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Originally published Monday, February 7, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Sharp January rise in gas prices a bad omen

In other items:All Nippon Airways' new Russian routes target business fliers; superchip "Cell" to be explained; and time spent deleting spam costs billions.

WASHINGTON — Gasoline prices rose more than 7 percent in January, typically a slow driving month. That's leading experts to predict pump prices may surge past last year's record highs when travel picks up in late spring.

Government figures show that the average price of regular unleaded has risen in each of the last four weeks, jumping from $1.78 at the start of the year to $1.91 a gallon in the week ended Jan. 31. That's more than 30 cents a gallon higher than a year earlier.

Prices are highest on the West Coast, averaging $1.99 a gallon and lowest in the Rocky Mountain region, averaging $1.83 a gallon.

Last year, the average price peaked above $2 a gallon in May, just before Memorial Day. To be just a dime short of that level in early February is not good news for motorists, analysts said.

All Nippon Airways

New Russian routes target business fliers

All Nippon Airways, Asia's second-largest airline by sales, plans to start flights to Russia, northeastern China and Munich, Germany, aimed at business passengers, as it seeks to expand outside its home market.

"It's difficult to be successful for flying into destinations that draw only tourists," said Mineo Yamamoto, who will become the airline's president in April. "It's better to pursue business travelers."

Japanese companies are expanding in the Russian market.

All Nippon, the first airline to order Boeing's 787 planes, plans to use the aircraft on the new routes after it takes delivery of the planes starting in 2008. The Tokyo-based airline, which has placed an order for 50 Boeing 787s, may buy more planes if its international expansion is successful.

Sony, IBM, Toshiba

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Superchip "Cell" to be explained

Sony, Toshiba and IBM are expected to release details today about a new computer chip designed for video-game consoles, high-definition TVs and other digital media, The Wall Street Journal reported last night on its Web site.

The design of the new microprocessor, dubbed "Cell," is expected to be explained for the first time at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.

Cell, which will handle far more memory than today's consumer-electronics chips, is expected to start appearing in products next year, including Sony's next video-game machine.

Survey

Time spent deleting spam costs billions

Time wasted deleting junk e-mail costs American businesses nearly $22 billion a year, according to a new study from the University of Maryland.

A telephone-based survey of adults who use the Internet found that more than three-quarters receive spam daily. The average number of spam messages per day is 18.5 and the average time spent per day deleting them is 2.8 minutes.

The loss in productivity is equivalent to $21.6 billion per year at average U.S. wages, according to the National Technology Readiness Survey produced by Rockbridge Associates, and the Center for Excellence in Service at Maryland's business school.

The study also found that 14 percent of spam recipients actually read messages to see what they say, and 4 percent of the recipients have bought something advertised through spam within the past year.

The random survey of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted in November and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News

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