Sales of previously owned homes rose to a record 6.8 million annual pace in May, an industry report showed. Existing home sales increased 2.6 percent from a revised 6.64 million unit rate in April, the National Association of Realtors said. The previous record of 6.68 million was set in September. Separately, U.S. consumer confidence rose for the first time in three months amid increased hiring and a decline in gasoline prices, a private survey showed. The University of Michigan's final index of consumer sentiment for June rose to 95.6 from 90.2 in May.

Oracle Layoff Plans Disclosed

Oracle would cut 6,000 jobs after buying PeopleSoft and raise software maintenance fees for the company's customers if its proposed $7.7 billion takeover goes through, according to Oracle documents shown in court. The cuts described, equal to more than half of PeopleSoft's staff, are a "worst-case scenario," Oracle President Safra A. Catz said during questioning by Justice Department attorneys. The government is seeking to block the hostile bid. The month-long antitrust trial in San Francisco is scheduled to end next week.

MORE NEWS

Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) sought to end a legislative stalemate by proposing a $141 billion trust fund for compensating asbestos exposure victims, an organized labor official said. The plan includes $42 billion to be paid in the first five years by companies facing asbestos lawsuits and their insurers, said Margaret M. Seminario, the AFL-CIO's occupational safety director. Democrats in April blocked a Republican plan for a $124 billion fund to stem litigation that has bankrupted more than 70 companies, including USG and W.R. Grace. Democrats said asbestos makers and their insurers should be required to contribute at least $30 billion more for workers exposed to the fibrous mineral used in insulation and building products.

Southwest Airlines agreed with its flight attendants' union on a tentative six-year contract after the sides resolved pay issues. The agreement ends two years of negotiations.

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said politics played no part in his department's decision to let United Airlines reapply for a federal loan guarantee. Snow's representative on the Air Transportation Stabilization Board, Brian C. Roseboro, was on the majority June 17 in rejecting a $1.6 billion loan guarantee but the department stated it would reconsider if presented with more information. The Treasury's acting inspector general is looking into whether Roseboro has been subjected to political pressure.

Martha Stewart's sentencing for obstruction of justice was postponed for eight days, until July 16.

Greyhound Lines will eliminate bus service at 260 small stops between Chicago and Seattle to cut costs and focus on its most profitable routes. Greyhound will make similar changes in other regions over the next three years and shift some service from long trips to routes of 450 miles or less, which account for about three-fourths of its customers, chief executive Stephen E. Gorman said.

INTERNATIONAL

Microsoft sought an immediate suspension of a European antitrust decision forcing it to share programming data with rivals and offer a stripped-down version of Windows, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The software maker told Europe's highest appeals court that it would suffer irreparable damage by bowing to European regulatory penalties and paying a $602 million fine, said the people, who declined to be identified.

The European Parliament plans to challenge in court an agreement between European Union governments and the United States on sharing airline passenger data because it may break EU privacy laws.

Royal Dutch/Shell has given former chairman Philip Watts a nearly $2 million lump sum severance payment, the multinational oil company said. The payment to Watts, who resigned in March in the wake of Shell's oil and gas reserves overstatement, was based on his salary until his normal retirement date in June 2005.

LOCAL BUSINESS

The Baltimore Sun expects to avoid layoffs in its newsroom because enough employees accepted buyout offers. The newspaper had said it hoped to have at least 18 union members and a smaller number of nonunion employees leave their jobs. Workers who accepted the severance package will leave before July 30, a spokeswoman said.

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