A Week's Worth

• Rising tide: Consumer prices rose 0.5 percent last month - the biggest monthly surge in more than two years. The consumer price index's core rate, which strips out food and energy costs, jumped 0.4 percent - double what economists had expected. Rising inflation puts pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. Separately, the nation's trade gap narrowed by more than 3 percent in February. US exports, in particular, rose 4 percent - the largest gain since October 1996.

• More hiring ahead: Small businesses are ramping up hiring sharply, according to an American Express survey. Nearly half (46 percent) of the firms plan to employ more staff over the next six months, up from 35 percent a year ago.

• Fly cheap: That's the advice from Consumer Reports' Money Adviser. The newsletter found that discount carriers not only offer cheaper fares than the major airlines, they also provide better service. For example, JetBlue and Southwest posted better on-time records than some of their larger rivals.

• Pay cut for the boss? While everyone complains about huge pay packages for CEOs, it's comforting to know that many of those executives are also critics. In a survey, nearly two-thirds of 124 senior executives at Fortune 1,000 companies said their compensation wasn't necessarily in the shareholders' interests. And most said they were working on alternatives. But don't hold your breath. Consulting firms Christian & Timbers and Clark Consulting, who conducted the survey, said they didn't expect much change until 2005.

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