U.S. stocks flat as 2003 winds down
NEW YORK, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Major indexes were little changed Wednesday in light trading, closing 2003 not with a bang but a whisper.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 28.88, or 0.28 percent, at 10,453.92 on Big Board volume of 977 million, while the Nasdaq composite index slipped 6.51, or 0.32 percent, to 2,003.37. The Standard and Poor's 500 rose 2.28, or 0.21 percent, to 1,111.92.
While the day's closing numbers failed to impress, the Wall Street Journal called the year a success, helped by big tax cuts, low interest rates and other government stimuli. The Dow industrials ended up 25.3 percent and the Nasdaq composite, driven by large technology stocks, was up 50 percent. The Standard and Poor's 500-stock index chalked up a 26.4 percent gain.
In late afternoon trading Wednesday in New York, the euro hit $1.2579, up slightly from $1.2552 late Tuesday. The dollar compared to the yen was at 107.37, up from 107.05 late Tuesday in New York.
In London, the FTSE 100 share index rose 14.7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,485.10. Markets in Tokyo, Jakarta, Manila and Seoul were closed ahead of New Year's Day.
Argentine bank workers strike again
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Argentine bank workers went on strike Wednesday demanding higher wages in what should be the final protest of a turbulent 2003.
The disgruntled employees for foreign banks walked off the job at noon after dumping tons of shredded documents out the windows of their institutions, littering the streets of Buenos Aires with the refuse.
The strike follows Tuesday´s protests in which hundreds of bank employees marched on the foreign banks setting off smoke bombs and smashing windows.
"We are going to protest as long as necessary," said bank clerk union leader Juan Jose Zanola to local news sources on Tuesday. "The bankers are laughing at us."
Protests regarding the country's decimated economy are an almost daily occurrence in the Argentine capital and at times have turned violent.
Alcohol beverage makers urge moderation
LONDON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Alcoholic beverage makers in Britain are using the holidays, a traditional time for drunkenness, to urge moderation and caution.
Coors, the maker of Carling, Britain's best-selling lager, has launched an advertising campaign in Scotland using the managers of the Celtic and Rangers football clubs to discourage overindulgence, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.
And Diageo, the maker of Smirnoff vodka, released a survey claiming that 7.3 million Britons were in danger of ruining their careers by getting drunk at their office party.
It also issued tips for responsible drinking, including: alternating alcohol with soft drinks or water; avoiding top-ups to keep track of alcohol intake; and eating before or during drinking to slow alcohol absorption.
Meanwhile, the Portman Group, a responsible-drinking group backed by the alcohol industry, said it had distributed 250,000 pocket guides to sensible drinking in December.
Brazil's economy soared in '03
SAO PAULO, Brazil, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- As good as many stock markets have been in 2003, none has approached Brazil's -- up a world-beating 136 percent year-to-date.
The three-figure increase follows a 46 percent decline in 2002, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Yields for Brazil's government bonds soared to more than 25 percentage points above comparable U.S. Treasurys and the dollar surged 75 percent against Brazil's currency, dropping the real to an all-time low against the dollar.
To discourage an even wider selloff in the bond market, the central bank was forced to raise interest rates above 26 percent, a crippling move for an economy struggling to recover.
But following President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's election win last October, it became increasingly clear the new president would not allow a debt default or pursue an antibusiness agenda.
By year end, the stock market had shot up 50 percent from its October low. With bond yields falling back to five percentage points above U.S. Treasurys, the stock market rally has continued into 2003.