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Originally published Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Anoop Gupta named Microsoft's UPG head

Pacific Northwest The Microsoft group tasked with selling its products in the developing world is getting a new leader, as a company veteran...

Pacific Northwest

Microsoft

The Microsoft group tasked with selling its products in the developing world is getting a new leader, as a company veteran heads for the exit.

Microsoft said Will Poole, who previously ran the Windows Client business, is leaving as co-leader of the Unlimited Potential Group [UPG] and retiring this fall "to pursue philanthropic and entrepreneurial interests."

Anoop Gupta, a corporate vice president heading technology policy and education products, will take over at UPG, an effort launched almost a year ago.

Gupta reports to Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer and one of the two top executives assuming Bill Gates' responsibilities as the company co-founder transitions out of full-time work at Microsoft.

Orlando Ayala, who led UPG with Poole, will stay involved with the group but will also start a new role working with field sales leaders.

Labor market

Oregon reports decline in jobs

Oregon lost an estimated 2,700 jobs in March, the first decline in six months, state economists said Monday. That's in a labor force of more than 1.7 million people.

The monthly state report says manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities shed nearly 3,000 jobs, while schools, health care and government added 2,400.

The report puts Oregon's jobless rate at 5.7 percent, up from 5.4 percent in February. That compares with the U.S. rate of 5.1 percent in March.

Washington state had a jobless rate of 4.5 percent in February. March figures will be released today.

Boeing

Parts in question OK, supplier says

Illinois-based AAR said parts it used for hundreds of Boeing planes that the Federal Aviation Administration had said were unapproved, were deemed acceptable to the aircraft maker.

Boeing issued an April 8 notice saying the top layer of paint on landing-gear parts AAR had installed isn't "detrimental" to the jets' operation, AAR said in a statement Monday. The federal agency had said last month the parts hadn't been approved for use.

AAR, which provides airplane parts and maintenance, said it doesn't expect to be fined by the FAA, which is reviewing the case.

The agency had said the parts on the Boeing planes didn't comply with maintenance manuals and a 2001 safety order because they used enamel paint that may block a drain hole and hide rust.

AAR said it discontinued applying the enamel top coat to internal truck-beam surfaces of 747, 757 and 767 landing gear earlier this year to comply with Boeing's preferred finishing method.

Nation and World

Energy

Gas could reach $3.65 a gallon soon

Gas prices fluctuated over the weekend but appear poised to resume their seemingly relentless trek toward a record high milestone of an average $3.50 a gallon. Forecasts call for gas to peak as high as $3.65 within a month.

Oil prices, meanwhile, rose to a record settlement at $111.76 a barrel and are within striking distance of last week's trading record of $112.21 a barrel.

At the pump, the national average price of a gallon of gas edged lower overnight to $3.373 a gallon, 0.1 cent shy of a record set Sunday, according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Still, prices are almost 53 cents higher than a year ago.

The Energy Department recently predicted gas prices could average as much as $3.60 a month this summer, and said the daily national average could rise as high as $4 a times. Prices are already over $4 in some parts of the country.

H&R Block

More taxpayers using filing help

H&R Block, the nation's largest tax preparer, said Monday the number of clients for its core retail business increased 1.6 percent in the Nov. 1 through March 31 tax-season period.

The increase over the year-ago period is based on figures adjusted to account for the extra day this year from the leap year and to remove people who were filing tax forms only to receive rebate checks from the government.

The company said that without adjusting for those factors, the total number of retail tax filers increased 4.2 percent.

For the last two weeks of March, core retail traffic was up 4.8 percent over the same period last year, the company said. With the economic-stimulus clients included, retail traffic was up 10.5 percent for that period.

H&R Block shares were down 45 cents to close at $20.43 Monday. They have traded in a 52-week range of $16.89 to 24.02.

The company said it plans to release its final tax-season results on May 12.

Philips

Sagging TV sales drag down profits

The television age appears to have faded somewhat for Philips, the Dutch company that carries a global reputation for its home electronics.

Sagging TV sales, especially in the United States, dragged down first-quarter profits, as Royal Philips Electronics reported net income of $347 million, nearly 20 percent lower than the $433 million analysts had forecast.

Net profit was down 75 percent from $1.35 billion in same period last year — a quarter boosted by a $1.16 billion sale of a semiconductor manufacturer.

Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Jean Sivignon said there was stiff competition in the TV market.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff, The Associated Press and Bloomberg News

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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