Delta Air Lines said it will reduce pension contributions for about 66,000 workers and change the way those retirement benefits are paid, saving as much as $500 million over the next five years. Delta will be able to reduce contributions by changing as of June to a "cash balance" plan that provides a lump-sum payment or annuity when a worker leaves Delta, spokeswoman Peggy Estes said. The affected employees, which include all except pilots, now have a "defined benefit" plan with specified monthly payments. Delta isn't cutting benefits for those who already retired, Estes said.

Tenet Under SEC Investigation

Tenet Healthcare, already under federal scrutiny over Medicare payments, notified shareholders that the Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an informal file on the hospital operator. Tenet said company officials met last week with SEC representatives to discuss special Medicare payments known as "outliers" as well as an unusually high amount of trading in Tenet stock over the past few weeks. The FBI is also investigating allegations that two doctors at a hospital owned by Tenet performed unnecessary surgeries.

MORE NEWS

A trade group for retailers such as Gap and Target urged labor-union and shipping-company negotiators to avoid a second shutdown of West Coast ports, saying it would cause "catastrophic" damage to the economy. The National Retail Federation said 39 percent of its members expect shortages of merchandise during the holiday-shopping season because of a backlog of toys, clothing and food to be unloaded after a 10-day lockout in September and October.

The Agriculture Department is tightening scrutiny of companies that process beef, pork and poultry for deli meats and hot dogs but don't test countertops, equipment and other parts of their plants for listeria. Until now, the government has required meat processors to test their products for presence of the pathogen but not their plants and equipment.

Federal tire standards to be phased in next September will require clearer labeling of tires and their recommended inflation pressure to help clear up some of the confusion that followed the Firestone tire recall.

American Express, the fourth-biggest U.S. credit-card issuer, said it will buy back as much as 9.2 percent of its stock to increase its share price. The company's board approved the purchase of as many as 120 million of its 1.3 billion outstanding shares on Oct. 31, according to a statement.

I2 Technologies used improper accounting and may have committed fraud, two former executives told the software maker's board. Their claims were disclosed by I2 in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The board is investigating the allegations and has found no need to revise results and no merit to the claims, the company said in the filing.

T-bill rates rose. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday rose to 1.205 percent, from 1.190 percent the previous week. Rates on six-month bills rose to 1.245 percent from 1.225 percent. The actual return to investors is 1.227 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,969.50, and 1.225 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,937.10. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for changing adjustable-rate mortgages, was unchanged at 1.46 percent last week.

DaimlerChrysler lost its bid for an injunction to keep General Motors from using a grille design on GM's Hummer H2 sport-utility vehicle, which went on sale in July. DaimlerChrysler said the design on the Hummer H2 grille is too similar to the grille on the Jeep Wrangler and would cause consumer confusion. GM, which acquired the Hummer brand name from AM General, said no one would confuse the H2 with a Jeep.

The marketers of a pain-relief cream promoted in national television ads agreed to pay the government $3 million to settle charges that they made deceptive promises about their products. The Federal Trade Commission said that Blue Stuff and McClung Advertising, both based in Oklahoma City, lacked scientific evidence to support claims that their Blue Stuff and Super Blue Stuff topical creams could relieve severe pain.

Computer products and telecommunications equipment now have a bigger share in the exports of developing countries than of industrialized economies, the United Nations said. Such products accounted for 22 percent of total exports from developing countries last year, compared with 14 percent for industrialized nations

INTERNATIONAL

A group led by one of the Chinese government's two main telecommunications companies plans to buy key undersea fiber-optic networks owned by Asia Global Crossing, which filed for bankruptcy to facilitate the sale. Hong Kong-based Asia Global Crossing is a subsidiary of Global Crossing, the fiber-optic network provider that filed for bankruptcy in January and is also being bought by Asian interests. Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa and Singapore Technologies Telemedia are paying $250 million for a 61.5 percent stake in Global Crossing.

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, Japan's largest telecommunications company, returned to profitability in its fiscal first half. NTT reported a profit of $274 million in the six months through Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $1.91 billion in the same period a year ago. Sales slipped 1.7 percent, to $44.36 billion.

Turkey's prime minister-designate named a U.S-educated businessman as economy minister, completing the formation of the country's first one-party government since 1991. Abdullatif Sener, a former finance minister, was named one of three deputy prime ministers.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Humphrey Hospitality Trust, a Columbia hotel and real estate firm, reported a third-quarter profit of $2.1 million (19 cents per share) on revenue of $19.4 million. That compares with income of $1.9 million (17 cents) on revenue of $9.3 million for the same quarter in 2001.

EARNINGS

Toys R Us said its fiscal third-quarter loss narrowed to $28 million as it reduced expenses and sold more traditional toys. The results compared with a loss of $44 million in the year-earlier quarter.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.

Lowe's, the world's No. 2 home-improvement retailer, said third-quarter profit rose 35 percent, to $339.2 million, from $250.5 million a year earlier. Same-store sales rose 4.1 percent, Wilkesboro, N.C.-based Lowe's said, a tenth of a percent above forecast. Sales rose 18 percent, to $6.41 billion, in the three months ended Nov. 1.