Call him the king of cable business news. Fox financial news chief Neil Cavuto – not CNBC – now boasts the five highest rated stocks and bonds programs on the cable dial.

While Fox News’ tough-talking star anchor, Bill O’Reilly, generates lots of buzz for the network, Cavuto has built a formidable biz news fiefdom.

Cavuto’s daily show, “Your World With Neil Cavuto” led the pack in 2003 with more than a million viewers.

That’s five times the audience of CNBC’s recently canned “Business Center,” and 54 percent more than CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” which has morphed into a general news program.

And viewers are tuning in Fox’s four Saturday biz shows, like “Bulls & Bears,” which drew 795,000 viewers last year.

“We’re doing something that would have been unthinkable when I got here eight years ago,” Cavuto said. “People are coming to us for breaking business news.”

The former CNBC anchor’s strides have never been more important to Fox News parent News Corp. The Murdoch empire is said to be gearing up to launch a financial news channel on its satellite TV giant DirecTV. Cavuto recently beefed up his ranks, hiring veteran business anchor Stuart Varney.

“The market’s coming back, the economy’s coming back, and they have satellite distribution,” a source said. Cavuto declined to comment on the possible biz news channel launch.

Cavuto owes a lot to the rise of Fox News. But he also says his plain-speaking formula is clicking with average folks.

“We give them a mix of business news that clear and straight.”

(c) 2004, New York Daily News.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-01-08-04 1204EST

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