500 jobs because of the weak economy made worse by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Big pecan crop cuts grower prices

ALBANY, Ga. -- A large Southern pecan crop has meant lower prices for growers, but don’t expect any bargains at the grocery store.

Experts say the lower prices are unlikely to be passed on to consumers who blend them into holiday sweets for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Agriculture officials predict a U.S. crop of 355 million pounds, nearly 150 million pounds more than last year, when many growers were hurt by drought.

"Overall the quality looks better," said Larry Willson, vice president of Sunnyland Farms Inc., which has 1,300 acres of pecans near Albany in southwestern Georgia. "But we have a few too many in the pipeline."

Richard DeMenna, a pecan specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market News Service in Thomasville, said growers were receiving 75 cents to 85 cents per pound for Desirables, a popular variety, compared to $1.35 to $1.50 per pound last year.


Japanese bank revises view of economy

TOKYO -- Japan, fighting an economic slowdown for more than 10 years, got more bad news Nov. 19.

Japan’s central bank downgraded its assessment of the economy in a monthly report, citing deep worries about falling exports, income and consumer spending.

"Adjustments in economic activity are becoming more severe," the Bank of Japan said.

The downgrade marked the sixth time in as many months the bank has cut its view. The Bank of Japan said slipping production has helped push employment and income down, hurting private consumption.

-- Compiled from business wire services.

11/25/2001 - 8:00pm