A Sept. 3 Business item incorrectly said that Kaplan Inc. is based in Chicago. Kaplan is based in New York; its Kaplan Professional division is based in Chicago. (Published 9/4/04)

Workers' productivity increased at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the spring, the smallest gain since late 2002. Productivity is the amount an employee produces for every hour on the job. The increase was down from an initial estimate of a 2.9 percent increase for the April-to-June quarter, and it marked a deceleration from the 3.7 percent growth rate posted in the first three months of the year, the Labor Department said. A slowdown in overall production affected productivity. Gross domestic product, which measures the value of all goods and services produced in a country, rose at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the second quarter, compared with a 4.5 percent rate in the first quarter.

Mutual Fund Rules Challenged

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents 3 million businesses, filed suit to overturn a new Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring mutual fund boards to have independent chairmen. The suit, filed in federal court in Washington, also challenges the agency's requirement that fund boards have 75 percent outside directors.

MORE NEWS

Kaplan Professional, a division of Chicago-based Kaplan Inc., said it had acquired the Saenger Organization, which provides certification and training for insurance industry professionals. Saenger, based in Medway, Mass., is Kaplan's third insurance-industry-related acquisition this year. Terms were not disclosed. Kaplan is a subsidiary of The Washington Post Co.

Polaris Industries said it would stop making personal watercraft because the market for them is shrinking, with little prospect for improvement. The company's marine division, never profitable, lost $13 million last year.

Mortgage rates fell. Rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 5.77 percent, their lowest level in five months, for the week ended Sept. 2, Freddie Mac said in its weekly nationwide survey. For 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular refinancing option, rates dipped to 5.15 percent, while rates for one-year adjustable rate mortgages declined to 3.97 percent, the federally chartered mortgage finance company said.

American Airlines said it will charge customers $5 for buying tickets over the phone and $10 for buying them at airport counters, effective Monday. The fees are designed to encourage more people to buy tickets on American's Web site, which costs the airline less.

A federal judge ended a 10-year lawsuit over the closing of a McDonnell Douglas plant in Tulsa. Chief District Judge Sven Erik Holmes approved a settlement under which the company will pay former employees $8.1 million in back wages, or about $5,800 each after attorneys' fees. Workers agreed last year to settle on pension and health care benefits for $36 million.

Northwest Airlines, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, canceled a fee announced Aug. 24 after travel agents and fare distributors objected and most rivals failed to match the move. Northwest planned to charge travel agents in North America $3.75 per one-way ticket and $7.50 per round-trip on travel in the United States if they used a global distribution system to issue Northwest tickets.

Sears illegally fired an automotive repair store manager in Maple Shade, N.J., because he was black, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has charged in a lawsuit. Sears said it would contest the lawsuit and that firing was done according to company policy.

Lucent Technologies may receive an $816 million federal income tax refund related to its multibillion-dollar losses at the height of the telecom industry slump. The telecommunications gear manufacturer filed a SEC document saying the Internal Revenue Service has tentatively approved a claim for what is known as a net-operating-loss carryback. The claim covers Lucent's 2001 fiscal year, when the company reported a net loss of $16.2 billion.

National Environmental Services' former chief executive was ordered to serve nine years and two months in federal prison and pay a $3.5 million fine for a scheme that forced the Tulsa company into bankruptcy. Eddy Lynn Patterson was sentenced following his conviction on 22 counts of conspiracy, fraud, tax evasion and making false statements on loan documents.

Merrill Lynch agreed to buy an energy trading unit from Entergy, a New Orleans electric utility, and Koch Industries, a privately held integrated oil company, for undisclosed terms. The two companies are liquidating their Entergy-Koch joint venture, which also owns a pipeline business. The acquisition marks Merrill Lynch's return to the business, which it left in March 2001 when it sold its energy trading desk to Allegheny Energy for $490 million.

Nortel Networks, which is restating results back through 2001, said it won't have financial statements for this or last year ready until the end of October, a month later than planned. The volume and complexity of the restatement caused the delay, said a spokeswoman for the telephone-equipment maker.

Continental Airlines said it will eliminate 425 jobs, mostly managers and clerical workers, to help reduce annual costs by $200 million. Unless fares rise, the Houston carrier also will have to cut wages and benefits, its chief executive said. The company said it is negotiating savings from suppliers and is seeking to trim expenses for fuel, facilities and ticket distribution.

Cinergy, which owns utilities in three states, said it plans to spend at least $2 billion on projects to reduce air pollution from power plants in Ohio and Indiana to meet pending federal environmental rules. Cinergy is asking regulators in the two states to raise electricity rates to pay for improvements that will allow coal-fired generators to keep running, a spokesman said. The upgrades are intended to cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain.

The NASD issued recommendations to help the public fight a type of online identity theft known as "phishing," including being aware of unsolicited e-mails that appear to come from financial institutions. The number of such attacks rose in each of the first five months of this year, to 1,197 in May from 176 in January, the NASD said. Phishing refers to fraudulent e-mails intended to steal a computer user's personal information.

First-time unemployment claims rose last week more than any time since mid-April, a jump that partly reflects lingering effects of Hurricane Charley. First-time applications for unemployment benefits rose by 19,000, to 362,000, the Labor Department said. July factory orders rose the most in four months and productivity gains slowed last quarter, according to government reports.

Payless ShoeSource said it will cut an undisclosed number of jobs and that President Duane Cantrell quit and is resigning from the board. Chief executive Steven Douglass will assume Cantrell's duties. The Topeka shoe retailer plans to close or sell 703 stores and stop operating its Parade of Shoes stores by January as part of a plan to save $12 million a year.

INTERNATIONAL

The European Union was set to approve proposals to allow more flexibility in budgeting rules. The reforms to the deficit cap are intended to provide more breathing room during long periods of economic weakness to countries struggling to meet E.U. targets. Roughly half of the 25 E.U. countries were over the limit on public deficits for the year, and France and Germany have violated the deficit ceiling three years in a row.

The European Central Bank raised its economic growth forecast for the 12 nations using the euro and kept its key interest rate at record lows as it waits for the recovery to firm up. The bank's president said that conditions for continued recovery are in place and that the bank thinks consumer price levels will stay within its expectations.

RECALLS

Target is recalling 74,400 electric scooters because faulty wiring and poor insulation can pose fire or shock hazards, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said. The Minneapolis retailer has received reports of property damage caused by Leoch Electric Scooters and reports of scooters starting or moving on their own. The recalled scooters, manufactured by Leoch E-Vehicle of China, are model number DK24350-3. Consumers can return the scooters to Target for a refund.

International Business Machines recalled 553,000 notebook computer adapters sold worldwide because they can overheat. IBM is not aware of any injuries caused by the 56-watt AC power adapters but has received at least six reports of overheating, which can damage the circuit board, the CPSC said. Most of the adapters accompanied IBM ThinkPad i Series, 390 and 240 Series and s Series notebooks. The rectangular product has three hollow pins on one end that connect to a cord, and the IBM logo and the number 02K6549 appear on the label.

Suzuki is recalling 172,093 Vitara sport-utility vehicles from model years 1999 through 2004 because a fuel-system defect may cause engine fires in cold weather, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. The action follows Honda's recall of 69,538 Odyssey minivans from the 2004 model year because the vehicles may stall and raise the risk of a crash, NHTSA said.

EARNINGS

Del Monte Foods said fiscal first-quarter profit decreased 41 percent, to $8.5 million, hit by the cost of integrating brands acquired from H.J. Heinz and higher commodity costs and marketing expenses.

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

Passengers check the schedule board at the American Airlines terminal at Chicago O'Hare International Airport in August. Major U.S. airlines were behind schedule more often from January through July than through the first seven months of last year, the Transportation Department said. On-time arrivals, which the department defines as within 15 minutes of the scheduled time, fell to 77.6 percent from 82.35 percent. Chicago's O'Hare International had the worst on-time arrival performance of 31 major airports, with 65 percent of its flights delayed.