Pacific Northwest Rayonier, a U.S. real-estate investment trust, will buy about 56,300 acres of timberland in southwestern Washington from...

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Pacific Northwest

Timber

Rayonier, a U.S. real-estate investment trust, will buy about 56,300 acres of timberland in southwestern Washington from privately held Sierra Pacific Industries.

The purchase, valued at $215 million, or $3,819 an acre, is expected to close in the second quarter, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Rayonier said Wednesday. The acquisition increases Rayonier’s holdings in Washington state to 426,000 acres, the company said.

Sierra Pacific is based in Redding, Calif.

Microsoft

Electronic Data to assist in sales

Microsoft has enlisted Electronic Data Systems to help sell its business applications to larger companies, promoting the software as a way for call centers to manage customer relations.

Electronic Data agreed to work on development and marketing of the software, sold under the Dynamics brand, Microsoft said Wednesday at the Convergence conference in Orlando, Fla. Electronic Data will begin offering the programs immediately.

Microsoft is expanding beyond its base of small and midsize companies with the help of Electronic Data’s 450 call-center clients.

Pope & Talbot

Liquidation-plan deadline extended

A federal judge has extended lumber and pulp producer Pope & Talbot’s exclusive right to file a Chapter 11 liquidation plan through June 2.

Judge Christopher Sontchi of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday signed an order giving the company an additional 75 days to file a plan and solicit plan votes, without the threat of rival plans.

The Portland-based company said it needs the added time to close the sale of its operating units and negotiate terms of a liquidating plan with its creditors.

Nation/ World

Economy

Gasoline, oil prices surge to new highs

Gasoline and oil prices extended their record-setting streaks Wednesday, with gas at the pump reaching a new national high of nearly $3.25 and crude surpassing $110 for the first time.

The gains came as a weakening dollar led investors to shrug off an Energy Department report that crude oil and gasoline supplies jumped last week.

The national average price of a gallon of regular gas rose by 1.9 cents overnight to $3.246 a gallon, a record, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Oil rose $1.17 to settle at a record $109.92 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier rising to a trading record of $110.20.

The dollar weakened throughout the day Wednesday, setting a number of new lows against the euro and attracting new buyers to the oil market.

The dollar weakened as the euro hit a record $1.5559, surpassing its previous record of $1.5495 set Tuesday. Late Wednesday, the 15-nation euro fell back to $1.5526 — still above the $1.5319 it bought in New York late Tuesday.

Many analysts believe the dollar’s decline is the reason crude futures have surged to new records in 12 of the past 13 sessions, despite the fact that crude supplies have risen 10.2 percent since early January.

“It’s almost like people are worried they’re going to miss the train,” said Linda Rafield, senior oil analyst at Platts, the energy research arm of McGraw-Hill, of investors’ dollar-driven enthusiasm for oil futures.

RealtyTrac

Foreclosures up 60% from year ago

Nearly 60 percent more U.S. homes faced foreclosure in February than in the same month last year, with Nevada, California and Florida showing the highest foreclosure rates, according to Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac.

Nearly half of the homes on the most recent list had slipped into default for the first time.

Most of the troubled properties were located in Nevada, California, Florida, Texas, Michigan and Ohio — states where home prices have plunged as the housing boom went bust.

The overall U.S. foreclosure rate last month was one filing for every 557 homes.

February’s total represents a 4 percent dip from January, but the decline was just a seasonal blip, said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac’s vice president of marketing.

“We seem to be settling in at a new plateau in terms of monthly activity, but it’s a much higher plateau than we were at a year ago,” he said.

February marked the 26th consecutive month with a national year-over-year increase in foreclosure-related filings.

In January, Washington state ranked well behind the leaders in the rate of new filings, coming in about midway. February figures were not immediately available.

Amgen

FDA panel urges clot drug approval

A panel of government experts recommended approval for Amgen’s experimental biotech drug to treat a blood-clotting disorder.

The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of advisers voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of Nplate, according to a company spokeswoman.

Shares of Amgen, eroded by concerns about its anemia drugs, rose 37 cents to close at $44.99.

The agency’s panelists said the company should be required to track patients taking the drug and report any adverse reactions to the FDA. In its review of Nplate, FDA noted that a small number of patients developed bone marrow abnormalities, blood clots and other problems.

The panel also favored a limited distribution agreement for the drug. Under such agreements, doctors have to confirm their patient has the platelet disease before receiving the injectable drug.

Amgen suggested the patient tracking and limited distribution as ways to monitor the drugs’ risks.

The Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based company, which has about 1,000 workers in the Seattle area, has asked the government to approve Nplate for patients with a disorder that causes the body to attack its own platelets, tiny components of blood that help with clotting. The condition, which causes bruising and bleeding after minor injuries, affects about 200,000 people in the U.S.

Société Générale

Another trader detained in probe

Investigators searched Société Générale offices, confiscating records and taking another trader into custody Wednesday as they tried to determine whether the scandal that cost the venerable French bank billions of dollars was caused by more than one person.

Société Générale spokeswoman Laura Schalk confirmed that investigators detained an employee whose name she declined to provide. She called the search part of “normal proceedings of the police investigation.”

One trader, Jerome Kerviel, has already been jailed after the bank blamed him for unauthorized trades that cost SocGen more than $7 billion. Kerviel is hoping to get out of jail this week, and his lawyers insist there is no reason to keep him behind bars after a Société Générale report on the losses backed up his claim that he acted alone.

UPS

Growth focus turns to foreign markets

UPS may not meet its first-quarter earnings guidance and plans to focus more on growth opportunities overseas because of the uncertain U.S. economy, executives of the world’s largest shipping carrier said Wednesday.

The disclosures came at an investor conference in New York that was broadcast on the Internet.

CEO Scott Davis said the Atlanta-based company still considers its domestic market to be important to its future, but said the company can’t rely on U.S. package volume growth alone. International growth will become more important in the future, he said.

China, India and Europe provide good growth opportunities for UPS, said David Abney, the company’s chief operating officer.

UPS shares fell 85 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $71.94 on Wednesday.

Compiled from The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Dow Jones Newswires