Oil prices fell below $48 a barrel as tensions between U.S. forces and rebel fighters in Iraq eased, raising hopes that attacks against the country's oil infrastructure would subside. U.S. light crude for September delivery settled at $47.86 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, retreating from Thursday's record closing price of $48.70. Though crude futures have soared this year, when adjusted for inflation, oil is still roughly $9 less per barrel than it was leading up to the first Gulf War.
United Gets Another Month to File
UAL, the parent of United Airlines, got an extension through September to file its bankruptcy reorganization plan after creditors threatened to join unions in objecting to moving the deadline to the end of this year. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Eugene Wedoff granted the one-month extension at a hearing in Chicago and also approved $500 million in additional bankruptcy financing that United secured last month. The airline's unions had objected to a year-end deadline after UAL last month said it would halt contributions to its pension plans, saying that was a requirement of its lenders. The company said at the hearing that the agreement on the additional $500 million doesn't prohibit contributions to the pension plans as long as UAL maintains certain cash levels.
Arch Coal, the second-largest U.S. coal producer, completed its acquisition of Triton Coal after a federal appeals court in Washington cleared the purchase, while antitrust enforcers claim the $364 million takeover will raise prices on low-sulfur fuel burned to generate electricity. The court refused to prohibit Arch from carrying out the transaction while the Federal Trade Commission and six states contest a trial judge's refusal to block it.
Microsoft's Xbox video game business will lay off 76 workers and stop making some sports games. The software giant said that it will stop producing team sports games but that other sports-themed games won't be affected. Microsoft said it would try to find the employees jobs elsewhere in the company.
Adelphia Communications, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, cut its proposed bonus plan for employees by 17 percent, to $50 million, to resolve strong objections by several creditors. The $50 million is the maximum that would be paid, and if no sale of the company occurs, the payments "would likely not exceed $9.8 million," said Ron Cooper, the cable company's president and chief operating officer.
British Airways reached a pay accord with unions, averting a planned strike during the Aug. 27-30 holiday weekend by 11,000 baggage handlers and check-in staffers. The unions had planned to strike for 24 hours on Aug. 27 unless an agreement was reached. The strike would have disrupted travel for some of the 1.6 million Britons expected to travel abroad during the holiday weekend, one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
China will start offering 10-year residency permits to foreigners who bring it important investments or business skills, exempting them from rules that require most foreigners to renew visas annually, officials said. "Green card" holders could live anywhere in China without obtaining the residence permit required for most foreigners, which restricts them to certain cities or districts, according to Public Security Ministry officials. Officials stressed that most foreign workers would probably not qualify for the new permits.
The Office of Management and Budget approved disclosure of information about mortgages bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the government-chartered companies deemed proprietary. The information includes the borrower's race and gender and the property's census tract location, OMB spokesman Chad Kolton said. Washington-based Fannie Mae and McLean-based Freddie Mac have expressed concern that greater disclosure of mortgage information submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development will help their rivals. Critics of Fannie and Freddie say that the data will show the two companies fall short of their federal mission to expand homeownership for minorities and low-income people.
General Motors is recalling 32,301 of its new Aveo cars because the rear seat belt can lock and become unusable, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. All of the cars involved in the recall are from the 2004 model year. GM has had substantial problems with the Aveo since it went on sale last year. In February, the company ordered dealers not to sell the cars for a week after they were involved in five crashes that caused injuries.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.