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Factory Orders Decline 0.1% On Low Demand for Aircraft
June 4, 1996

The sluggish manufacturing sector is showing signs of emerging from a recent slump even though overall new factory orders fell 0.1% in April, according to analysts. Many economists had estimated a drop of nearly 1%.

Factory orders fell slightly because reduced demand for aircraft and defense goods offset moderate gains in other sectors, the Commerce Department reported. The April decline followed a revised 1.7% increase in March, previously reported as a 1.5% gain.

Analysts had predicted a greater decline in April after the Commerce Department announced last week that durable-goods orders, such as for major appliances and automobiles, fell 1.9% in April. …

People Are Spending Briskly, But Inflation Remains Low
June 7, 1996

Alan Helfman has no doubts about the strength of the economy. He owns Ford and Chrysler dealerships in the affluent Houston suburb of River Oaks, Texas, and is selling vans, Jeeps and Ford Explorers like "gangbusters."

"We’re hot as fire down here," he drawls. "It’s not the best it’s ever been, but it’s pretty dang close."

Defying predictions, American consumers continue to open their wallets — and fuel economic growth. Economists say businesses let their inventories dwindle early this year and then were surprised by consumers’ resilience. But now, as they rush to restock their shelves, economic growth could pick up in …

Lawmakers Keep Earning Quick Profits on IPOs
June 18, 1996

WASHINGTON — Despite controversy in recent years over members of Congress earning quick profits on hard-to-get new stocks, one senator and two representatives reported thousands of dollars in gains on initial-public-offering trades last year.

Republican Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Democratic Rep. John LaFalce of New York and the husband of Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California each made at least $5,000 on hot IPOs since last year, sometimes by buying and selling the same day. The wives of two other Democratic congressmen — Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Peter Deutsch of Florida — invested in IPO stocks but still hold …

FAA’s Flaws Exposed In ValuJet Shutdown
June 19, 1996

How did federal air safety regulators fail so badly?

The Federal Aviation Administration’s shutdown of ValuJet Airlines — less than six weeks after FAA officials had insisted that the airline was safe — has raised questions about the agency’s ability to ensure the safety of the U.S. airline industry. Those concerns led Tuesday to a major personnel shakeup at the agency, a tightening of inspection rules and a plea by Transportation Secretary Federico Pena for Congress to rewrite the agency’s historic mandate that requires it to promote as well as police the aviation industry.

"There should never be another question about the …

Tie-In's Impossible Mission: Find Sponsor's Name on Screen
July 1, 1996

Imagine Burger King sponsoring a movie in which a lead character is told to choose any food in the world and asks for a Big Mac. Then you’ll understand why Apple computer users are miffed.

In May, Apple Computer launched a multimillion-dollar marketing tie-in with Tom Cruise’s "Mission: Impossible." It featured Mr. Cruise in its TV and print ads, created a web site for the movie and even cosponsored its premiere.

Apple executives say they are pleased with the public reaction to their "brand-energizing" campaign. But techno-savvy moviegoers are baffled by the short shrift given Apple in the film.

It’s true that Mr. …

Libertarian Party Makes Pitch On Internet to Generation X
July 5, 1996

Carlton Hobbs, a 20-year-old math major at the University of Texas at Arlington, was cruising the Internet last September when he came across the web site for the Libertarian Party (http://www.lp.org).

Since then, he has spent more than $500 on books about Libertarianism. He cleared his summer to work on a 21-chapter book about Christianity and Libertarianism. He joined the party and planned to drive nearly 26 hours to attend its presidential nominating convention that began July 4 in Washington.

"I’ve never met another Libertarian in my life," says Mr. Hobbs. "This convention will be the first time."

Young Mr. Hobbs is exactly …

ValuJet's Future Is Unclear, But Its Jets Are All Too Visible
July 11, 1996

The gates are empty, the passengers are gone, but ValuJet Airlines has yet another problem: parking its 51 planes.

The Federal Aviation Administration forced the discount airline to cease operations indefinitely June 17. But early this week, about half of ValuJet’s fleet was still parked at airports in Atlanta and Washington, blocking gates and costing ValuJet money. At Atlanta’s Hartsfield International, one out of every eight domestic gates was filled with parked ValuJet planes, increasing congestion even as Atlanta prepares for Olympic-size traffic.

Three more jets were parked at Washington Dulles International. The rest have been sent to maintenance facilities in Lake …

Abortion Pill May Join List Of New Drug-Based Options
July 22, 1996

RU-486, the abortion pill recommended for approval by a regulatory panel, isn’t the only new abortion option for American women. Two other pharmaceutical methods for ending or preventing pregnancy may soon come into wider use — in large part because they involve drugs already on the market for other purposes.

The abortion pill cleared a major hurdle on Friday when an advisory panel recommended that the Food and Drug Administration approve the product. The FDA could approve RU-486, also known as mifepristone, for use in the U.S. by early fall.

Three weeks ago, the same FDA advisory panel ruled that certain combinations …

Durable-Goods Orders Slipped In June; Jobless Claims Eased
July 26, 1996

WASHINGTON — New orders for durable goods fell 0.8% in June, the Commerce Department said, signaling that the economy’s strength isn’t unbridled.

June’s decline partially unraveled the huge 4.2% jump in May orders. That gain was just one piece of economic data in the robustly healthy second quarter that caused financial markets to wonder if the economy was in danger of overheating.

But June’s report helped temper that fear a bit. Treasurys ended modestly higher Thursday, with the bellwether 30-year bond rising nearly 3/8 to yield 7.01%.

More than half of the June decline in orders for durable goods, or big-ticket items such …

Leading Indicators Rose 0.5% In June for Fifth Straight Gain
August 5, 1996

WASHINGTON — In another forecast of continued economic growth, the index of leading economic indicators rose a strong 0.5% in June, the Conference Board said.

The index’s rise was its fifth in a row, including a 0.3% gain in April and a 0.2% gain in May. Three consecutive increases usually signal that the economy is expanding.

"The economy is on the move again, but the speed of the expansion is uncertain," said Robert Dederick, chief economist at Northern Trust Co. in Chicago.

The index of leading indicators is intended to predict economic activity six to nine months ahead, but many economists say it …

Producer Prices Stayed Flat Even as the Economy Surged
August 12, 1996

Despite surging second-quarter economic growth and tight labor markets, wholesale prices remained unchanged last month, the Labor Department said.

The stable prices at the producer level offer a further sign that inflation is under control, analysts said. Bonds were up sharply on the news Friday, with the Treasury Department’s benchmark 30-year issue closing Friday at 100 23/32, up 23/32 point.

"It just doesn’t get much better than this," with declining inflation and strong real growth, said Chris Varvares, a forecaster at Macroeconomic Advisers L.L.C. in St. Louis. The producer price index, which tracks price fluctuations at the producer level, and the consumer …

U.S. Studies Find Drug Use Is Rising Among Teenagers
August 21, 1996

The nation’s drug users are getting younger, according to reports released Tuesday.

Teenage drug use has more than doubled since 1992, the Department of Health and Human Services said. Nearly 11% of 12-year-olds to 17-year-olds used drugs on a monthly basis last year, and that number has climbed steadily from a low of 5.3% in 1992.

While teenage drug use has increased, usage by older Americans has declined in the same period, and overall levels of drug use have remained flat, the reports said. An estimated 12.8 million Americans used illegal drugs last year, the same rate as in 1992.

At campaign stops …

Clinton Signs Bill to Secure Health Insurance Portability
August 22, 1996

President Clinton signed legislation Wednesday that will guarantee health insurance to people who change jobs.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act extends new protections to an estimated 25 million Americans in so-called "job lock," a situation in which employees don’t switch jobs for fear of losing coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions.

The legislation includes a phased-in 80% tax deduction for health-insurance premiums for the self-employed by 2006, up from the current 30%. It also allows for the creation of 750,000 medical savings accounts that, much like individual retirement accounts or 401(k) savings plans, would enable individuals to set aside tax-free …

Labor Market Has Rebounded In Recent Years, Study Says
August 23, 1996

Over 71% of workers whose jobs were eliminated in the past three years found new ones by February, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

From January 1993 to December 1995, an estimated 8.4 million workers were displaced from their jobs, including 3.8 million long-term workers who had held their jobs for at least three years, the bureau said. Displaced workers are defined as people 20 years or older who have lost their jobs because their plant or company closed or moved, their positions or shifts were eliminated or there was insufficient work for them to do.

Of those 8.4 million …