Business & Finance

The price of crude oil topped the $40-a-barrel threshold on world markets for the first time in more than 13 years Tuesday and appeared headed for what analysts called the next symbolically important level: $41.25. CBS MarketWatch quoted Kevin Kerr of the Kwest Market Edge newsletter as warning against placing undue hope in the call Monday by Saudi Arabia's oil minister for an OPEC production increase of "not less" than 1.5 million barrels a day. Ali al-Naimi said his country, OPEC's largest producer, did not want to see crude prices rise to a level that would "negatively affect the growth of the international economy." But Kerr said such calls "are often hollow" and "the overall benefit is really nil for the short term." (Related story, page 2.)

Personal care products giant Procter & Gamble will buy out its partner in a joint venture in China, Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., for $1.8 billion, the company said Tuesday. Since 1988, their operation has produced such items as shampoo and Pampers diapers, with annual sales of almost $2 billion.

Citigroup agreed to pay $1.26 billion for Principal Financial Group of Des Moines, Iowa, a leading provider of 401k plans and other investment instruments.

As expected, DaimlerChrysler announced it will sell its 10.5 percent stake in South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. and that the partners have agreed to "realign" their alliance to reflect "more realistically current market conditions." No deadline, potential buyer, or asking price for the sale were specified. The stock is valued at more than double the $400 million DaimlerChrysler paid for it in 1999.

Cisco Systems said it plans to hire 1,000 new employees by year's end, mostly in the US. The networking equipment provider announced Tuesday its biggest jump in sales in three years, and analysts said the strong showing, with a week to go in the current quarter, indicated a growing appetite at big companies for information technology.

Levi Strauss & Co. said it will sell its Dockers brand in a move to lighten the company's $2.2 billion debt. Selling Dockers, which one industry analyst called a "real plum," could bring in an estimated $1.5 billion. The division generates about $1 billion in annual sales in 57 countries. But a spokesman said Levi's is prepared to keep it if bids aren't high enough. The world's No. 1 maker of brand-name clothing has experienced seven years of sliding sales.

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