A federal judge in Florida has declined to dismiss a class-action lawsuit against Sears that accuses the company of knowingly charging customers for a special tire-balancing service that was rarely performed. Sears had argued that the key plaintiff could not prove any misrepresentation because he could not remember anything about the transaction. But U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew said, "It is wholly illogical to assume that any rational consumer would purchase a service that he or she knew would likely not be performed."

Durable-goods orders unexpectedly rose 0.9 percent in August, led by an increase in demand for airplanes, automobiles and other transportation equipment. The increase followed a revised 4 percent gain in July, better than the Commerce Department had previously estimated. Many analysts had predicted that orders would fall 0.9 percent in August.

Roger W. Ferguson was confirmed by the Senate to be vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, making him the first black to hold the No. 2 post at the central bank. Ferguson, 47, a Harvard-trained economist and lawyer, was confirmed by voice vote. He replaces Alice Rivlin, a former presidential economic adviser who left the Fed board in July.

Yields on two-year Treasury notes rose in yesterday's auction to the highest level in three months. The yield was 5.665 percent, up from 5.557 percent at the last auction on Aug. 25. The notes will carry a coupon interest rate of 5 5/8 percent, with each $10,000 in face value selling for $9,992.50.

Chevron's board elected Vice Chairman David O'Reilly to succeed retiring chief executive Kenneth Derr. O'Reilly, 52, will take over the job Jan. 1. Derr, 63, is retiring after almost 40 years at Chevron, the No. 4 U.S. oil company, and 11 years as chief executive. Richard Matzke, president of Chevron Overseas Petroleum, will succeed O'Reilly as vice chairman.

Qwest Communications, the nation's No. 4 long-distance company, will offer new data storage and Internet services under an agreement with Hewlett-Packard that could bring Qwest $1.5 billion in revenue over three years. Qwest wants to take advantage of demand from companies wishing to move administrative, billing and other functions online. Qwest is doubling its network data service centers to 14, and will outfit them with Hewlett-Packard's storage computers.


Ecuador warned it could run into new payment difficulties if it does not reach agreement with creditors on restructuring its foreign debt. The South American nation has suspended payment of interest on some of its $6 billion in Brady bonds and is asking holders to cash in collateral to cover their dues.


Alan Brody, a Maryland psychiatrist, agreed to pay $87,558 to settle Securities and Exchange Commission allegations he used information from a patient on an upcoming corporate acquisition. The SEC had sued Brody, of Potomac, in federal court, alleging that he improperly used information from the patient, who was an official with Penril DataComm Networks of Gaithersburg, to benefit from stock trades.

Smithfield Foods will buy the hog-farming operations of Tyson Foods in a stock deal valued at $79.3 million. Smithfield, the largest pork producer in the United States, said the Tyson deal, along with another recently announced hog-farming purchase, will push the Smithfield, Va., company's annual hog production to 19 million a year.