Consumer confidence rose for the fourth straight month in July, hitting 106.1, thanks to steady improvements in the job market, the Conference Board reported, putting the indicator at its highest level since June 2002. The index for consumer confidence was 102.8 in June and was expected to be 102.0 this month. The survey is based on a sample of 5,000 U.S. households.

Halliburton Plan Approved

Halliburton's $4.17 billion plan to settle asbestos- and silica-related health claims was affirmed by a federal judge in Pittsburgh. The plan, which includes the emergence of subsidiaries Kellogg Brown & Root and DII Industries from Chapter 11, previously was approved by a bankruptcy judge. Halliburton inherited most of the claims when the company acquired Dresser Industries five years ago, during Vice President Cheney's tenure as chief executive.


Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia named Thomas C. Siekman chairman, replacing Jeffrey W. Ubben. Ubben, the company's largest shareholder after prison-bound Martha Stewart, said he stepped down in favor of someone who can devote more time to the company. Siekman is former general counsel at Compaq Computer.

Qwest Communications International's former wireless finance chief, Michael Felicissimo, was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of hiding $112 million in improperly reported sales. The SEC is seeking civil penalties from Felicissimo and to bar him from being an officer or director of a public company.

MGM Mirage said the Federal Trade Commission asked for more information about the company's planned $4.8 billion purchase of Mandalay Resort Group, which would put half the hotel rooms on the Las Vegas Strip under the ownership of one company. The request prolongs the federal agency's antitrust review.

Electronic Data Systems trimmed its dividend for the first time, to 5 cents a share from 15 cents, to preserve cash and keep its credit rating from being cut further into junk. EDS has lost out on new business amid an accounting probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission and losses on a $6.9 billion Navy contract.

A former Standard & Poor's analyst, Rick A. Marano, is being sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which says he, his brother and a former business associate traded on confidential information about forthcoming insurance-industry mergers to reap more than $1.1 million.


Ghana's state-run airline was barred from flying into and out of the United States because of safety concerns, U.S. regulators said. Ghana Airways twice used an aircraft that had been ordered grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration, most recently between Accra, Ghana, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Monday, the Transportation Department said. The airline operates two round-trip flights per week between Accra and BWI and flies to New York.

Molson chief executive Daniel O'Neill says he doesn't have a backup plan should his company's planned $3.4 billion stock swap with Adolph Coors fall through. Molson shares have dropped about 4 percent since the Montreal company and Coors announced the planned merger, which would create the world's fifth-biggest brewer.


State Farm Insurance will cut 400 to 500 jobs at its Frederick operations center over the next 21/2 years, the company said. State Farm will move 200 to 300 of those jobs to its operations center in Charlottesville. The Frederick office has about 1,000 workers. The Charlottesville office has about 1,100.

American Electric Power reached an agreement with Virginia's corporation commission to transfer control of its power lines in the state to PJM Interconnection, the operator of the mid-Atlantic grid. The agreement, if approved, would represent the last hurdle for the planned Oct. 1 integration of AEP's Appalachian Power system in Virginia with PJM.

Corporate Office Properties Trust of Columbia said it will buy the former Fort Ritchie Army base in Cascade, Md. The real estate investment trust said it will develop the base, which closed in 1998, with housing, retail and office space. The site comprises 600 acres, more than 300 of which are developable, the REIT said.

Danac sold a 280,000-square-foot building on Key West Avenue in Rockville for $75.3 million to HRPT Properties Trust, a real estate investment trust in Newton, Mass. The building is fully leased through 2012 to software firm Manugistics Group and biotech company TheraCom.

Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe's District office has leased 83,000 square feet at 1717 Rhode Island Ave. NW, being constructed by Karchem Properties. Alps Management will take 25,000 square feet on the top two floors of the 157,000 square-foot building.


Anthem posted a 34 percent rise in second-quarter profit, to $237.9 million, and raised its outlook for the year. The health insurance provider also said it will go to court to overturn the California insurance commissioner's rejection of its $16.4 billion merger with WellPoint Health Systems.

BP's second-quarter profit rose 35 percent, to $3.43 billion, driven by soaring oil and natural gas prices together with bigger profit margins in refining.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe said that profit rose nearly 25 percent in the third quarter, to $249 million, on record shipments and higher prices, and that it would hire 2,300 employees to handle anticipated volume in 2005.

Domino's Pizza's second-quarter profit fell 9.2 percent, to $15.9 million, as the largest U.S. pizza-delivery company, which went public earlier this month, had higher interest expenses and paid more for cheese.

DuPont's profit dropped 25 percent in the second quarter, to $503 million, due largely to an after-tax restructuring charge of $302 million. Net income before special items increased 29 percent.

GlaxoSmithKline said its profit was down 13 percent, to $2.09 billion (1.16 billion pounds) from $1.33 billion pounds in the same period a year ago, driven by a weak dollar and generic competition.

Marathon Oil posted second-quarter net income of $352 million, up from $248 million a year earlier, boosted by higher gas and oil prices.

Medco Health Solutions, the country's largest prescription benefit manager, posted a 21 percent increase in its second-quarter profit, to $127.3 million, mainly because of increases in generic and mail-order prescriptions.

PeopleSoft, the world's No. 2 maker of business-management software, said second-quarter profit fell to $11 million, from $36.5 million, because customers held off placing orders while the company fought a takeover bid by Oracle.

U.S. Steel said second-quarter profit was $211 million, compared with a loss of $49 million in the same quarter a year earlier, on rising demand, higher steel prices and increased sales driven by its acquisition of National Steel last year.

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

A Safeway employee returns a cart in the parking lot of a store in the Marina District of San Francisco. Safeway's second-quarter profit dipped 4 percent, to $155.2 million, in the aftermath of a Southern California strike that alienated many of the supermarket giant's employees and customers. For the three months ended June 19, revenue totaled $8.36 billion, a 1 percent improvement.