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BUSINESS IN BRIEF

Oil prices top $50 a barrel despite rising US inventory

Oil prices climbed above $50 a barrel despite rising US inventories of crude oil and gasoline. Light, sweet crude for June delivery rose 63 cents to settle at $50.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, bouncing off an intraday low of $48.80. Gasoline futures rose 0.7 cent to close at $1.4664 a gallon. Heating oil futures climbed 1.85 cents to $1.24545 a gallon. The latest petroleum supply snapshot from the US Department of Energy showed a 2.6 million barrel increase in crude oil last week, bringing the nation's inventories to 327 million barrels, or 9 percent above year-ago levels. The supply of gasoline grew by 2.2 million barrels to 213.5 million barrels, or 6 percent above year-ago levels. (AP)

Initial public offering raises $855m for Lazard

Investment bank Lazard Ltd. raised $854.6 million in an initial public offering, ending 157 years of family control of the largest closely held securities firm. Lazard sold 34.2 million class A shares at $25 each, a person familiar with the matter said. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. managed the sale of 33.3 percent of the company, which will leave Lazard's 164 managing directors with 66.3 percent of the voting power. Lazard's market value would be $2.5 billion, based on 100 million total outstanding shares held by the public and by the managing directors. The stock was sold at the low end of the price range of $25 to $27 a share. (Bloomberg)

AFL-CIO reorganization to eliminate 167 jobs

The AFL-CIO, the largest US federation of labor unions, plans to eliminate 167 of its 420 jobs, as it reorganizes in an attempt to boost dwindling membership and strengthen political clout. Most of the cuts will be at the federation's headquarters in Washington and include staff in the international affairs, public policy, and safety and health departments. The affected workers, who were informed of the changes, will be able to apply for 61 new positions, some of which will be in organizing and lobbying, AFL-CIO spokeswoman Lane Windham said. (Bloomberg)

HP slashes force by 1,900 in printing-imaging unit

Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's largest printer maker, eliminated more than 1,900 jobs at its printing and imaging unit to help stem profit declines. Employees in the United States and Puerto Rico last month were offered and accepted voluntary severance packages, said spokeswoman Monica Sarkar. She declined to say how many workers remain in the unit. Profit in the printing group, which accounts for more than two-thirds of HP's earnings, fell 3.6 percent last quarter as the company slashed prices. (Bloomberg)

Bodyguard says Scrushy wasn't running company

A witness for Richard Scrushy's defense took the stand at the trial of the fired HealthSouth Corp. chief executive, testifying that a finance chief took over the company in the final years of a huge earnings overstatement and hid the scheme from Scrushy. Jim Goodreau, ex-security chief at HealthSouth, who served as Scrushy's bodyguard, said former chief financial officer Bill Owens seemed to be ''running the company" by 2001, when Scrushy spent about seven months living in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP)

Canary's first trade with Sihpol was after 4 o'clock

The first trade ex-Bank of America broker Theodore Sihpol III handled for Canary Capital Partners LLC was a late trade, a former hedge fund broker testified at Sihpol's fraud trial in New York state court. Noah Lerner, a former broker with Canary, said he asked Sihpol to buy $10 million worth of shares in three mutual funds associated with Bank of America Nations funds. Lerner said he made the request at 4:11 p.m. on May 16, 2001, 11 minutes after trading ended for the day. ''I got to find my technician, and, uh, we will make it happen," Sihpol was heard telling Lerner in a taped phone conversation played in the Manhattan courtroom. Lerner said he understood ''technician" to mean Sihpol would have someone stamp order tickets with a time before 4 p.m. The May 16 order tickets were stamped 3:45 p.m., he said.(Bloomberg)

Growth in service sector slowed down last month

Growth in the vast US services sector slowed in April, consistent with a soft patch in the economy linked to high energy prices, a report showed. Separate reports showed housing remains strong, with weekly mortgage applications higher and more Americans able to buy a home in recent months. The Institute for Supply Management said its nonmanufacturing index slipped to 61.7 in April, close to Wall Street forecasts but down from 63.1 in March. The index remains well above the 50 level separating growth from contraction. Services, encompassing everything from banking to car washing, account for about two-thirds of the US economy and are typically not as cyclical as the factory sector. (Reuters)

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