Business & Finance

War worries, terrorism alerts, and lingering effects of the two-month nationwide strike in Venezuela helped to push crude oil prices as high as $36.10 a barrel on world markets Thursday, their highest level since mid-October 2000. Some analysts said they anticipated a trading range over the next month that could top out at $40. At the same time, the US Energy Department reported that stocks of crude dipped below the level considered essential for normal domestic use, a condition blamed on the Venezuela strike and bitter cold across much of the US.

American Airlines' flight attendants are willing to discuss wage concessions with the company, but only if they are temporary, their union said late Wednesday. The US's leading carrier says it must reduce costs dramatically, since AMR Corp., its parent, lost $3.5 billion last year. Its chief financial officer, meanwhile, hinted that American is considering launching a low-fare division after rival Delta announced a similar plan. The comment came as Delta's pilots union rejected a request to reopen wage-concession talks as "not appropriate at this time."

Citing the objections of unsecured creditors, financier Wilbur Ross urged bankrupt Burlington Industries to reconsider a proposed $579 million buyout by Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company of billionaire investor Warren Buffet. Ross' firm, WL Ross & Co., has made a rival offer that Burlington has pledged to review.

Three major companies announced deep job cuts:

• Ericsson, the world's largest maker of cellphone network equipment, served layoff notices on 1,200 more employees, more than half of them in Sweden, its base. The company cut 20,000 jobs last year and 22,000 in 2001.

• Following through on a warning issued previously, Boston's State Street Bank said it will close or consolidate operations in Nashville, Tenn.; Jersey City, N.J.; and New York, affecting 1,000 jobs. State Street acquired the investment servicing unit of Germany's Deutsche Bank last November, a move involving the transfer of 3,200 employees.

• The world's third-largest maker of computer chips, Chartered Semiconductor, will dismiss 500 more workers and close one of its five plants within a year. The company, based in Singapore, laid off 300 workers last October.

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