Weyerhaeuser to sell Elma veneer plant

FEDERAL WAY - Weyerhaeuser Co., one of the world's largest lumber and paper producers, said this week it is selling its veneer plant in the Grays Harbor County town of Elma.

Financial terms of the sale to Eugene, Ore.-based Murphy Co. were not disclosed.

The sale is expected to be completed within 45 days, Weyerhaeuser said.

The Elma plant, about 50 miles west of Weyerhaeuser's headquarters in the south Seattle suburb of Federal Way, produces up to 165 million square feet of 3/8 -inch green and dry veneer per year, which Weyerhaeuser has used to make engineered support beams for homes.

The plant employs about 60 people. Weyerhaeuser and Murphy officials said no layoffs were planned.


Overseas demand spurs exports to all-time high

WASHINGTON - The trade deficit dropped sharply in April as continued strong overseas demand pushed United States' exports to an all-time high.

While the Bush administration hailed the unexpectedly large improvement as a sign that an export-boom was continuing, critics noted the imbalance with China rose in April, underscoring what they said was an urgent need for Congress to take action to punish China for unfair trade practices.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that the gap between what America sells abroad and what it imports totaled $58.5 billion in April, a 6.2 percent decline from the March deficit.

Exports edged up 0.2 percent to a record $129.5 billion, reflecting strong sales of soybeans and other farm products, commercial aircraft and industrial machinery. Imports fell 1.9 percent to $188 billion, reflecting big declines in imports of foreign cars, televisions and clothing and a small dip in the nation's foreign oil bill.

Gasoline prices erode consumer confidence

WASHINGTON - Consumer confidence tumbled to a 10-month low as gyrating gasoline prices and persisting problems in the housing market gnawed at people's sense of economic well-being.

The magnitude of the drop shown in the latest RBC Cash Index was surprising given the healthy state of the nation's job market, which is usually an important factor coloring consumers' perceptions of how the economy and their own financial fortunes are faring.

But nagging worries about gasoline prices, if the yearlong housing slump will worsen and drag down home prices further and whether the economy will, in fact, snap out of its sluggish spell, are taking a toll on confidence, economists explained.

Facing uncertainties, some consumers are feeling angst, watching their budgets more closely and turning cautious, he said.