Mortgage delinquencies rose in the second quarter for the first time in a year, but foreclosures fell to their lowest level since 2000, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported. The share of homeowners who made payments a month or more late rose to a seasonally adjusted 4.43 percent, from 4.33 percent in the previous quarter. But the share of loans in foreclosure fell to 1.16 percent, from 1.27 percent in the first quarter.
E.U. Allows Genetically Altered Seeds
The European Union added the first genetically modified strains to its common seed catalog, allowing farmers across the continent to plant the corn. But the European Commission delayed a decision regarding how much stray bioengineered material can be tolerated in packages of conventional strains before it must be labeled. Separately, the commission was forced for a third time to ask E.U. ministers to approve a new genetically modified canola product, Monsanto's Roundup Ready, after a panel of experts deadlocked on the application in June.
The Treasury sold $15 billion of 5-year notes at a yield of 3.439 percent, down from 3.52 percent at the previous auction. It also sold $22 billion in four-week bills at a discount rate of 1.54 percent.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell endorsed an FCC staff proposal setting a January 2009 deadline for U.S. television broadcasters to switch to digital signals.
E. Kirk Shelton, a former vice chairman at Cendant, testified at his criminal trial that he had no knowledge of fraudulent accounting at a predecessor company or of anything wrong with one-page summaries to track false financial results. Cosmo Corigliano, a former finance chief who pleaded guilty and helped prosecutors, testified that he and Shelton regularly reviewed one-page "cheat sheets" that tracked improper accounting adjustments. Prosecutors say Shelton and former Cendant chairman Walter Forbes fabricated earnings at CUC International, which merged with HFS in 1997 to create Cendant, the world's largest hotel franchiser.
The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would impose criminal penalties for sharing copyrighted entertainment and software files over the Internet without paying for them. The bill would specifically target those users who make digital files available for online distribution.
Continental Airlines said it will charge extra for tickets not booked on its Web site. Customers who buy tickets through Continental's reservation centers will pay an extra $5 while those who complete their transactions at ticket counters will pay $10 more. American, Northwest and US Airways have imposed similar fees.
Two former Homestore employees will plead guilty to criminal charges and settle a Securities and Exchange Commission suit that they participated in fraudulent transactions to inflate the company's advertising revenue, officials said. They are Clayton Chan, 39, the former vice president of Homestore's strategic alliances group, and Geoffrey Infeld, 36, a former Homestore salesman who owned or controlled Internet companies he used to assist Homestore in the fraud, the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles and the SEC said.
Verizon agreed to sell SuperPages Canada, its Canadian telephone directory unit, to buyout firm Bain Capital for $1.54 billion to invest in faster-growing businesses. The sale is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be completed by the end of 2004, New York-based Verizon said. SuperPages Canada produces 188 books and had sales of $293 million in 2003.
The New York Stock Exchange has spent more than $100 million to ensure that it can prevent or recover from an interruption such as the one caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, its president, Robert G. Britz, told the House Financial Services Committee. The exchange has established a contingency trading floor, improved communications systems so operations can continue in an emergency and designed computers to handle four-character stock symbols so the NYSE can trade Nasdaq stocks, Britz said.
Former Walt Disney Co. president Michael Ovitz did nothing wrong in taking a $140 million severance package from the No. 2 U.S. media company, negotiated his employment contract in good faith and demanded only what was owed him when he stepped down in December 1996, Ovitz's lawyer told a judge. Disney shareholders say Ovitz violated his legal obligations to the company by changing the terms of his compensation and severance packages after he joined the company in October 1995. A trial is set for Oct. 18.
Frank's Nursery & Crafts will close and liquidate its assets after filing for bankruptcy for the second time in three years. The Troy, Mich., lawn and garden retailer, which listed $124 million in assets and $141 million in debt, is going out of business after failing to obtain a loan to fund a restructuring, it said in papers filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. The company will conduct going-out-of-business sales at all of its 169 stores in 14 states.
The Bank of Canada raised its benchmark interest rate for the first time in 17 months and signaled that it may increase borrowing costs further to keep inflation in check. Reversing course after five straight cuts through April, the central bank boosted its target rate for overnight loans between the country's commercial banks to 2.25 percent, equivalent to a U.S. federal funds rate of 1.5 percent, from a four-decade low of 2 percent.
The European Union moved closer to settling on new accounting standards for its more than 7,000 public companies as accounting authorities from a majority of the bloc's 25 countries supported a plan to leave out a proposal that would require derivatives to be booked at "fair value," with gains or losses on paper affecting a company's earnings even if the instruments are not for sale. Some banks objected to that provision. The accounting regulators are due to take a final vote Oct. 1. The E.U. will adopt the rest of the International Financial Reporting Standards next year.
Qantas said British Airways plans to sell its long-held 18.25 percent stake in the Australian carrier over the next two days for as much as $775 million. Qantas requested a trading halt to continue until the opening bell Friday, saying this would allow the market to absorb the information in an orderly fashion. The sale won't affect the airlines' joint services agreement, Quatas's chief executive said.
A German teenager who authorities say confessed to creating the Sasser computer worm in May has been charged with computer sabotage, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sven Jaschan, 18, was arrested after informants seeking a reward tipped off Microsoft. Sasser, which took advantage of a known flaw with Microsoft's Windows operating system, snarled tens of thousands of computers and caused Internet traffic to slow.
China National Petroleum, a state-owned company that is the nation's largest oil producer, has begun construction of two pipelines to connect major cities with fields in the western region. The parent company of PetroChina, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, said one line will be able to carry 20 million tons of oil per year 970 miles from Shanshan city to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu. Another -- with an annual capacity of 10 million tons -- will span 1,150 miles to link Xinjiang's capital, Urumchi, with Lanzhou. China's eastern oil fields are largely depleted.
Lockheed Martin and Boeing were chosen to compete to develop a system of 13,000 radios intended to improve communication among the nation's military branches. Boeing won a $55 million contract and Lockheed got $51 million for initial designs of the Airborne, Maritime and Fixed Station Joint Tactical Radio System, the Defense Department said in a statement. One of the companies will be picked for the program after the design work is completed at the end of 2005.
Bertelsmann said profit for the first half of its fiscal year quadrupled as earnings rose at its television and music businesses and as its Random House publishing unit got a boost from "The Da Vinci Code" and Bill Clinton's autobiography. Profit was $538 million (446 million euros), compared with 110 million euros during the comparable period last year, the German company said.
Accor reported a 24 percent drop in first-half profit, to $97.2 million (81 million euros) from 106 million euros in the same period a year earlier, as its brands such as Sofitel and Motel 6 suffered from the uneven recovery in the global travel market.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.