Hurricane Charley will likely cost insurers at least $7.4 billion, according to the Insurance Institute, an industry trade group that based its estimate on initial claims data from Florida residents and businesses. Earlier forecasts that said losses could be as much as $10 billion to $14 billion were derived from computer models. Either way, Hurricane Charley is likely to end up the nation's fourth-costliest disaster for insurers and the second-most-expensive hurricane after 1992's Andrew, adjusted for inflation, according to the Institute.

Delta CEO Warns Of More Job Losses

Delta Air Lines plans additional job cuts as part of its effort to avoid bankruptcy, chief executive Gerald Grinstein said in a memo to employees after concluding a day-long meeting with Delta's board. Atlanta-based Delta has laid off more than 16,000 employees in the past three years, during which it lost more than $5 billion. The company and subsidiaries had 70,300 employees as of June 30. The memo does not say how many more jobs will be cut, and a spokeswoman declined to comment. Also, Delta said it is considering exchanging some of its debt, possibly for equity in the company.

MORE NEWS

Lumber futures rose to their highest price in 10 years as demand for wood from Florida residents looking to rebuild after Hurricane Charley extended a year-long surge created by brisk housing demand in North America. Lumber futures for September delivery rose $15, the maximum allowed by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, to $442 per 1,000 feet of two-by-fours.

Bank of America laid off an unspecified number of employees at hundreds of Fleet Bank branches, a byproduct of the merger of the two banks, a company spokeswoman said. The Boston Globe, citing company documents it obtained and Fleet branch managers who were told of the cuts, reported that 1,500 or more jobs could be affected.

Fannie Mae forecast that U.S. home prices will rise 6.1 percent this year, a pace the mortgage giant called "unsustainable." The median price for an existing, single-family house will likely increase to $180,000 from $169,700 last year, Fannie Mae said in a report. A month ago, it estimated a 5.3 percent gain in the median price.

Monsanto said the Justice Department closed its inquiry into possible antitrust practices in the herbicide industry, requiring no actions by the agribusiness and biotech giant. The St. Louis company said earlier that the probe involved the glyphosate-based herbicide industry. Glyphosate is a key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, a weedkiller.

Jeffrey K. Skilling's lawyers asked a judge for more time to file a request seeking to move the former Enron chief executive's fraud trial out of Houston. The lawyers said that there is a "significant likelihood" that Skilling cannot receive a fair trial in Enron's hometown and that they need more time to poll jurors, get expert testimony, and analyze press reports on the case. Skilling faces decades behind bars if he is convicted of playing a role in the energy company's collapse. Prosecutors are opposing the motion, lead trial counsel Daniel M. Petrocelli said in court papers.

Janus Capital Group said it has finalized a $226.2 million settlement with state and federal regulators over improper trading allegations, part of a scandal sweeping the mutual funds industry. Denver-based Janus will pay $100 million to investors -- $50 million in restitution and $50 million in civil penalties -- and reduce the fees it charges investors by $125 million over five years.

Petroleum explorers offered the biggest total of high bids in six years for federal leases in the western Gulf of Mexico, the federal Minerals Management Service said. There were 421 bids from 45 companies on 351 tracts in federal waters off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.

Lindows said it will delay an initial public offering because of adverse market conditions. Lindows, which plans to change its name to Linspire, didn't provide an estimate of when the offer will take place. The company develops a Linux-based operating system.

Compuware is accusing IBM of attempting to surprise it with new evidence just three months before the companies are to begin a piracy trial. IBM dismissed the accusation as a litigation tactic. Compuware said it filed a motion requesting a default judgment after IBM produced source code that it previously said it did not have. Compuware sued IBM in March 2002, claiming IBM had copied its software products and was reselling them under the IBM nameplate. IBM has denied the charges and filed six counterclaims of patent infringement.

U.S. pork producers cannot impose duties on hog imports from Canada, the Commerce Department said in a preliminary ruling, citing lack of proof that Canadian farmers are being unfairly subsidized. The department said the subsidies from Canadian government programs are minimal. A final decision, which could result in punitive duties being imposed, is scheduled for Dec. 28.

A Defense Department worker illegally steered millions of dollars in government money to a communications company that gave him and his family $500,000 in cash and benefits, federal prosecutors said. Kevin D. Marlowe concealed his interest in Vector Systems, a Harrisburg, Pa., business that he helped obtain $11 million in contracts, prosecutors said. Vector and members of Marlowe's family also were charged.

RECALLS

Nike is recalling about 9,000 children's athletic shoes because they could pose a choking hazard. The shoes, Nike Get-Go and Little Get-Go, have small, detachable rubber tabs at the top of the heels. Nike has received three reports of heel tabs separating from shoes. No injuries have been reported, the company said. Customers who bought the shoes should contact Nike at 800-344-6453 to receive a refund voucher.

INTERNATIONAL

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries raised its forecast for demand this year and said members will increase output next month to lower prices that reached a new high of $47.35 a barrel in New York. Consumption in the fourth quarter, when use peaks, will rise to 83.19 million barrels a day, 300,000 barrels a day more than expected last month, OPEC said in a monthly report.

GlaxoSmithKline said it was giving up one of the Chinese patents on the diabetes drug Avandia following a challenge by three Chinese competitors. The decision won't allow Chinese competitors to sell the drug because Glaxo retains two patents on it. The British drugmaker didn't give a reason for its move. The announcement came six weeks after Pfizer was stripped of a Chinese patent for its anti-impotence drug Viagra in a case that foreign businesses regarded as a test of China's commitment to protecting intellectual property.

Thailand's government announced several measures for saving energy, including mandatory closings by midnight for gas stations and suggested earlier closing hours for shopping malls and convenience stores, in order to cope with rising world oil prices without restraining economic growth.

Citigroup is being investigated by the U.K. market regulator over "unusual trading activity" in European government bonds earlier this month. Citigroup sold about $12.3 billion of securities on Aug. 2 and bought back roughly $5 billion of them at cheaper prices half an hour later, said people last week who compete with Citigroup and were involved in the trades.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group of Arlington disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it raised $780 million in a private placement of stock for a newly created affiliate of New York private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. The affiliate, KKR Financial, will be a real estate investment trust, according to the filing. The private placement, known as a 144A offering, is typically a precursor to a public stock offering. Spokesmen for KKR and FBR declined to comment.

EARNINGS

Harman International Industries of Washington said strong sales of expensive stereos to carmakers and consumers in its fiscal fourth quarter helped push profits up 42 percent, to $53 million (76 cents a share) from $37.4 million (55 cents) a year earlier. Revenue rose to $732 million from $623.3 million. Earnings for the year rose 50 percent to $157.9 million ($2.27) from $105.4 million ($1.55). Revenue rose to $2.7 billion from $2.2 billion. The stock rose $4.96 to $85.20.

Intuit said its fourth-quarter loss widened to $42.1 million from $24.7 million in the same period last year as the introduction of new products increased costs. Revenue for the largest maker of tax preparation software increased 13 percent from a year earlier to $275.9 million, but expenses rose 16 percent.

Nestle said profit for the first six months of its fiscal year rose 2.1 percent as sales in Western Europe declined and costs for sugar, milk and packaging increased. Net income rose to $2.28 billion (2.84 billion Swiss francs) from 2.78 billion francs during the same period a year earlier.

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

Volkswagen workers leave the plant in Puebla, Mexico, that produces the New Beetle after hanging strike banners. Workers walked out after rejecting a 4.5 percent pay increase. The union wants an 8.5 percent salary increase for the plant's 9,500 workers. Union officials are trying to end the strike quickly, a union leader said.