Consumer confidence fell in August more than had been expected, a private research group said. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index, which had risen since April, dropped 7.5 points to 98.2 from a revised reading of 105.7 in July. August's reading was the lowest since May, when it registered 93.1. The report, which had an Aug. 24 cutoff date for preliminary results, included a period in which oil prices surged, briefly exceeding $49 a barrel, before falling at the end of the month.

Schwab Dumps Capital Markets Unit

Charles Schwab Corp. is selling its capital markets division to UBS for $265 million cash less than a year after the San Francisco discount brokerage bought it for $321 million. The sale comes as Schwab refocuses on individual investors after a string of poor earnings reports led to the resignation of chief executive David S. Pottruck in July. UBS expects to close the deal by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval.

MORE NEWS

Bumble Bee Seafoods will be acquired by Connors Bros. Income Fund, the world's biggest producer of canned sardines, under a settlement with the Justice Department's antitrust division that requires Connors to divest its Nova Scotia sardine snack business.

LH Ross, a Boca Raton, Fla., brokerage, was ordered to stop raising money. NASD enforcement officials said the brokerage has been engaging in fraudulent sales of its own stock. At least 15 brokers in eight branch offices made misrepresentations to investors, the securities industry's regulatory group said.

Roger D. Blackwell, a professor at Ohio State University and nationally known marketing expert and author, was indicted on charges of sharing information with family and friends about the acquisition of Worthington Foods while he was on the company's board of directors, generating $880,000 in illegal profit through stock trading.

Dick Grasso, the former New York Stock Exchange chief executive, asked a federal court not to return New York state Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer's compensation lawsuit against him to a state court. Spitzer sued Grasso on June 17 to recover at least $100 million of Grasso's pay. Spitzer's July 20 motion to move the case back to state court said federal courts have jurisdiction over the NYSE only with regard to its regulatory or self-policing function.

Sherwin-Williams plans to sell blast-resistant panels that can protect people inside buildings from terrorist attacks. The prefabricated panels contain para-aramid fibers used in body armor sandwiched between layers of polyurea coatings that stretch like a balloon when hit by flying debris, the paint retailer said.

New River Pharmaceuticals received notice from the Food and Drug Administration that its investigational drug NRP104 has been given fast-track status for the treatment of cocaine dependence.

American Electric Power plans to build by 2010 at least one plant that will convert coal into gas and pass it through pollutant-removal equipment before it is burned, as recommended by a panel formed as part of an agreement with shareholders.

The Labor Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a low-wage worker in Boston who claims she was cheated out of overtime pay. A federal court ruled in favor of Megan McLaughlin's employer, Boston Harbor Cruise Lines, saying she was exempt from extra pay under a "seaman" exemption to the overtime law. The department argued that the exemption was for a worker who helped navigate the vessel; McLaughlin said that she only collected tickets and cleaned the boats.

INTERNATIONAL

U.S. duties on Canadian lumber are not supported by evidence of harm to U.S. sawmills, a North American Free Trade Agreement panel ruled. The Bush administration applied 27 percent duties two years ago to counter alleged subsidies.

Parmalat USA has been granted an extra week to file a bankruptcy exit plan and avoid defaulting on its financing agreements. General Electric Capital and Citigroup gave the U.S. unit of Parmalat Finanziaria, Italy's biggest food company, until Sept. 9 to file a plan that is "acceptable to a majority in interest of the lenders," the company said in papers filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Also, the parent company said revenue fell during the first seven months of 2004 to $3.01 billion (2.5 billion euros), from 2.7 billion euros during the same period a year ago.

Workers at Peru's biggest copper producer went on strike for higher wages and to thwart a planned merger with an unprofitable unit of its parent, Grupo Mexico. About 1,400 employees of Southern Peru Copper stayed off the job at the Toquepala and Cuajone mines when the morning shifts began, a union official said.

LOCAL BUSINESS

CarrAmerica Realty, a real estate investment trust based in the District, purchased the Commercial National Bank building at 14th and G streets NW from Chesterton, a London-based investment advisory group, for $84 million.

General Dynamics won a contract worth up to $123 million over five years to operate and maintain nine military supply ships. Work under the contract will be mainly at ports along the East Coast and will be completed by September 2009, the Navy said.

EARNINGS

Bayer profit was flat in the second quarter at 128 million euros ($154 million), mostly because of one-time charges, the German drug company said. Sales rose 4.5 percent, to 7.9 billion euros ($9.14 billion).

Albertsons reported profit of $104 million during the second quarter, down 36 percent from the second quarter of 2003. Sales were $10.2 billion.

AvalonBay Communities said profit fell sharply in the second quarter, to $32.9 million (46 cents per share) from $73.8 million in the second quarter of 2003. The Alexandria real estate investment trust said last year's figure was larger because of increased asset sales.

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

Italian airline Alitalia met with unions, trying to persuade them to accept a restructuring plan. Shares of Alitalia fell to a record low after the company said it had enough cash to stay in business only another month.