Slow airplane orders drop durable goods to 19-month low
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods plunged in January to their lowest level in 19 months, led by a sharp drop in demand for airplanes and electronics.
The Commerce Department reported today that orders for all durable goods -- items expected to last at least three years -- fell by 6.0 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted $202 billion. That was the lowest level since $197.1 billion in June 1999.
Many analysts had forecast a 2.9 percent drop.
The economy slowed to a growth rate of just 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter, the weakest pace in more than five years. The slowdown has hit the manufacturing sector hardest, resulting in sharp cuts in production and thousands of layoffs.
Consumer confidence declines
NEW YORK (AP) -- Consumer confidence in February fell to its lowest level in more than four years, undermined by increased pessimism about jobs and the economy.
The Conference Board reported today that its Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 106.8, down from 115.7 in January. It marked the fifth consecutive drop in the monthly index, which fell to its lowest point since June 1996.
Mediacom adds cable systems
MIDDLETOWN (Bloomberg) -- Mediacom Communications Corp. agreed to buy cable-television systems in four states from AT&T Corp., the No. 1 U.S. provider that's trying to pay down debt, for $2.22 billion.
Mediacom is paying cash for the AT&T systems with 840,000 customers in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, the companies said. Mediacom, which serves rural areas, said the purchase will double the number of subscribers to 1.6 million and make it the No. 8 U.S. cable company.
AT&T, also the biggest U.S. long-distance phone company, plans to split into three companies and issue tracking shares for another business to boost its lagging stock price. The company is selling assets to pay down some of its $46 billion in debt, after the New York-based company spent more than $100 billion buying cable systems under Chairman C. Michael Armstrong.
Red Hat buys planning unit
ATLANTA (Bloomberg) -- Red Hat, the largest U.S. distributor of software based on the Linux operating system, said it acquired network consultant Planning Technologies for $47 million in stock.
Closely held Planning Technologies helps clients build and manage computer networks. The Atlanta-based company's customers include Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, AT&T Corp. and some government agencies.