Some of the US's most prominent corporations were leading major buybacks of their own stock in a show of confidence in the economy as markets opened Monday. General Electric planned to accelerate its repurchase program, which had $2.8 billion left of the $22 billion authorized by its board in late 1994. PepsiCo said it would buy up to $2 billion. Intel, the world's No. 1 maker of computer chips, announced it would add 300 million shares to an existing buyback program.
Nervous investors caused stock markets to sink across Asia, but the pattern was not repeating itself in Europe in the first full week of trading since the terrorist attacks on the US. Japan's Nikkei index closed at 9,504.41, its lowest since December 1983. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 3.5 percent, Singapore's Straits Times index 4.7 percent, its weakest showing in 2-1/2 years, and the South Korean and Philippines markets closed at levels not seen since the Asian financial crisis of late 1998. Meanwhile, in Greece, the Athens Stock Exchange suspended trading for more than two hours after its main index plunged 8.2 percent by noon. But, led by the DAX index in Germany, other key European indicators were rebounding from early losses as the Monitor went to press.
American Water Works Inc. accepted a $7.6 billion take-over offer from German conglomerate RWE AG, the companies said. The deal reportedly was agreed to early last week but the announcement was postponed because of the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. If OK'd by regulators, it would make RWE the largest water utility in the US, with customers in 23 states and annual sales of just under $1.5 billion. RWE plans to merge its new acquisition with another subsidiary, Britain's Thames Water, which also has customers in the US. American Water Works is based in Voorhees, N.J.; RWE in Essen, Germany.