Business notes


With stock down nearly 60%, Ashland taken off S&P 500

Standard & Poor's has announced that Covington-based Ashland Inc. has dropped out of the S&P 500 Index of the biggest companies. The Courier-Journal reports Ashland will be in Standard & Poor's mid-cap index, replacing Lear Corp. in the S&P MidCap 400. Standard & Poor's announced after the market closed Monday that Wynn Resorts will replace Ashland. Lear's market value is the lowest of the S&P MidCap 400 stocks. Standard & Poor's says Ashland's stock has fallen nearly 60 percent this year and its acquisition of Hercules leaves it with a market value appropriate for the S&P MidCap 400.

Lexmark introduces 2 color laser printers

Lexington-based printer-maker Lexmark International on Tuesday introduced two new color laser printers. The company's C782n XL color laser single-function and X782e XL color laser multi-function printer are designed for high-volume printing, the company said. The printers' high-yield color toner cartridges, which produce an estimated 16,500 pages, are priced the same as Lexmark's black XL toner, the company said. It's a 54 percent price reduction in color toner prices, Lexmark said. Each machine prints 35 pages a minute in color and 40 in black. Prices start at $1,999 for the C782n XL models, while the X782e XL is $4,499.

Verizon enhances wireless network

Verizon Wireless announced Tuesday that it has completed enhancements to its 3G high-speed wireless network throughout Kentucky. The network allows customers to browse the Web, download music, send e-mail and more. The upgrade included installing the latest hardware on 49 remaining cell sites across the states and activating an additional 41 cell sites.

AK Steel announces temporary shutdowns

AK Steel Holding Corp. said Tuesday it was temporarily closing plants in Ohio and Kentucky because of economic turmoil that has sharply lowered demand for its steel products. The company, based in West Chester, Ohio, said the facilities in Mansfield, Ohio, and Ashland, Ky., will remain idle until early to mid-January. An Ashland plant that produces coke, a steel-making material, will continue to operate at reduced levels. The Ashland plant's blast furnace, steelmaking, casting and coating operations will be idled later this month. The plant employs 1,100 people, about 275 of whom work at a separate coke plant, which will continue to operate at reduced levels.


Altria to cut Philip Morris jobs

Altria Group, the owner of Philip Morris USA, said Tuesday it has started to cut jobs because of the widespread economic turmoil. A spokesman declined to specify the number of cuts but said they would affect employees of parent company Altria and its cigarette unit, Philip Morris USA. Altria Group also owns cigar-maker John Middleton and is also buying smokeless tobacco company UST Inc. to pursue growth outside of cigarettes, which are in less demand from American consumers. A spokesman said that affected departments have been told of the coming cuts. Altria and its subsidiaries employ more than 10,500.

Oil prices lowest since March 2007

Oil prices fell again on Tuesday to their lowest closing price since March 2007, as light, sweet crude for December delivery settled down $3.08 to $59.33 a barrel. Prices had dipped a dollar below that earlier in the day. The latest decline comes two days ahead of a report from the International Energy Agency, which some analysts expect will cut its 2009 oil demand forecast for the third consecutive month. Oil prices continued their fall despite signs that Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries members are going ahead with production cuts that they agreed to last month at an emergency meeting in Vienna, Austria. Many analysts are expecting another cut by OPEC, which will meet Dec. 17 in Oran, Algeria.


Saudis sue cigarette importers

Saudi Arabia's health minister says his government has filed a $34 billion lawsuit against importers of cigarettes from international tobacco companies, including U.S. firms. Minister Hamad al-Manie said the government wants compensation for the cost of treating illnesses caused by smoking, pegged at $1.3 billion annually. He says it is also part of an effort to stem smoking in the kingdom.

Compiled from Staff, wire reports