BUSINESS IN BRIEF
Home Construction Slacks Off
Wednesday, July 21, 2004; Page E02
Home builders took a bit of a breather in June, as the number of housing projects that builders broke ground on clocked in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.80 million units, an 8.5 percent drop from May's level, the Commerce Department reported. The pace was the lowest since May 2003. Housing construction in May rose by 0.4 percent from the previous month, according to revised figures, stronger than the decline previously estimated.
US Airways Describes Hub Cutback
US Airways said it plans to reduce service in Pittsburgh in its fall schedule by about a third, quantifying the cutbacks for the first time. The Arlington-based airline's proposed schedule calls for about 240 daily departures and 65 destinations, down from the current 370 flights and 102 destinations. The final schedule will be released in August, the company said.
A federal appeals court, citing "a complete failure of proof," erased convictions of four Florida men in a multimillion-dollar scheme to cash in on stolen winning tickets in McDonald's games such as "Monopoly" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
The Financial Planning Association filed a legal challenge to a controversial Securities and Exchange Commission proposal allowing some brokers to offer investment advisory services and fee-based brokerage accounts. Planners object to stockbrokers providing financial advice without being subject to strict rules that apply to investment advisers. While Congress wrote one set of laws for brokers and another for investment advisers, they complain the SEC's 1999 proposal sought to blur the difference between the two.
Animal abuse at a Pilgrim's Pride poultry plant in Moorefield, W.Va., prompted KFC to say it won't purchase from the facility until it is satisfied such behavior has stopped. A video released on the Web site of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals shows chickens being kicked, stomped and thrown against a wall. The plant halted production and warned workers that it would immediately fire anyone engaged in abuse, a Pilgrim's Pride spokesman said.
Delta Air Lines' pilots union offered management a new wage concession proposal that it says will save the struggling carrier as much as $705 million annually. Delta, which has lost more than $5 billion and laid off 16,000 employees in the past three years, has said it may have to file for bankruptcy if it does not get deep concessions from pilots. Delta previously asked pilots for $850 million a year in cuts, and chief executive Gerald Grinstein said recently that the company may ask for more.
House and Senate committees strongly backed a trade agreement with Morocco that would make 95 percent of U.S. industrial exports duty-free, setting the stage for the North African country to become the United States' eighth free-trade partner. Senate approval and a full House vote later in the week would send the legislation to the president for his signature.
The Army canceled a competition to supply translators to the military after a competitor protested that the request for proposals unfairly disadvantaged small businesses. The current contract is held by Titan and is set to expire in September. An Army official said the agency has not decided when it will issue a new request for proposals or how it will fill the gap between when the new contract is awarded and when Titan's deal expires. San Diego-based Titan supplies thousands of translators to the military, including some that work at an Iraqi prison targeted by Army investors for abuse of prisoners.
The House voted to relax regulations that restrict the transmission of unsolicited commercial faxes to homes and businesses. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), would overturn Federal Communications Commission rules requiring the senders of commercial faxes to get prior written approval from recipients. The FCC rules, which were set to take effect last August, have been delayed until January. Two similar bills, sponsored by Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Wash.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) are being considered by a Senate committee.
Oracle and the Justice Department summed up the fine points of a pivotal antitrust trial challenging the software maker's $7.7 billion takeover bid for rival PeopleSoft. U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in San Francisco is expected to issue his decision within two months.
The European Commission approved Italy's $488 million rescue loan to cash-strapped Alitalia, saying more than 30,000 jobs depended on keeping the airline flying. The commission said the loan guarantees must be granted at market rates, repaid in 12 months and "limited to what is needed to manage the company" while a liquidation or restructuring plan is drafted.
Chilean lawmakers said they will investigate the source of millions of dollars that a U.S. Senate report found former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet held at Washington's Riggs Bank.
Legg Mason announced a three-for-two split of its common stock, payable Sept. 24 to shareholders of record on Sept. 8. The Baltimore-based investment firm also increased its quarterly dividend by 50 percent to 15 cents per share on a split-adjusted basis.
Altria Group, parent of tobacco company Philip Morris, reported a 7.8 percent rise in second-quarter profit, to $2.63 billion, boosted by a strong currency, a favorable tax rate and strong gains in market share for its Marlboro brand. Revenue increased 10.5 percent, to $23 billion.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company