U.S. sales of previously owned single-family homes fell 2.9 percent in July, to an annual rate of 6.72 million from a revised record 6.92 million in June, the National Association of Realtors said. The drop was steeper than the 2 percent decline some economists were forecasting, but July's sales were 8.6 percent higher than the pace for the same month last year. The median selling price rose 0.2 percent last month, to a record $191,300, the report said.
Adelphia Bonus Requests Climb
Adelphia Communications' top two executives, chief executive William Schleyer and Chief Operating Officer Ronald Cooper, have asked for bonuses totaling $10 million to $20 million to stay with the cable operator as it attempts to emerge from bankruptcy, a company director testified in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Adelphia is separately asking the court for permission to pay as much as $50 million in bonuses to encourage employees to stay as it attempts to sell itself or reorganize -- but that doesn't include the bonuses sought by Cooper and Schleyer. Adelphia also asked a bankruptcy judge to order founder John J. Rigas and his sons to hand over $3.2 billion the cable operator says they took from the company.
The Treasury Department proposed to cut off from the U.S. financial system two foreign banks it suspects of money laundering, including Infobank of Belarus, which it accused of helping Saddam Hussein skim funds from the United Nations' oil-for-food program. The department designated the First Merchant Bank of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Infobank as "primary money laundering concerns" because they had not acted to combat the problem. The designation is a tool available under the USA Patriot Act.
National Semiconductor said it agreed to sell its imaging business, which makes chips used in small cameras and cell phones, to camera giant Eastman Kodak as it focuses on its main business of making analog chips. Kodak said the deal will help it target camera phones and other high-volume applications.
NASD now has expanded authority to bar former brokers from rejoining the industry if they have failed to pay arbitration awards or settlements. The Securities and Exchange Commission is allowing the brokerage industry's self-regulator to institute suspension proceedings for as long as two years after an award or settlement.
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, which represents 40,000 track workers at North American railroads, approved a merger with the Teamsters to increase bargaining power. The deal must be approved by union members. The Teamsters first expanded into the rail industry by merging with the 36,000-member Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers late last year.
Verizon Communications may install fiber-optic cable in as many as 4 million additional homes next year, Vice Chairman Lawrence T. Babbio Jr. said. That would double the number of homes the largest U.S. local-telephone company had planned to reach with fiber connections in 2005.
Personal computer shipments worldwide will grow at a slower-than-expected rate in the third quarter, J.P. Morgan Chase said, cutting its PC unit growth forecast to 10 percent from 12 percent. Consumer demand "may be more muted than we previously anticipated," the firm said.
Two Piranha executives were charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with misleading investors about the firm's Web software to drive up the share price. The SEC also accused former chief executive Edward W. Sample of misappropriating $675,000 -- roughly 20 percent of the company's assets.
Morningstar started grading mutual funds on whether their interests are sufficiently aligned with those of shareholders. The so-called "fiduciary grade" assesses funds on whether they've been sued by regulators for improprieties and on the quality of their board oversight, management incentives, fees and corporate culture, the company said in a statement. Morningstar said in February that it would introduce the grades because investors needed new ways to evaluate mutual funds after trading scandals came to light during 2003.
Electronic Data Systems agreed to pay $50 million to extend a 2002 agreement with Opsware for software used in running data centers to March 2008. Opsware, which was founded by Netscape creator Marc Andreessen in 1999, said the deal could be worth up to $145 million if extended over nine years.
Some Delta Air Lines creditors are insisting the struggling carrier provide more information on its turnaround plan before they will respond to the company's proposal for more flexibility in restructuring its debt. A committee of 34 financial institutions holding roughly $1.3 billion of Delta debt said it wants substantial information on the company's business plan, financial condition and restructuring plan. In addition to debt restructuring, the nation's third-largest airline is trying to get $1 billion in concessions from its pilots, change its fare structure and improve customer service as part of a broad turnaround plan.
Cisco Systems increased the number of stock options it grants to employees, including chief executive John T. Chambers, to 165 million. The grants, which increased from 141 million in the previous fiscal year, were based on merit, the communications products and services company said in a regulatory filing. The increase was in line with Cisco's policy of offering grants of 2 to 3 percent of total shares outstanding, a spokeswoman said. Still, some analysts were surprised at the increase given the uncertainty over whether they will have to be treated as an expense.
Citigroup, which has sought to expand its retail banking operations to Texas, said it is acquiring the First American Bank of Bryan, Tex. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. First American, with assets of $3.5 billion, has more than 100 branches with about 120,000 customers in Texas. Citigroup already has major consumer and commercial finance operations in Texas but no retail banking operations, officials said.
Syngenta, a Swiss biotechnology firm, said it has agreed to work with Delta and Pine Land of Scott, Miss., to develop and commercialize insect-resistant cotton.
United Airlines reached a settlement with a British union, averting a strike by 700 baggage handlers and check-in staffers at London's Heathrow Airport. Members vote on the agreement next week. Meanwhile, thousands of British Airways passengers were stranded at Heathrow by canceled flights and lengthy delays because of staff shortages and technical problems at the airline. The carrier canceled 21 flights to and from short-haul destinations in Britain and elsewhere in Europe yesterday -- a day after scrapping 25 flights to the United States and other European destinations.
Brazil received a $505 million loan from the World Bank to boost environmental management and fight poverty. The money will be used to improve the effectiveness of Brazil's environmental management system and the use of sustainable resources, the lender said. Brazil is South America's largest economy and has one-third of the world's tropical rainforests, the world's largest reservoir of fresh water and one of the longest coastlines, the World Bank said.
Russia adopted beer advertising restrictions that prohibit the use of people and animals to promote the drink and ban beer ads from the front and back pages of publications, Interfax said. Television and radio broadcasters can run beer commercials only between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and all beer ads should include a warning that drinking beer is a health hazard, the news service said.
MCI asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur J. Gonzalez to bar landowners in eight states from suing over the company's use of fiber-optic cables on their property. The class actions claim that the telecommunications company must pay landowners for its continuing use of fiber-optic cables buried under railroad rights of way. MCI, based in Ashburn, says the claims are no different from those that were barred as a result of its July 2002 bankruptcy filing, which blocked suits against the company.
CitiFinancial, a consumer lending division of Citigroup, plans to close its Hanover office and lay off 116 employees. Work at the center, near Baltimore-Washington International Airport, is being moved to support centers in Charlotte, Dallas and Phoenix.
H&R Block reported a loss of $44.1 million for its first quarter, saying its mortgage business was hurt by rising interest rates, but stood by its earlier prediction that it would earn between $4 and $4.25 per share for the year. The world's biggest tax preparer earned $5.2 million during the same period last year. Revenue slipped to $482.7 million from $495.4 million in the same period a year ago.
H.J. Heinz Co., the maker of ketchup and other foods, reported that its first-quarter earnings fell 9 percent, to $194.8 million, for the quarter ended July 28. Sales rose more than 5 percent, helped by the introduction of some new products, to $2 billion from $1.9 billion last year.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.