WorldCom's former chief financial officer, Scott D. Sullivan, once the highest-paid CFO in the United States, can afford to defend himself against fraud charges in New York, prosecutors said as they urged a judge not to transfer the case to Washington. Sullivan stands accused of orchestrating a multibillion-dollar accounting fraud that drove the long-distance company into the biggest U.S. bankruptcy. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Anders disputed Sullivan's claim that a Manhattan trial would impose a financial "hardship" on him and his family. "Sullivan's financial means are far from modest," Anders wrote in court papers, citing Sullivan's $19 million pay package in 1997 and his $45.3 million in WorldCom stock sales over six years.

Another Setback for Manufacturing

Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket goods fell 1.4 percent in November, dealing a setback to the nation's manufacturers, which have been struggling to get back on their feet after being knocked down by last year's recession. The drop in new orders for costly manufactured goods came after a 1.7 percent rise in October and was the weakest showing since September, the Commerce Department reported. November's decline surprised economists, who were forecasting an increase in orders of around 0.8 percent.

MORE NEWS

Investors channeled $5.4 billion into U.S. stock mutual funds in November, ending five straight months of outflows, according to Financial Research, a Boston-based firm. The gain came as the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 5.7 percent in November following an 8.6 percent gain in October. Investors withdrew $71.3 billion more than they added to stock funds from May through October.

Smith & Wesson, America's oldest handgun manufacturer, is stamping its brand name on a line of golf clubs as it tries to boost royalty income on the strength of its recognized name. Its contract with Vadersen Design Group runs for five years.

Air traffic for the world's commercial airlines rebounded this year, the International Civil Aviation Organization said. The number of passengers, freight and mail traffic -- and the distances they flew -- rose 2 percent from 2001. That is still 2 to 3 percent below 2000 levels, the United Nations agency said. An agency spokesman said he expects air traffic in 2004 to return to levels before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Dean Valentine, former head of Viacom's UPN television network and Walt Disney Co.'s TV production studio, is leading a group of investors buying a 49.9 percent stake in Jim Henson Co., creator of the Muppets, from Germany's EM.TV & Merchandising.

An unexpected fee is prompting a company to have second thoughts about opening a plant in Glade Spring, Va., that would employ up to 65 people and pump more than $1 million a year into the local economy. Beryl Borsook, owner of Dorothea Knitting Mills, said his company received a letter from the Washington County Service Authority notifying it of a one-time fee of $108,000 to $201,000 to connect to the county's water and sewer lines. The company, which has a $15.6 million contract to make berets for the U.S. military, has refurbished the former Virginia Glove plant and has little cash left, Borsook said. He said that if the county does not waive the fee, he may have to withdraw from the contract and sell the plant.

California's three largest utilities are set to resume buying power Jan. 1 after a federal judge cleared the way for Pacific Gas and Electric, which has been in bankruptcy court, to return to the market.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against American Eagle, accusing the airline of discriminating against black employees at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. The suit claims that American Eagle paid black ramp supervisors, who load luggage onto airplanes, less than others working the same job.

Citigroup and other credit card issuers don't have to follow a California law that requires them to warn customers about the consequences of making only minimum monthly payments, a federal judge said. U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell said in a ruling that California couldn't impose its laws on banks, which are generally governed by federal law.

INTERNATIONAL

Taiwan's China Airlines has placed the year's largest order for Boeing jumbo jets, agreeing to buy 10 747-400s worth a total of $2 billion at list prices, Boeing Commercial Airplanes said. China Airlines also placed orders with Europe's Airbus for 12 airplanes and took options for six more.

Iraq's oil exports almost quadrupled last week, reaching an average of 2 million barrels a day, according to the United Nations, which controls trading by the country. Iraq exported 13.9 million barrels, compared with 3.7 million the previous week. Sales last week earned $361 million. A U.N. spokesman said there was no specific reason for the increase.

RECALLS

Atico International USA, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is recalling about 60,000 Christmas tealight candles because the wick doesn't properly burn down and can melt the candle's plastic holder, posing a fire hazard. Some of the red, white and green candles come in packages with the words "Merry Christmas," "Christmas Morning," "Candy Cane" or "A Christmas Avenue." They were sold nationwide at Eckerds, Kerr Drugs, Snyders Drug Store and Farmacias El Amal from September to December for $2.50 to $4. The government advises consumers to stop using the candles and return them to the store for a refund. For more information, consumers can call 800-645-3867.

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

Police officers ride the new metro train in New Delhi yesterday. Delhi Metro Rail Corp.'s $2 billion system is designed to relieve transportation problems and cut smog in the world's fourth most-polluted city.