ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Lucent Technologies made a mistake by growing too fast and organizing inefficiently into 11 ''hot little businesses,'' the top executive of the embattled communications equipment maker told shareholders Wednesday.
The company, one of the nation's most widely owned stocks with more than 5 million shareholders, also missed an opportunity to bring more advanced optical network technology to the market first, Chairman and Chief Executive Henry Schacht said to the 600 attendees at Lucent's annual shareholder meeting here.
Lucent investors have taken a pounding since late 1999 watching the stock tumble more than 85 percent amid a stream of strategic gaffes, missed profit forecasts and a federal investigation into the company's accounting practices.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A record rise in natural gas costs and the biggest jump in electricity prices in two decades caused consumer inflation to surge in January by the largest amount in 10 months, the government said Wednesday.
The 0.6 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index, which matched last March's rise, was double what had been expected. Private economists, however, did not believe the increase was a significant indication that inflation was getting out of control.
In January, energy prices rose by 3.9 percent, the biggest increase since September, led by a record 17.4 percent increase in natural gas prices as homeowners in many parts of the country faced monthly bills of more than $300. Electricity costs were up 2.6 percent, the biggest one-month jump since 1980.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Music executives on Wednesday shook off Napster's offer to settle a copyright infringement lawsuit, saying it didn't offer a viable business model and failed to address concerns over the security of online music.
The timing of Napster's proposal late Tuesday also struck many music industry watchers as odd, coming the night before the Grammy Awards, the biggest annual event on the music calendar.
Music executives also expressed displeasure at Napster's decision to reveal its offer at a news conference rather than in direct talks with them.
Sony Music Entertainment, one of the four record labels still at war with the online music-swapping service, said in a statement Wednesday that Napster's offer to pay $150 million a year in royalties ''does not make sense'' for an industry with annual revenues of $40 billion.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday marched ahead on a course giving state governments more rights, ruling that state workers cannot use an important federal disability-rights law to win money damages for on-the-job discrimination.
The decision -- narrowing the reach of the Americans With Disabilities Act -- was the latest of a series of 5-4 rulings that have tipped the federal-state balance of power toward the states.
The disability-rights law does not trump states' constitutional immunity against being sued for damages in federal courts, the justices said.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- America's trade deficit with the rest of the world surged to a record $369.7 billion last year, even though U.S. exports topped $1 trillion for the first time.
In a sign of things to come, China overtook perennial front-runner Japan as the country with the largest trade gap with the United States.
The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that the deficit for all of 2000 was 39.5 percent higher than the previous record, $265 billion set in 1999.
The increase occurred even though the deficit for December narrowed slightly to $33 billion, down 0.4 percent from November.
LONDON (AP) -- An outbreak of highly infectious foot-and-mouth disease in British pigs prompted a government ban Wednesday on exports of meat, milk and livestock and threatened serious damage to the country's beleaguered farming industry.
The European Union quickly announced its own ban on British exports to other member countries until March 1.
The disease, which is not regarded as a threat to humans, affects cloven-footed animals, including sheep, goats and cows. It is not usually fatal to the animal but can cause weight loss and reduced dairy production in cattle. It is airborne and can spread quickly.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department said Wednesday it has lingering doubts that Verizon Communications has met the federal requirements to provide long-distance telephone service to local customers in Massachusetts.
The department's evaluation, which questioned whether Verizon is treating its competitors fairly, will be taken into consideration by officials at the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC makes the final decision on whether to allow Bell companies, like Verizon, permission to offer long-distance within their territory.
Verizon, the company formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE Corp., is the nation's largest local phone service provider.
ATLANTA (AP) -- Home Depot Inc. co-chairman Arthur M. Blank said Wednesday he will retire and not seek re-election to the company's board of directors when his term ends May 30, citing the ''long shadow'' a company founder casts over successors.
Blank founded the Atlanta-based home improvement retailer in 1979 with Bernie Marcus, who is expected to continue as chairman of the board.
Blank, 58, said his decision was based on the successful transition by chief executive officer Robert Nardelli, who succeeded Blank as chief executive in December.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Two European telecommunications companies will sell a combined 17 percent stake in Sprint Corp., or more than 152 million shares, the company said.
The sale, announced by Sprint Tuesday, involves its FON stock and not shares of the separately traded Sprint PCS wireless unit.
The sale by Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom will be another step away from a relationship that began in 1994 when Sprint and the two European companies formed Global One, a joint venture to sell telecommunications services around the world.
Last year, France Telecom bought out its partners in the venture.
By The Associated Press The Nasdaq composite index fell to its lowest level in nearly two years Wednesday after an unexpected surge in inflation intensified investors' fears about the future.
The Dow Jones industrial average also plunged more than 200 points in heavy trading after the government reported the biggest increase in consumer prices in 10 months.
Analysts said the data made already nervous investors even more reluctant to take strong positions in a market that might not recover for a while.
The tech-focused Nasdaq dropped 49.41 to 2,268.94, a decline of 2.1 percent and its lowest close since March 3, 1999. The Dow closed down 204.30 at 10,526.58, a loss of 1.9 percent and its weakest finish since Jan. 12.
Crude oil and refined products futures closed lower Wednesday at the New York Mercantile Exchange with unleaded gasoline leading the way.
The petroleum complex opened higher, buoyed by talk that OPEC might cut output again next month, but it dropped quickly as gasoline prices fell in response to a bubble of imports.
In other commodities trading, cattle futures gained Wednesday on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as key cattle-raising areas braced for more harsh winter weather.
Cocoa futures rallied on the Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exchange, while copper futures fell to an eight-month low on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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