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Wholesalers build up inventories

In a promising sign that the U.S. economy continues to expand, even if slowly, U.S. wholesalers built up their stockpiles during July at the fastest pace in almost two years, the Commerce Department reported.

In a clear suggestion that businesses are boosting their inventories to keep up with rising demand, inventories jumped up by 0.6 percent in July, to $284.2 billion, the biggest one-month increase recorded in 20 months, since a 0.6 percent increase rung up in November 2000. The July number easily swept past expectations and the 0.2 percent gain that had been forecast by analysts. Suggesting that momentum may be building, the July increase follows another strong gain of 0.4 percent rung up in June.

Pushing the number higher was wholesale stockpiling of cars and machinery, the government reported. Inventories of cars rose 1.3 percent, while machinery stocks increased by 0.9 percent.

Sales of goods kept pace, the Commerce Department reported, with a matching 0.6 percent increase, boosted by auto sales, which rose by 0.4 percent, and machinery sales which increased by 0.2 percent.

The stocks-to-sales ratio — a measure of how long it will take to deplete stocks at the current rate of sales — held steady at 1.23 months, the record low it has held since April.

Pace of ceo exits accelerates

As government and legal scrutiny of corporate performance continues in the wake of the Enron debacle and other corporate scandals, chief executives are leaving their posts — quitting or being forced out — at an accelerated pace.

Over the past two months, about 120 chief executives have left their posts, about three each business day, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an international outplacement company.

August marked a second straight month in which departures exceeded their year-ago pace. Together, July and August accounted for 120 exists, 13 percent more than the 106 recorded in the same two-month period a year ago.

So far this year, 498 ceo departures have been announced, about 25 percent lower than the 661 during the same eight-month period of 2001. Nearly 40 percent of the August departures were in the technology and service sectors. Of August's 70 departing ceos, the average tenure was 7.7 years. A total of 48, or 69 percent, resigned or left for unspecified reasons.

"This is the most telling statistic of the August report," said John Challenger, ceo. "While it is impossible to determine the real reason behind many of these departures, the high number resigning or leaving without any reason being given could be a clue that many were asked to leave."

Challenger also counted 26 departures among chief financial officers, of which 18, or 69 percent, left for unspecified reasons.

Sunbeam changes reorganization plan

Bankrupt Sunbeam Corp., the nation's largest producer of automatic blankets and throws, has filed an amended plan of reorganization with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, as it prepares to settle up with creditors and emerge from Chapter 11.

Under the terms of the plan, which has already received a green light from secured lenders, all of the company's bank debt will be converted to equity, with lenders taking over as the company's new owner. The new principal shareholders will be Morgan Stanley, Wachovia and Bank of America. Unsecured creditors for Sunbeam's domestic operating subsidiaries will be paid in full, the company said.

A hearing on the amended plan is scheduled for Oct. 4, and a confirmation hearing is set for Nov. 4.

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