Oil futures prices will be limited to a rise or fall of no more than $15 a day in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange under emergency rules approved by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The commodities exchange proposed the rules change last month amid a rising tide of congressional protest that the petroleum futures market had become too volatile and should be shut down if war broke out in the Persian Gulf.

United Airlines will show the biggest quarterly operating loss in company history in the fourth quarter, and projections for 1991 "are even more troubling," Chairman Stephen Wolf said. The carrier would not reveal the size of its operating loss until it releases its fourth-quarter earnings statement on Jan. 31.

Retail sales grew an anemic 3.8 percent last year, the Commerce Department said. It was the slowest annual pace since the nation was struggling out of the last recession in 1982. Sales in December fell 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted $151.1 billion, down from $151.6 billion in November.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper, said it has decided not to buy a minority stake in financially troubled United Press International. A Yomiuri official said the newspaper had been asked about the possibility but decided against it after studying the proposal. An official of another Japanese paper, the Asahi Shimbun, said his organization was approached indirectly about purchasing a stake but declined.