Business World

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Execs grow more confident

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) - Executives' confidence in the economy rose for the fifth time in six months in May, fueled by expectations of stronger sales and higher inventories, a survey released Monday shows. The Cahners Business Confidence Index climbed to 67.4 this month, up from 66.7 in April.

For the second straight month, the 400 manufacturing and construction industry executives who responded to the survey appeared upbeat about business prospects that range from hiring workers to rolling out new products. "We can expect continued and moderate growth through the summer," the report said.

Four of the seven business components that make up the index increased in May. Executives said they anticipated rising production and sales, higher inventories, improved employment conditions and research and development advances. A month ago, executives were also upbeat about economic conditions, though they foresaw declining inventories.

Meanwhile, three other index components declined for the month: product introduction, spending on marketing and spending on capital improvements.

For each segment of the index, scores are computed as the sum of the proportion of respondents indicating that activity will increase, plus 50 percent of the proportion reporting no change. The overall Cahners index is the average score of the seven segments.

This month, Cahners also asked executives which region of the world would offer the best opportunity for sales growth in the coming year. Though 67.6 percent of the respondents cited U.S. and Canadian markets, a small change from a year ago, about 18.5 percent mentioned Asian markets - a jump from 9.9 percent last year.

The survey is conducted by Cahners Economics of Newton, Mass.

Bryant buys building

OKLAHOMA CITY (JR) -- Wilshire Technical Center has been bought by Bryant Properties Inc., a local investment company. Sale price of the property, which was offered by Liberty Bank and Trust Co., was $1.085 million.

The property is a 38,240-square-foot office-service center at 430 W. Wilshire Blvd. and 7700 N. Hudson Ave. Present tenants of Wilshire Technical Center are Designer Hardware, Art Source, Window Innovations, Typewriters Plus, Hearting Conservation Services, and the University of Central Oklahoma.

Japan's trade surplus falls

TOKYO (AP) -- A strong gain in imports caused Japan's trade surplus to fall 66 percent in April, the latest sign that a longtime irritant in Japan-U.S. relations may be diminishing. The overall trade surplus fell to $3 billion at current exchange rates, down from $8.7 billion in April 1995. It was the 17th straight monthly drop. Japan's trade surplus with the United States dropped 56 percent from $3.6 billion to $1.6 billion.

While exports rose slightly, imports surged as Japanese companies increasingly shifted production abroad to escape high costs in Japan. Japan's trade surplus with the United States has long strained relations, and sometimes has caused the yen to surge on the belief that Washington sought a weaker dollar to help U.S. manufacturers improve their competitiveness abroad by making American goods cheaper.

With the easing of the trade surplus, the dollar has recovered to around 107 yen Monday, up from the low 80-yen range last summer.

GE expands PC leasing

STAMFORD, Conn. (Bloomberg) -- General Electric Co.'s Capital Services unit has agreed to buy AmeriData Technologies Inc. for $490 million in stock to expand its computer equipment leasing business. GE Capital will pay $16 a share for the computer consulting and leasing company. AmeriData will become part of GE Capital's Technology Management Services, which specializes in the high-profit business of buying, setting up and managing computer operations for corporations.

"With the transition from mainframes to networks and older personal computers to Pentiums, these would be the guys you turn to," said Seth Potter, an analyst at Sands Brothers & Co. …