U.S. consumer prices barely rose in August, restrained by cheaper automobiles and apparel. The 0.1 percent increase in the consumer price index compares with a 0.1 percent decline in July, the Labor Department said. The core rate, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.1 percent. So far this year, consumer prices are rising at a 3.7 percent annual rate. A separate report by the Labor Department showed initial jobless claims rose 16,000, to 333,000, last week.

China Pressured on Product Piracy

The American Chambers of Commerce in China and Shanghai complained that product piracy is worsening in China and warned that lack of patent and copyright protection is hurting high-tech investment, adding to pressure for China to stop intellectual property rights abuses. The U.S. business groups appealed for tougher Chinese penalties to stop the copying of goods. U.S. officials say piracy costs companies worldwide as much as $50 billion a year in lost sales and have threatened China with possible sanctions.

MORE NEWS

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles charged 11 people with conspiring to counterfeit $87 million in software from Microsoft, Adobe and Symantec.

Organized labor is starting to track companies that ship U.S. jobs overseas and will make the information available to the public in a database at www.workingamerica.org. Working America, an AFL-CIO affiliate, has compiled the information from sources that include the government's trade-adjustment assistance program for workers who lose jobs because of trade, companies' annual reports and financial disclosures, and research by interest groups.

Williams Cos. is abandoning efforts to sell its energy trading business, the once high-flying unit that nearly made the Tulsa natural gas transmission company insolvent when it collapsed. Williams has had difficulty finding a buyer or joint venture partner for its energy trading division, which consists largely of six long-term power contracts.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said companies may no longer exclude shareholder proposals from their proxy ballots when the proposals contain an investor's opinion or facts that the company disputes. Companies may exclude proposals that impugn the character of the firm, those with false information or those that are so vague that shareholders don't know what they're being asked to vote on, the SEC said.

Clear Channel Communications said it will convert 20 to 25 stations to Hispanic formats in the next 12 to 18 months. The company said an Atlanta news and talk station will be the first converted and will focus on Spanish contemporary music.

Eastman Kodak agreed to work with IBM to make image sensors for digital cameras and camera phones. Terms of the multiyear partnership weren't disclosed. IBM will contribute its semiconductor technology to help Kodak develop sensors with better image quality, the companies said in a statement.

Mortgage rates were mixed, Freddie Mac reported in its weekly survey. Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages dropped to 5.75 percent from last week's 5.83 percent, the survey showed, the lowest rate on 30-year mortgages since the beginning of April. For 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, rates decreased to 5.13 percent from 5.22 percent. Rates on one-year, adjustable-rate mortgages rose slightly, to 4.03 percent from 4 percent.

Thomas C. Schievelbein, president of Northrop Grumman's Newport News shipyard, will retire early to pursue personal interests, the defense contractor said. He will be succeeded by C. Michael Petters, the shipyard's vice president of human resources, administration and trades, on Nov. 1.

Delta Air Lines has formed a partnership with Alaska Air Group's Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air units under which the carriers will share flight codes and offer lounge and frequent-flier benefits for one another's customers. They plan to discuss other areas of cooperation, such as air logistics and expanded cooperation with facilities and passenger handling programs. The agreements, subject to Department of Transportation review, also require approval from Delta's pilots union.

Microsoft has been ordered by a California judge to pay $112.5 million to lawyers who sued it for monopolizing the pre-installed software market in the state from 1995 to 2001. The suit resulted in Microsoft agreeing to allocate $1.1 billion for the state's consumers. The attorneys had requested $258 million, and Microsoft had proposed paying them about $75 million.

Manulife Financial, the world's fifth-largest life insurer, bought a 37-floor office building in downtown Chicago for $222 million. The building was sold by a partnership of the California Public Employees' Retirement System and Hines, an international real estate firm, the Toronto firm said in a statement.

Hamilton Sundstrand, a unit of United Technologies that makes spacesuits for NASA, won a contract with a potential value of $814 million to manage all of the activities and equipment associated with spacewalks. The value is based on a five-year contract and five possible one-year extensions, NASA said in a statement.

INTERNATIONAL

Sony predicted its profit from electronics will be little changed in the third quarter, which includes the holiday shopping season, because of slim margins on flat-panel televisions, restructuring costs and shrinking demand for audio equipment.

LOCAL BUSINESS

XM Satellite Radio's shares hit a new 52-week high a day after the company said it would begin broadcasting its commercial-free radio stations to subscribers over the Internet. Shares in XM, based in the District, ended the session up $1.12, or 3.8 percent, at $30.58. XM plans to launch subscription-based XM Radio Online in mid-October.

Laureate Education, based in Baltimore, said it bought the 49 percent of online school Walden University it didn't already own for about $105 million in stock and debt. The company, formerly known as Sylvan Learning Systems, is paying minority shareholders 2.5 million shares and is assuming a $19 million note payable next year.

The District's Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development picked District-based CSG Urban Partners and Trammell Crow to develop a 174-room hotel, restaurants and shops on a 31,000-square-foot site at 201 Florida Ave. NE, just north of the New York Avenue Metro station.

National Energy & Gas Transmission has agreed to sell its stake in 12 power plants and a natural gas pipeline to a Goldman Sachs subsidiary for $656 million. The deal between Bethesda-based NEGT, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year, and GS Power Holdings II is subject to approval by a Maryland bankruptcy judge and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2005. Goldman Sachs already owns interests in nine of the plants.

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

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, left, meets with Intel chief executive Craig R. Barrett. Brazil probably won't get an Intel plant, despite its courting of semiconductor makers, because its labor costs are too high when compared with such nations as China, India and Russia, Barrett said. Barrett encouraged the nation to focus on developing new ways to implement technology, an area in which it has succeeded, rather than trying to become a manufacturing base.