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BUSINESS IN BRIEF

Factory Orders Up in March

Wednesday, May 4, 2005; Page E02

U.S. factory orders rose 0.1 percent in March, to $378.2 billion, the Commerce Department said. Orders fell 0.5 percent in February, the department said. It previously reported an increase in February. Orders for capital goods excluding aircraft fell 4 percent in March after falling 2.1 percent in February. Those bookings so far this year are still 10.4 percent higher than they were in January to March 2004.

Kimmitt Nominated for Treasury Job

Robert M. Kimmitt was nominated by President Bush to take the No. 2 post at the Treasury Department, for which he once was general counsel. Kimmitt resigned last month as Time Warner's vice president of global and strategic policy. His most recent government experience as ambassador to Germany from 1991 to 1993. His nomination as deputy Treasury secretary is subject to Senate approval.


Electronic Arts said its fiscal fourth-quarter profit fell 91 percent, to $8 million from $90 million in the comparable quarter a year earlier. The video-game maker's revenue fell 8 percent, to $553 million. (Paul Sakuma -- AP)

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Two high-ranking congressional Democrats, Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), predicted that the Central American Free Trade Agreement won't pass because of opposition from their party. The agreement would establish permanent duty-free trade on many products sent between the United States and Central America. Democrats are concerned about the potential undermining of the domestic sugar industry, the agreement's impact on the record U.S. trade deficit and slack enforcement of labor and environmental laws in Central America.

Settlement talks began between lawyers for Merck and a woman who blames her husband's death on the company's pain reliever Vioxx. The talks began as a Alabama judge considered whether to delay what would be the first U.S. trial of a wrongful-death lawsuit over the medication. He said he would rule by the end of the week. Separately, in a Texas case that was slated to be the second wrongful-death Vioxx trial, lawyers for Merck and plaintiffs have agreed to postpone the trial's start until July. The judge in that case would have to approve any agreement.

AT&T said it will pay $340 million to settle claims related to the bankruptcy of At Home, a broadband service that AT&T acquired in 2000 and is no longer in business. Cable company Comcast -- which bought AT&T's broadband operations in 2003 -- will reimburse AT&T for half the settlement amount. Comcast said that will reduce its previously reported first-quarter profit to $143 million.

Morningstar, a mutual fund and stock research company went public yesterday. The auction-style initial public offering raised about $140.8 million. Shares closed at $20.05, up 8 percent.

Hollinger International, publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times and other papers, said a group of its current and former board members agreed to settle a shareholder lawsuit accusing them of being lax in approving transactions by paying the company $50 million. The settlement still must be approved by Canadian and U.S. courts, and the directors have denied wrongdoing. Included in the settlement are Richard R. Burt, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Shmuel Meitar, James R. Thompson, Dwayne Andreas, Raymond Chambers, Marie Josee-Kravis, Robert Strauss, A. Alfred Taubman, George Weidenfeld and Leslie Wexner.

Alltel said it is investigating alleged improper payments to former business associates, including the accusation that a former high-level Chinese banker took a $1 million bribe. The telecommunications firm said the alleged payments occurred in its information systems division, which was sold in 2003 to Fidelity National Financial for $1 billion.

Archipelago Holdings chief executive Gerald D. Putnam defended the terms of his company's planned acquisition by the New York Stock Exchange, calling it a "fair deal." Some observers have raised questions about the deal's terms, which would give the Big Board's seat-owning members 70 percent of the combined company, called NYSE Group.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit refused to reconsider a finding that Microsoft infringed on a patent for a method of Web browsing. The case, brought by Eolas Technologies, is returning to a lower court for a new trial because of other issues. Microsoft must win a decision invalidating the patent to avoid paying the $521 million award.

Richard M. Scrushy had a good understanding and overwhelming control of what was going on at HealthSouth, a former outside auditor testified at the fired chief executive's corporate fraud trial. James Lamphron, of Ernst & Young, said Scrushy signed a letter guaranteeing the validity of 2001 financial statements that were later found to be fraudulent.

Mark H. Swartz, Tyco International's former chief financial officer, will testify in his own defense at his criminal trial, his lawyer said after former chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski's defense rested. Swartz and Kozlowski are being tried on fraud and larceny charges for the second time; the first trial ended in a mistrial in April 2004. Jurors in the earlier case said after the trial that Swartz's testimony backfired and persuaded some to vote to convict before the mistrial was declared.

Northwest Airlines said Neal Cohen, who helped secure $1.6 billion in worker concessions at US Airways Group, will replace Bernard L. Han, who resigned as chief financial officer. Cohen was US Airways' finance chief from April 2002 to April 2004 and worked at Northwest from 1991 to 2000.

A judge dismissed a suit by shareholders who said J.P. Morgan Chase overpaid by $7 billion in its $57 billion stock-swap takeover of Bank One last year to keep chief executive William Harrison Jr. on the job. Delaware Chancery Court Judge Stephen Lamb said shareholders did not have enough facts to support their claim that Morgan directors wrongly agreed to a higher buyout price as the cost of retaining Harrison. The suit alleged that Bank One chief executive James Dimon would have accepted $50 billion if he were named chief executive of J.P. Morgan after a merger. Dimon became president instead and will succeed Harrison in 2006.


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