The index of leading indicators sank 1.2 percent in August in the wake of the Persian Gulf crisis, the Commerce Department said. It was the steepest drop in the government's main economic forecasting gauge in nearly three years.

Mortgage rates were mixed this week. Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages rose to 10.22 percent from 10.16 percent and adjustable-rate notes declined to 8.28 percent from 8.30 percent, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. said.

Demonstrators at the Japanese Embassy here called for a boycott against Japanese products in the wake of a Tokyo cabinet minister's remark lumping together prostitutes and American blacks. The protest, which involved about 100 demonstrators, was organized by the NAACP. In New York, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu apologized for the minister's insult, calling the remark "gravely inappropriate."

The House voted to give President Bush authority to triple the 5 million-barrel test sale of Strategic Petroleum Reserve oil he announced Wednesday, but the White House said he has no intention of doing so.

Two senators, Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), asked the Justice Department to consider the potential impact on Sematech, a government-supported computer chip consortium, of the sale of equipment-supplier Semi-Gas Systems to a Japanese firm.

Saratoga Development of Potomac filed suit in federal court to block a $656 million lease the GSA awarded for development of an office and trade center project at Federal Triangle. Saratoga was one of six losing bidders for the project.

Whitman Corp. will spin off its specialty food subsidiary, Pet Inc., to shareholders and eliminate 1,000 jobs in a restructuring aimed at cutting costs and bolstering stock prices.

Eight tobacco dealers pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal government to obtain loans for Iraq and Egypt to purchase more than $1 million of tobacco. The tobacco companies could be ordered to repay the government more than $1 million.

Swissair said it has ordered 26 Airbus aircraft at a cost of $1.77 billion.

Richard Y. Roberts's nomination to the SEC was confirmed by the Senate.

Thiokol received contracts totaling $658.3 million to renovate an Army water distribution system and to supply Air Force M-X missile stage-1 motors.

The Center for Naval Analyses won a $236.7 million Navy contract for studies and analyses.

Aluminum Co. of America was awarded a $100.4 million Defense Logistics Agency contract for aluminum ingots.

General Electric received an $88.9 million Navy contract for automated support systems.