Inventories show steep riseStocks of unsold goods climbed...

BUSINESS DIGEST

April 15, 1993

Inventories show steep rise

Stocks of unsold goods climbed for a fifth straight month in February, the Commerce Department said yesterday, giving fresh evidence that consumer demand may be faltering.

The department said inventories at the manufacturing, retail and wholesale level grew during February by 0.4 percent, to a seasonally adjusted $854.05 billion -- the steepest monthly gain since an identical rise last July.

In addition, the department said that in January, inventories rose a revised 0.3 percent instead of being unchanged, as previously reported.

Farmers National earnings rise

Farmers National Bancorp, based in Annapolis, reported that its first-quarter earnings before a one-time accounting change rose 31.6 percent, to $2.5 million, or 90 cents a share, from $1.9 million, or 72 cents a share a year ago.

The accounting change added $1.4 million, or 53 cents a share, to earnings. The company, parent of the Farmers National Bank of Maryland, had assets of $682 million on March 31. The company has 15 offices in Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore.

FCNB earnings up 45 percent

FCNB Corp., parent of the Frederick County National Bank, reported first-quarter earnings of $1.3 million, or 63 cents a share, up 45 percent from earnings of $926,000, or 43 cents a share, a year ago. FCNB also increased its quarterly dividend to 14 cents a share from 13 cents, to be paid April 30, and declared a 5 percent stock dividend, to be paid May 7. April 23 is the record date for both dividend payments.

More U.S. employees choose Blues

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland said yesterday that the number of federal employees that chose its traditional health insurance benefit program grew nearly 2 percent last year, to 78,000. The insurance company said 67 percent of all federal employees or retirees who live in the state selected Blue Cross insurance.

The traditional program gained some federal employees who dropped out of Blue Cross-owned health maintenance organizations last year partly as the result of changes in federal contracts. Maryland accounts for about 4 percent of the companies' federal employee programs.

Whitman sale to be challenged

Pennsylvania Attorney General Ernie Preate Jr. said his office would file an antitrust suit today in federal court to block the sale of Philadelphia's Whitman's Chocolates to Russell Stover Candies.

Russell Stover has announced plans to close Whitman's plant in northeast Philadelphia, which employs 600 workers. Whitman's has been in Philadelphia for 150 years.

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