GDP’S FOURTH-QUARTER FALL: The Commerce Department on Thursday released another confirmation of the slowed economy and consumer caution. In the fourth quarter of last year, money spent on all goods and services grew at an annual rate of 0.7 percent, as measured by the gross domestic product. The slim increase for the quarter followed a relatively strong 4 percent rate in the third quarter. The end-of-year anemic growth was the weakest showing since the economy dipped 0.3 percent in the third quarter of 2001, the first recession in a decade. Although the economy ended 2002 on a low note, for the year, the economy grew 2.4 percent, a marked improvement over the weak 0.3 percent increase for 2001.

IF YOU PAY THEM, THEY WILL COME: Despite its dearth of goods in-store and tough finances, starting Sunday, Kmart will woo shoppers with $150 coupon savings books, offered at all of its customer service desks, and in 5 million newspaper inserts. There’s a catch: The coupons can only be used at the roughly 1,500 Kmart stores that are remaining open. But that’s precisely the point of Kmart’s new marketing program, "Savings Are Here To Stay" — it’s a bid to lead consumers to the chain’s ongoing locations. The first of Kmart’s 318 planned closings began Thursday, in a process that will continue through March 31. Starting around March 10, shoppers at stores staying open can enter a drawing to win one of 20 Kmart cash cards worth $500. And between Sunday and March 10, customers at stores slated to be closed will receive Register Reward Receipts with purchases of $10 or more. They will be good for savings of up to $12 on transactions of $100 or more made at stores staying open.

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