Here is a look at more of Wednesday's top business stories:
Auto production falls
SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Ward's Automotive Reports said vehicle production during the Thanksgiving shortened week is expected to fall to an estimated 240,956 units from the 361,058 cars and trucks built last week in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Ward's said including this week's estimates, calendar year North American output now totals 15,643,456 vehicles, up 6.0 percent from the same period last year.
In the United States, automakers are expected to produce 159,652 vehicles this week, down 41.2 percent from the 271,594 cars and trucks built last week. To date, calendar 2002 U.S. vehicle output totals an estimated 11,460,671 units, up 7.9 percent from the 10,623,674 vehicles built during the same period last year.
This week's Canadian vehicle production is estimated at 43,465, a 25.7 percent decline from the 58,493 units assembled last week. Estimated calendar-2002 Canadian vehicle production now stands at 2,489,648 units, up 3.1 percent compared with the 2,415,495 vehicles produced during the same period last year.
Of the cars and trucks slated for production this week in the U.S., General Motors Corp. accounted for 33.3 percent, Ford Motor 28.2 percent, Chrysler of DaimlerChrysler 14.6 percent, and other manufacturers accounted for the remainder.
Earnings ease at Hormel Foods
AUSTIN, Minn., Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Hormel Foods Corp., the maker of Spam luncheon meat and Dinty Moore Stew, said its fiscal fourth-quarter net income for the period ended Oct. 26 eased to $68 million, or 49 cents a share, from $68.8 million, or 49 cents a share during the same period last year.
On Nov. 14, the company said it was comfortable with Wall Street's estimate of earnings per share of 48 cents for the quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected Hormel to earn 49 cents a share.
Fourth-quarter dollar sales slipped to $1 billion from $1.1 billion a year ago.
Joel W. Johnson, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer, said: "Fiscal 2002 was very challenging. The front end of our business, the products and services that touch customers, performed well, as reflected in stronger market shares, higher distribution levels and generally strong new product launches.
"These successes helped us withstand the financial pressures from the back end of our business: surplus protein markets depressed the live hog market below the company's procurement contract floor price, which caused the company to incur a higher cost for hogs compared to the open market price," he said.
"We are cautiously optimistic about our prospects for fiscal 2003. We expect to manage within unfavorable, but gradually moderating, market forces through the first half of the year.
"We believe Hormel Foods is well-positioned to improve business as the economy strengthens, and will continue efforts to build our presence in fast-growing categories such as ethnic foods, deli and foodservice. The Precept Foods LLC joint venture also holds promise for fiscal 2003 and beyond," Johnson said.
"With these factors in mind, our earnings guidance is within a range of 35 to 43 cents a share for the first quarter," he added.