In Seattle the city's human rights department ruled in June
that the AAA club of Washington had illegally discriminated on the basis of marital status by refusing to grant associate membership to a gay man's domestic partner.
In the first four days,the price of self-serve,unleaded gas rose 7.1 cents per gal,
according to an American Automobile Association check of 1,400 stations.
With just 37 million cards in circulation,Amex is a niche player compared with mass marketers VISA(257 million)and MasterCard(163 million).
Nestled in that niche,however,is a big spending consumer.
On average,American Express customers charge $4,266 per card every year,
vs.$1,577 among bankcard holders.
Robinson's triumph lasted just four days,
during which Amex stock dropped 13%.
For the go-getters at MCI Communications,
the contest was their big chance
to prove that they could whip their nemesis,American Telephone & Telegraph,at its own game.
What excites AT&T,however,is not NCR's market share
but the potential for linking its own long-distance telephone system to NCR's world network of cash registers and ATMs.
Both Intel,the world's largest supplier of computer chips,and Microsoft,the world's largest supplier of computer software,
have assumed the role long played by Big Blue as the industry's pacesetters.
Some industry observers suggested that IBM may have had ulterior motives for knocking Intel's quality,
since Big Blue will begin selling the competing Power PC microprocessor next spring,
but the computer maker insisted it was only trying to protect its customers.
Next month the chiefs of the Big Three U.S.automakers will accompany President Bush on a trip to East Asia,
where they are expected to urge Japan to buy more U.S.-made autos to reduce the trade deficit.
Japan's setback provides a moment of respite for America's Big Three,
which have problems of their own.
Says Robert Spies,chief scientist for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council:
"There is ample evidence that overzealous cleanup can be harmful."
The chemical detergents,high-pressure sprays and brushes used to clean beaches and rocks after a spill destroy microorganisms
that are an important part of the seaside's ecology.
A battle is raging over how best to spend the settement money from the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Lloyd's of London
Members of Lloyd's of London,the insurer that has lost $8 billion in the past three years,
voted to profoundly revamp the way business is done at the 300-year-old institution.
Lloyd's of London has always been synonymous with insurance-underwriting expertise and the sober assessment of risk.
Soon financial giants such as Merrill Lynch and John Hancock,
as well as smaller finance companies like Access Capital,
went after the bank's last domain of business borrowers.
Rising interest rates by definition mean lower bond prices.
And falling bond prices pull down stock prices too.
"The economy is doing well,and the market is doing terribly,"
sums up Byron Wein,chief U.S.market strategist for the investment firm Morgan Stanley.
The Finanical Times
London,the world's third largest stock market,is still lagging behind Tokyo and New York,despite a 28% gain for the year on the 100-stock Finanical Times index,better known as Footsie.
All told,the Maxwell companies probably carry debts of $3.9 billion,
according to Lodon's Finanical Times,That figure was about 50% higher than many investors had assumed.
A Car?A Watch?A Swatchmobile!
1.Most Americans think of the Swatch as a trendy timepiece
that was embraced by everyone from K Mart shoppers to the owners of SoHo galleries.
But in its country of origin,Switzerland,
the Swatch represents nothing less than an amazing instrument of industrial rejuvenation.
Before it came along,
the Japanese had more or less usurped the Swiss as the heavyweight champions of the watch business by substituting their cheap and reliable digital technology for Switzerland's legendary craftsmanship.
The question now is whether that industrial formula can work for-of all things-automobiles.
2.Make way for the Swatchmobile,a sassy two-seater
that looks like a cross between a Volkswagen Beetle and a Rambler.
In fact,it is the product of an odd corporate marriage sealed last week
between Mercedes-Benz,the maker of luxury cars,and Nicolas Hayek,
the man who put almost 150 million Swatches on wrists all over the world.
So far,the two companies have worked on separate prototypes,
which they plan to merge into a single model produced by a joint company(Hayek's stake is 49%,Mercedes'51%)for the 1997 market.
3.The car still exists mostly in the minds of several dozen young engineers
in jeans and sweatshirts who have spent three years working around the clock inside a secret garage in the Jura Mountain town of Biel.
f the team realizes its vision,
the Swatchmobile will combine the crash resistance of a Mercedes with the spunkiness of the famous wristwatch.
Plans call for the Swatchmobile to be 20% smaller than a typical subcompact,
able to wheel into a parking space sideways,
cost about $10,000 and reach 90 miles an hour.
The car's designers hope it will travel at least 80 miles on a gallon of fuel,
thanks to an engine one-tenth the weight of any existing engine with equal power.
Models will run on gasoline,electric power or a combination of both.
4.For Mercedes and Hayek's company,the Swiss Corp.for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries(SMH),
the project is not just a technological challenge but also a huge marketing risk.
After all,business-school casebooks are full of stories about fashionable companies that,in search of diversification,stretched their brand names past the breaking point.
Swatch tried to extend its name to telephones,pager watches and sunglasses
without great success.
But Mercedes,whose sales have fallen 11% in the past three years,
is eager to reach out to buyers who cannnot afford its traditional cars.
Already the company has unveiled plans to produce in 1997 the compact four-seat Vision A with a sale price of about $18,000.
5.Hayek may overestimate his reach-"I am the creator of products,kingdoms and empires,"he says-
but he does have expertise at taking a luxury product downscale while preserving its cachet.
It was he who came up with the strategy that saved the prestigious Swiss watchmaking industry
from succumbing to the Japanese hegemony in the quartz-watch business.
In 1983,when he was approached for advice by a group of Swiss banks,
the country had seen its share of the global watch market drop from 43% in 1974 to less than 15%.
More than half the Swiss manufacturers had gone under,
and creditor banks had taken over the country's two largest watchmaking groups.
"They were ready to colse them down and sell the brand names off to the Japanese,"Hayek recalls.
"I proved to the banks that we could revive the industry,
then I went on national television and told to Swiss people,
‘We can be No.1 again,’Nobody dared believe it."
6.Hayek put up $102 million-mostly his own money-
and led a group of investors in buying the two companies from the banks.
He then merged them,effetively taking control of one-third of the Swiss watch industry,
including such famous brands as Omega,Longines,Blancpain,Tissot,Rado and Hamilton.
But his big coup was figuring out that a product invented before his arrival could be the high-quality,low-price,plastic quartz watch
that would challenge the Japanese at the lower end of the market.
The $35-to-$40 Swatch,which reduced by half the usual number of parts by building them directly into the casing on automated assembly lines,was an instant success,
enabling the Swiss watchmaking industry to command 53% of the world market.
The company has kept demand for the watches high by staying on the cutting edge of new designs,turning out some 140 new models each year plus limited-edition designer collections.
7.But the neatest trick is the company's ability to keep labor costs low in one of the world's most high-priced countries-
proving that moving the factory to cheap markets abroad is not always the best cost-saving solution.
Thanks to an extremely high degree of automation,
SMH keeps direct labor charges under 10% of total manufacturing expenses,
in contrast to about 30% for most watchmaking operations.
8.So far,SMH has sunk about $18.9 million into the project,
betting that advanced microtechnologies developed in the watch industry can be translated into innovative designs for a car's propulsion and electrical systems.
"We're not trying to build some little gadget here,"Hayek said on a private tour of the garage last December.
"We want to have a consumer product that you can produce and use in the millions."
9.Although Hayek has landed a blue-chip partner,
he continues to inspire skepticism.
A short-lived joint venture with Volkswagen broke down last year.
"I have trouble believing in this project,"says Paris-based market analyst Antoine Nodet.
"Jumping from watches to cars lacks credibility."
Jean-Marc Buchet,who follows the auto industry for the French brokerage firm Leven,
says that:"there is clearly a market for a small city car,"
but wonders if people will pay $10,000 for "a two-seater with no trunk space."
10.Others are more sanguine.
General Motors president Jack Smith,
who had lunch with Hayek in Biel in December,calls the Swatchmobile "interesting" and says of Hayek:
"He's for real."
Roland Leutenegger,an analyst at the Zurich-based Bank Julius Maer,argues that Mercedes' automaking know-how and Hayek's marketing genius will make a winning combination.
苏黎世Julius Maer银行的分析师Roland Leutenegger说奔驰的造车技术与Hayek的行销天才是梦幻组合。
The right partners have found each other,"he says.
For Hayek,predictably,the future of the Swatchmobile is assured.
"I'm not a dreamer.
I've proved all my life that I'm a down-to-earth guy.
We can make this car.Believe me."
Some people apparently do:he has already received 35,000 orders.