Pacific Northwest Sonus Pharmaceuticals said Tuesday it would cut two research programs and lay off 16 employees, about a third of its work...

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Pacific Northwest

Sonus Pharmaceuticals

Sonus Pharmaceuticals said Tuesday it would cut two research programs and lay off 16 employees, about a third of its work force.

This is the second round of cuts by the Bothell biotech company after the failure of its lead product, Tocosol Paclitaxel. The company cut 16 jobs in November.

Sonus said it believes it has enough cash to fund its operations into the fourth quarter of 2009.

FinAnalytica

$5 million haul in venture capital

FinAnalytica raised $5 million from a venture-capital firm, the company said Monday.

The Seattle-based maker of financial software said the money will be used to expand marketing and sales internationally and to develop new products.

The investor, New Europe Venture Equity, is based in Bulgaria. FinAnalytica’s research and development operations are also based there.

Nation and World

Conference Board

Consumers much less optimistic

Americans are gloomier about the economy than at any point since just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as slumping housing prices and soaring fuel costs depress consumer confidence to its lowest level in five years.

The Conference Board, a business-backed research group, said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index plunged to 64.5 in March from a revised 76.4 in February.

The reading was far below the 73.0 expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson/IFR and was the worst since the gauge registered 61.4 in March 2003, just before the U.S. invaded Iraq.

Weakening consumer confidence foreshadows weakening consumer spending, which could further hurt the faltering economy.

Federal Reserve

Rates drop further in new loan auction

Fighting to ease a dangerous credit crisis, the Federal Reserve has provided a total of $260 billion in short-term loans to squeezed banks since December to help them overcome credit problems.

The central bank on Tuesday announced the results of its most recent auction — the eighth since the program started in December — where commercial banks bid to get a slice of $50 billion in short-term loans.

It’s part of an ongoing effort by the central bank to relieve a spreading credit crunch that has unnerved financial markets. The situation threatens to push the country into a deep recession. Counting the latest auction results announced Tuesday, the Fed has provided a total of $260 billion in short-term loans to banks since December.

In the most recent auction — which marked the eighth — commercial banks paid an interest rate of 2.615 percent, the lowest rate for any of the auctions of this kind conducted so far.

Google

Salary stops here for top execs: 1 buck

Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page each took home their customary $1 annual salary again in 2007, while a steep decline in the company’s stock price chopped more than $8.5 billion from each of their massive holdings of Google shares, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday.

Brin, 34, the company’s president of technology, and Page, 35, president of products, took the hits to their multibillion-dollar fortunes as shares of the Internet search leader plunged over the past five months on disappointing fourth-quarter earnings and fears the company can’t sustain its torrid growth.

CEO Eric Schmidt also received his customary $1 salary in 2007, Google said in its proxy statement filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Nymex

Oil futures rise 36 cents a barrel

Oil futures rose modestly Tuesday as investors focused on the dollar’s latest decline rather than on new worries about the economy. Gas and diesel prices, meanwhile, retreated further from their recent record levels.

Oil added 36 cents to close at $101.22 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The dollar’s decline against the euro, which ended a greenback rally that began last week, attracted investors back to oil. The U.S. currency’s protracted slide was a big contributor to oil’s march to nearly $112 in recent weeks; many investors regard oil and other commodities as inflation hedges, and turn to such hard assets when the dollar is falling.

But oil’s slight gain was far from definitive and followed a session in which prices alternated frequently between gains and losses.

International commerce

Japan’s surplus up 1st time in 4 months

Japan’s trade surplus in February rose 0.9 percent from a year earlier, marking the first increase in four months, the Finance Ministry said today.

The surplus rose to 970 billion yen ($9.69 billion), and the figures were below the 16.8 percent rise to 1.123 trillion yen ($11.22 billion) expected by economists surveyed by Dow Jones and Nikkei.

Overall imports rose 10.1 percent to 6.01 trillion yen ($60.06 billion), while exports rose 8.7 percent to 6.98 trillion yen ($69.76 billion).

Japan’s trade surplus with the U.S. fell 13.3 percent to 696.9 billion yen ($6.96 billion), marking the sixth straight month of decline.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff and The Associated Press