U.S. companies paid 1.7 percent more for imported goods and materials last month than in July, largely because of higher prices for petroleum, metals and building materials, the Labor Department said. The rise in the import price index followed a revised 0.3 percent increase in July. Excluding petroleum, the index rose 0.4 percent in August after no change. Meanwhile, the price of U.S. exports decreased 0.5 percent last month after rising 0.5 percent in July.

Ebbers Asks for Delay in MCI Suit

Bernard J. Ebbers asked a federal bankruptcy judge to postpone a lawsuit his former company filed against him until his criminal fraud trial ends. WorldCom, based in Ashburn and now known as MCI, has sued its former chief executive to recover $408 million in loans and dismiss his $12 million claim against the company. Ebbers is accused of orchestrating an $11 billion fraud that led to WorldCom's record 2002 bankruptcy. His criminal trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 9.

MORE NEWS

The Federal Communications Commission agreed to consider freeing up new airwaves in the 1.9 gigahertz frequency range for advanced services, potentially including wireless Internet access. The airwaves, which could be auctioned about a year and a half from now, are adjacent to those that Nextel Communications of Reston would control if the company accepts a deal to swap out some of its existing airwaves for some also in the 1.9 gigahertz range. Some other carriers have argued against use of the new airwaves, citing concerns about interference with existing cellular phone systems.

Initial U.S. jobless claims dropped last week, partly reflecting a slowdown in filings related to Hurricane Charley. For the week ended Sept. 4, new applications fell by a seasonally adjusted 44,000, to 319,000. That is the lowest level since July 3, the Labor Department said.

Reader's Digest Association said it began recording costs for magazine direct-response promotions as they occur, rather than deferring and amortizing certain charges later. Because of the change, the company posted a one-time charge of $27 million for the quarter ended June 30. It said it will amortize the remaining $77 million deferred balance in fiscal 2005.

Time Warner is interested in possibly acquiring Adelphia Communications but has not yet seen the beleaguered cable television supplier's books. "We will take a very hard look at Adelphia when the materials are available," Chief Financial Officer Wayne H. Pace said.

RealNetworks' bid to lure Internet music buyers was successful enough to eat into its profit. The maker of Internet audio and video software said it sold 3 million songs at a discounted rate of 49 cents, and it projected that will widen its loss this quarter by 1 cent per share, to 3 to 5 cents.

The American Stock Exchange, the third-biggest U.S. stock-options market, plans to prohibit specialists from billing brokers for most electronically executed trades and for orders that are canceled. The proposal, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Aug. 30, follows a plan by Susquehanna Investment Group to charge brokers commissions on orders and cancellations for options and exchange-traded funds.

The Chicago Climate Exchange applied to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to become a U.S. futures exchange. The exchange would offer contracts based on emissions allowances for carbon dioxide and other gases that may cause global warming.

INTERNATIONAL

The International Monetary Fund said it plans to begin lending money to Iraq in the fourth quarter. To qualify for new loans, Iraq must repay $76 million it has owed to the IMF since 1990. In January, the head of the IMF's Iraq team said the country could receive as much as $4.25 billion over three years.

Volkswagen said more than 30,000 jobs could be at risk if labor unions refuse to forgo wage increases and make other concessions. The German automaker has said it could not offer wage increases but said that in return it would not cut its 176,500-strong German workforce for the proposed two-year duration of the deal. Talks are due to start Wednesday.

Sina, a Shanghai Internet service provider, become the latest company to receive sanctions from governmentcontrolled China Mobile Communication. China Mobile alleges that Sina provided customers with inappropriate content and undertook an unauthorized telephone information services expansion. Sina said it would suspend some of its services and would not be able to develop new applications for three to six months.

OPEC agreed to raise its target range for oil prices from its current $22 to $28 a barrel, an Iranian official said. A majority of the 11 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries support raising the average price to $30 a barrel when OPEC meets Sept. 15.

RECALL

Hasbro recalled about 230,000 Super Soaker Monster Rockets because of reported injuries to users and bystanders. Consumers are asked to stop using the rockets and can contact Hasbro to receive a replacement product of equal value. The rocket, made in China and sold in the United States since January, cost about $30.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Harris Interactive of Rochester, N.Y., a market research and consulting firm known for the Harris Poll, said it has acquired WirthlinWorldwide of Reston for $41.8 million in stock and cash. WirthlinWorldwide, a privately held polling and strategic consulting firm, was founded by Richard B. Wirthlin, who was President Ronald Reagan's pollster and political strategist. Wirthlin will join the board of the combined company, which has more than 1,000 employees and said it expects to have more than $210 million in revenue this fiscal year.

T. Rowe Price Group, the largest publicly traded U.S. manager of equity mutual funds, elected J. Alfred Broaddus Jr., who retired as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond on Aug. 1 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65, as an independent director. Broaddus's addition increases the directors on T. Rowe's board to 12, of whom seven are independent, said Brian Lewbart, a spokesman for Baltimore-based T. Rowe.

EARNINGS

Smith & Wesson said first-quarter profit more than doubled, to $1.5 million from $585,000 in the same period last year, thanks to efficiency and lower spending.

National Semiconductor reported first-quarter profit that nearly quadrupled, to $117.7 million from $29.7 million in the same period last year.

Take-Two Interactive Software said it had a third-quarter net loss of $14.4 million, compared with a profit of $5.7 million in the same quarter a year earlier. The company reported higher-than-expected sales boosted by ESPN NFL 2005, which is priced below competing products. Revenue rose 5.8 percent, to $160.9 million.

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

Britain's top home-improvement chain, B&Q, plans to nearly quadruple its presence in China by 2008. Home Depot announced in June that it would expand into China, hoping to become the largest home-improvement chain in Asia.