AAA called the recent jump in gasoline prices unjustified and said oil companies may be "close to" gouging consumers. U.S. pump prices for regular gasoline averaged $1.605 a gallon as of yesterday, up 10 cents from a week earlier and the highest since June 2001, the group said in a news release. The price was the highest that AAA has recorded for the month of February. "We see nothing in the overall supply-and-demand picture to justify an increase of that magnitude," AAA spokesman Geoff Sundstrom said.

No Pay Cap for Accounting Board

Congress dropped an amendment that would have capped the pay of the members of the new federal accounting oversight board at $400,000 a year, President Bush's salary. "It's out," said Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio), who opposed the amendment by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Boxer attached the amendment to a 2003 fiscal year Senate appropriations bill, which is undergoing negotiations with a competing version approved by the House. The accounting board members voted themselves annual salaries of $452,000 at their first meeting on Jan. 9, with the chairman to be paid $560,000. The board members' pay levels are the same as at the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which sets accounting rules.

MORE NEWS

Sprint, stalled by a court battle in its effort to appoint BellSouth Vice Chairman Gary Forsee as chief executive, said William T. Esrey will remain in that post until the telephone company can name a successor. Ronald T. LeMay will remain chief operating officer during the same transition period, Sprint said in a statement. Directors intend to name Forsee chief executive as soon as it is permitted. Sprint is forcing Esrey and LeMay to step down over their personal use of tax shelters.

Yields on five-year Treasury notes fell to a record low at the government's quarterly sale of the securities. The Treasury sold $24 billion of the notes at a yield of 3.029 percent. Demand was weak, however: The government received bids equal to a record-low 1.42 times the amount of the notes sold.

Wyeth said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the Justice Department's antitrust division plans to have a grand jury review whether the drugmaker colluded with another pharmaceutical firm on certain sales-commission rates. The filing said the alleged collusion relates to commission rates for a broker "for a small segment of the over-the-counter drug business." Wyeth officials wrote in the filing that they do not believe they violated antitrust laws.

UAL chief executive Glenn F. Tilton's compensation, which totals $8.45 million a year, will be challenged by creditors, according to a court filing by United Airlines' parent company, which is in Chapter 11.

General Electric shareholders will get a chance to vote on splitting the jobs of chairman and chief executive, a nonbinding shareholder proposal that GE had hoped to keep off the ballot for its 2003 annual meeting. The Securities and Exchange Commission rejected GE's request to keep the proposal out of the proxy, GE spokesman Gary Sheffer said.

Northrop Grumman received a $302.9 million Air Force contract to expand production of its Global Hawk unmanned spy plane used in Afghanistan. Northrop will make six more planes, adding to seven already delivered.

Alan Bond, who managed pension funds for professional basketball players who made millions and municipal transit workers who earned much less, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for cheating clients and taking kickbacks from brokers.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway agreed to buy Burlington Industries, the Greensboro, N.C.-based textile maker that sought bankruptcy protection in 2001, for $579 million in cash. Berkshire bought underwear maker Fruit of the Loom out of bankruptcy last year. Burlington's largest creditor, however, said he opposed the Berkshire agreement.

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles charged 17 software programmers and hardware manufacturers with stealing millions of dollars in satellite TV services from Hughes Electronics' DirecTV and Echostar Communications' Dish Network. Ten of the defendants, including one who admitted responsibility for more than $15 million in losses, have agreed to plead guilty, U.S. Attorney Debra Yang said.

Dell Computer ended a $16 billion purchasing agreement with IBM and reduced a $6 billion services alliance. In a seven-year contract signed in 1999, Dell agreed to buy components and to have IBM install and service Dell PCs under warranty. Dell stopped buying parts from IBM because the company no longer makes some items and pared the services agreement because IBM charged more for services than Dell wanted to pay, an analyst said.

El Paso Corp., the largest U.S. owner of natural gas pipelines, said chief executive William A. Wise will leave after 12 years as CEO and 33 years at El Paso.

Kmart asked a bankruptcy judge to find Anthony D'Onofrio, its former executive vice president and chief supply-chain officer, in contempt for failing to respond to seven subpoenas directing him to supply documents and appear for depositions in Kmart's investigation into its pre-bankruptcy management. Anonymous letters, claiming to be from employees, prompted Kmart to launch a review of its accounting practices last year. The company says D'Onofrio is the subject of 16 of those letters.

INTERNATIONAL

A Paris court rejected a lawsuit filed against former Yahoo chief executive Timothy A. Koogle by French human rights activists over the sale of Nazi memorabilia on Yahoo Web sites. The Tribunal de Grande Instance said the case had no merit. Koogle was sued by the Association of Auschwitz Deportees, which accused him of "justifying war crimes" by allowing people to buy Nazi items on Yahoo.

EARNINGS

Aetna posted a fourth-quarter profit of $98.2 million, compared with a loss of $187.6 million in the same period of the previous year, after raising premiums and slashing medical expenses. Revenue fell 22 percent, to $4.7 billion.

America Online Latin America halved its losses in the fourth quarter as costs fell because of weaker currencies in the region. The loss narrowed to $33.8 million, from $65.8 million in the year-earlier quarter. Sales fell 4.5 percent, to $17.8 million.

Clorox, the largest U.S. household-bleach maker, said second-quarter profit rose 75 percent because sales of new household cleaners increased and costs fell. The maker of Glad bags and Kingsford charcoal said earnings rose to $89 million, from $51 million in the year-earlier quarter. Sales rose 4.4 percent, to $926 million.

Prudential Financial, the second-biggest U.S. life insurer, said it narrowed its fourth-quarter loss to $58 million, compared with a loss of $403 million in the same period of 2001.

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

Northwest Airlines told employees in a newsletter that it must cut as much as $1.5 billion in annual expenses to avoid a bankruptcy filing. It said costs must be in the same range as those at United Airlines and US Airways, which are in bankruptcy. "We will significantly restructure our costs either through an evolutionary process or through the more revolutionary process underway at United and US Airways," chief executive Richard H. Anderson wrote.