Oil closed the week above $50 a barrel, reflecting concerns about supply disruption overseas and hurricane damage to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The Bush administration said it would allow a fourth oil company to borrow crude from the strategic petroleum reserve. Prices also rose on threats by rebels to disrupt Nigerian supplies. The International Monetary Fund said higher oil prices would only slightly reduce its forecast of global growth to 4.3 percent next year, but some private forecasters aren't so sanguine.
From Pentagon to Prison
The Air Force's former top procurement official acknowledged she gave Boeing favorable treatment on at least four major contracts beginning in 2000, when the company found a job for her daughter's boyfriend. Darleen Druyun was sentenced to nine months in prison and seven months of community confinement on conflict-of-interest charges. She was originally charged with secretly arranging a Boeing job for herself while negotiating with the company over the price of a controversial Air Force tanker contract.
Slicing Up the Money Pie
Finance ministers in Washington for the annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund worked on a debt-relief plan for the world's poorest nations. The complex arrangement, proposed by Britain, would involve revaluing gold reserves held by the IMF. But both bank and fund are concerned that if loans are written off and future assistance to these countries is given only as outright grants, as the United States insists, the amount available to lend to creditworthy countries will be much reduced.
Cash in the Balance
IBM reached a partial settlement with retirees and older employees who claimed they were discriminated against when the company altered the terms of its pension plan. IBM agreed to pay $300 million immediately, while the employees agreed to cap IBM's future liability at $1.4 billion, pending the outcome of a federal appeals court ruling in the age-discrimination suit. The company previously estimated an adverse ruling could force it to pay out up to $6.5 billion in benefits for 130,000 present and former employees.
The nation's two largest cable companies are preparing to bid to buy the fifth-largest cable firm out of bankruptcy -- and nobody, it seems, finds it at all unusual. Comcast, with 21.5 million subscribers, and Time Warner, with 10.9 million, could be forced to pay as much as $19 billion for Adelphia Communications. It's all part of a complicated plan for Comcast to expand its reach while cashing out a 21 percent stake in Time Warner that it inherited in an earlier acquisition, without paying taxes on the capital gain.