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SEC to Review Trading Rules

Wednesday, December 1, 2004; Page E02

The Securities and Exchange Commission will meet later this month to consider controversial changes to a proposal designed to help average investors win the best price for their stock trades. The plan, which has been opposed by Fidelity Investments, Bear Stearns and other investment firms, will be published for comment before the agency takes action. Opponents had pushed for a delay, arguing that the widespread changes required a new round of public comment. The SEC will hold a final vote on the proposal, which already has drawn more than 700 letters, next year.

Wal-Mart Workers Open Bid for Union

Employees of a Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express in Loveland, Colo., have taken the first step to unionize at the world's largest retailer. The National Labor Relations Board planned a hearing Thursday to consider the workers' request to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7. Efforts to unionize Wal-Mart stores in the United States have failed. In Canada, a government agency this year certified a union at a Quebec store and told the two sides to negotiate. Wal-Mart said it may close the store.

Hoy, a Spanish-language newspaper owned by Tribune Co., overstated its daily circulation by nearly 50 percent, the Audit Bureau of Circulations said. Hoy's daily circulation for the year ended Sept. 30, 2003, was found to be 49,681, compared with the originally reported 92,604. (Jennifer S. Altman -- Bloomberg News)

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US Airways' customer-service and reservation agents' national union leaders voted to authorize a strike against the carrier, which is seeking $136 million in annual wage, job and benefit cuts from the workers. The Communications Workers of America's 5,800 members endorsed such action three weeks ago. No date was set. US Airways will argue Thursday that the court should abrogate contracts with passenger-service agents, flight attendants, mechanics and baggage handlers because it has been unable to reach cost-cutting agreements.

Anthem and WellPoint Health Networks announced the completion of their $16.5 billion merger hours after winning approval from regulators in Georgia, the last state to sign off on the deal. Anthem offered $126.5 million in concessions to help pay for rural health care in Georgia over 20 years. The new company, calling itself Wellpoint Inc., will cover approximately 28 million people in 13 states.

Consumer confidence declined in November for a fourth consecutive month, falling to 90.5 from a revised 92.9 in October, the Conference Board reported, reflecting doubts about the economy once the holidays are past. The November figure marks the lowest point in the index since March, when it registered 88.5.

NASD fined 29 securities firms, including Merrill Lynch, American Express and Wachovia, a total of $9.2 million for failing to meet deadlines for reporting information about their brokers. NASD also barred Merrill and Wachovia from registering new brokers for five business days.

A fraud suit against Global Crossing founder Gary Winnick has been settled for $325 million. Winnick and other officials were accused of inflating revenue at the defunct fiber-optic network operator. Winnick will contribute $55 million, and a former lawyer for the company will pay $19 million. Global Crossing's insurance will cover the rest.

General Motors will lay off most of the workers at its Linden, N.J., assembly plant early next year. The company had initially planned to end production on the Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy there next summer. The layoffs will affect most of the plant's 900 to 950 hourly workers and 110 salaried employees, a spokesman said.

UAL, which is under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, reported a net loss of $114 million in October, including $14 million in reorganization costs. The parent company of United Airlines had a $2.3 billion cash balance at the end of the month, including $837 million in restricted cash.

Independent Fiduciary Services, which represents United Airlines' employee pension funds, filed a motion in federal bankruptcy court to collect as much as $994 million in payments that the carrier has missed since it halted pension contributions in July.

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