A week's worth

With consumer prices soaring and the Fed reserving the right to raise interest rates still further, the Dow Jones Industrial Average took its biggest weekly hit since January, falling 2.1 percent.

The Internet is now THE place to check for help-wanted ads, right? Not necessarily, according to new findings by the Conference Board research organization, which tracks the phenomenon. Its data show that new online postings fell last month in all nine US census regions - to 1.51 per 100 persons in the labor force. That was a drop of 6 percent from March's 1.60. The best market: San Diego, with 3.43. Detroit was last, at 0.77.

If disaster should strike, you might think that most companies would make protecting the cash box their No. 1 priority. Not so, says software solutions provider SteelEye Technology of Palo Alto, Calif. Its survey of businesses found that as a group they rated customer service the top concern in assuring continuity. Only major corporations said their financial systems were most crucial. But even they ranked customer service second.

The rising cost of energy is lowering optimism among small-business owners, results of a new survey for American Express reveal. Confidence in growth opportunities over the next six months was 68 percent, down from 85 percent a year ago. Forty-two percent said they've throttled down on energy use; 29 percent admitted passing their higher costs onto - who else? - their customers.

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