Home builders took a bit of a breather in June, as the number of housing projects that builders broke ground on clocked in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.80 million units, an 8.5 percent drop from May's level, the Commerce Department reported. The pace was the lowest since May 2003. Housing construction in May rose by 0.4 percent from the previous month, according to revised figures, stronger than the decline previously estimated.

US Airways Describes Hub Cutback

US Airways said it plans to reduce service in Pittsburgh in its fall schedule by about a third, quantifying the cutbacks for the first time. The Arlington-based airline's proposed schedule calls for about 240 daily departures and 65 destinations, down from the current 370 flights and 102 destinations. The final schedule will be released in August, the company said.

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A federal appeals court, citing "a complete failure of proof," erased convictions of four Florida men in a multimillion-dollar scheme to cash in on stolen winning tickets in McDonald's games such as "Monopoly" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

The Financial Planning Association filed a legal challenge to a controversial Securities and Exchange Commission proposal allowing some brokers to offer investment advisory services and fee-based brokerage accounts. Planners object to stockbrokers providing financial advice without being subject to strict rules that apply to investment advisers. While Congress wrote one set of laws for brokers and another for investment advisers, they complain the SEC's 1999 proposal sought to blur the difference between the two.

Animal abuse at a Pilgrim's Pride poultry plant in Moorefield, W.Va., prompted KFC to say it won't purchase from the facility until it is satisfied such behavior has stopped. A video released on the Web site of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals shows chickens being kicked, stomped and thrown against a wall. The plant halted production and warned workers that it would immediately fire anyone engaged in abuse, a Pilgrim's Pride spokesman said.

Delta Air Lines' pilots union offered management a new wage concession proposal that it says will save the struggling carrier as much as $705 million annually. Delta, which has lost more than $5 billion and laid off 16,000 employees in the past three years, has said it may have to file for bankruptcy if it does not get deep concessions from pilots. Delta previously asked pilots for $850 million a year in cuts, and chief executive Gerald Grinstein said recently that the company may ask for more.

House and Senate committees strongly backed a trade agreement with Morocco that would make 95 percent of U.S. industrial exports duty-free, setting the stage for the North African country to become the United States' eighth free-trade partner. Senate approval and a full House vote later in the week would send the legislation to the president for his signature.

The Army canceled a competition to supply translators to the military after a competitor protested that the request for proposals unfairly disadvantaged small businesses. The current contract is held by Titan and is set to expire in September. An Army official said the agency has not decided when it will issue a new request for proposals or how it will fill the gap between when the new contract is awarded and when Titan's deal expires. San Diego-based Titan supplies thousands of translators to the military, including some that work at an Iraqi prison targeted by Army investors for abuse of prisoners.

The House voted to relax regulations that restrict the transmission of unsolicited commercial faxes to homes and businesses. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), would overturn Federal Communications Commission rules requiring the senders of commercial faxes to get prior written approval from recipients. The FCC rules, which were set to take effect last August, have been delayed until January. Two similar bills, sponsored by Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Wash.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) are being considered by a Senate committee.

Oracle and the Justice Department summed up the fine points of a pivotal antitrust trial challenging the software maker's $7.7 billion takeover bid for rival PeopleSoft. U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in San Francisco is expected to issue his decision within two months.

INTERNATIONAL

The European Commission approved Italy's $488 million rescue loan to cash-strapped Alitalia, saying more than 30,000 jobs depended on keeping the airline flying. The commission said the loan guarantees must be granted at market rates, repaid in 12 months and "limited to what is needed to manage the company" while a liquidation or restructuring plan is drafted.

Chilean lawmakers said they will investigate the source of millions of dollars that a U.S. Senate report found former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet held at Washington's Riggs Bank.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Legg Mason announced a three-for-two split of its common stock, payable Sept. 24 to shareholders of record on Sept. 8. The Baltimore-based investment firm also increased its quarterly dividend by 50 percent to 15 cents per share on a split-adjusted basis.

EARNINGS

Altria Group, parent of tobacco company Philip Morris, reported a 7.8 percent rise in second-quarter profit, to $2.63 billion, boosted by a strong currency, a favorable tax rate and strong gains in market share for its Marlboro brand. Revenue increased 10.5 percent, to $23 billion.

Ameritrade Holding reported a 25 percent increase in its third-quarter profit, to $62.3 million. Revenue was $220 million, an increase of 16.7 percent. The average trades per day for the quarter ended June 25 were about 164,000, up from about 154,000, and the online broker gained about 100,000 accounts for the quarter.

AutoNation, the nation's largest car dealer, posted a 13 percent drop in second-quarter profit, to $92.1 million, as sales declines, including a $13 million drop in used-vehicle sales, and high inventories hurt its bottom line. Revenue was virtually flat at $4.99 billion.

ETrade Financial reported that its second-quarter profit was almost 10 times more than in the same quarter a year ago. The online brokerage made $123 million in the quarter, up from $13 million last year, and raised its earnings target for the year.

Motorola posted a $203 million loss for the second quarter, citing heavy costs associated with the spinoff of its semiconductor business. Aside from an $898 million expense for discontinuing the chip operations, it was another quarter of strong growth for the cell phone maker. Its operating earnings increased nearly fivefold from a year earlier.

RadioShack's second-quarter earnings increased 19 percent, to $68.3 million, as customers bought more expensive wireless telephones with built-in cameras and other features. Revenue grew by 2.8 percent, to more than $1.05 billion.

Sun Microsystems posted a fiscal fourth-quarter profit as the server and software manufacturer continued to cut costs and reported gains from a lucrative settlement with Microsoft. Sun's $795 million of earnings in the three months ended June 30 included a $1.6 billion extraordinary gain and $350 million of deferred income related to the April 2 settlement. Revenue rose 4.3 percent, to $3.11 billion.

Texas Instruments said its second-quarter profit almost quadrupled to $441 million after revenue grew 39 percent, its fastest pace in more than 13 years, to $3.24 billion. The semiconductor supplier's earnings have more than tripled the past two quarters as consumers bought cell phones with cameras and other functions that use more chips.

Wells Fargo said second-quarter profit rose as consumer lending increased and bad loans fell. Net income at the San Francisco company rose 12 percent, to $1.71 billion.

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

A Continental Airlines jet passes the Capitol as it lands at Reagan National Airport. High fuel costs continued to hamper the financial performance of Continental, which reported a $17 million second-quarter loss, compared with a profit of $79 million in the same quarter a year earlier. The airline would have managed a tiny profit if not for a charge related to the retirement of aircraft. Revenue rose 13 percent, to $2.51 billion.