Productivity grew at a 1.9 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the smallest gain since late 2002, the Labor Department reported. The increase in productivity -- the amount an employee produces for every hour of work -- followed a 3.9 percent pace registered in the second quarter but was better than the 1.7 percent growth rate some economists were forecasting. In a second report, the Labor Department said initial claims for unemployment benefits plunged last week by a seasonally adjusted 19,000, to 332,000.

Heavier Fliers Costing Airlines More

America's growing waistlines are hurting the bottom lines of airline companies as the extra pounds on passengers are causing a drag on planes, adding to fuel costs, a new government study says. Through the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The extra weight caused airlines to spend $275 million to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000, the federal agency estimated in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


Altria Group is beginning to make the needed preparations to possibly split into several parts to maximize shareholder value, chief executive Louis C. Camilleri said. He suggested that the company would need to resolve three legal cases involving tobacco before the division, which could include spinning off Kraft Foods as a separate company.

Wachovia said it agreed to pay $37 million to settle disclosure violations with the Securities and Exchange Commission involving share purchases made during its merger with First Union. The two banks failed to disclose in regulatory filings the total number of First Union shares that Wachovia bought before the merger was complete, according to an SEC statement. Wachovia neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.

Adelphia Communications cannot win its $3.2 billion lawsuit against founder John J. Rigas and his sons because the family used the money to benefit the company, the family's lawyer argued in court. Lawrence G. McMichael said the Rigases used the money to purchase cable companies at the request of directors and bought Adelphia securities to encourage other investors to do the same.

Viacom plans to bid for the rest of Internet site to gain full ownership of a financial news source for its CBS broadcast unit, the media company told the SEC. Viacom owns about 20 percent of MarketWatch, as does Pearson PLC.

Jurors who convicted the four former Merrill Lynch bankers and a former Enron finance executive heard from experts regarding investor losses stemming from the 1999 barge deal. The defendants could serve a matter of months or more than a dozen years, depending on whether the jury agrees with the government's contention that the loss exceeded $40 million or a defense expert who places any loss at less than $1 million.

SBC Communications and BellSouth will buy online directory publisher through their Internet phone book joint venture. The companies said the acquisition will combine 50 million monthly searches, resulting in increased traffic to advertisers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Helen E. Holcomb will serve as interim president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the regional bank said. Holcomb, the bank's chief operating officer, will succeed Robert D. McTeer Jr., who is resigning to become chancellor of Texas A&M University. If no successor is chosen before Feb. 2, Holcomb will vote on interest rate policy at the Fed's Open Market Committee meeting.

Mortgage rates rose, Freddie Mac said. Rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.70 percent for the week ended Nov. 4, up from 5.64 percent the week before. Rates for 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 5.08 percent from 5.01 percent, while rates for one-year adjustable rate mortgages increased to 4 percent from 3.96 percent.

Archer Daniels Midland and Metabolix formed a joint venture to develop and sell a new generation of plastics derived from corn and other renewable resources. The two companies plan to build a plant to make and sell 50,000 tons annually of the new plastics for use in coated paper, film, molded goods and other products.

Former Cendant executives Walter Forbes and E. Kirk Shelton, who are accused of inflating income at a predecessor company, awaited a decision in their criminal fraud trial as jurors ended their first day of deliberations.

Fremont Investment Advisors agreed to pay more than $3 million to settle charges by New York Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer and the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had allowed market timing and late trading of its mutual funds to benefit a few clients at the expense of most investors.

Motorola said it agreed to purchase Crisnet, a privately held developer of records management for criminal justice and public safety customers. Terms were not disclosed.

Kenneth R. Feinberg, the special master of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, was appointed to administer a $225 million restitution fund set up when Computer Associates International settled claims of accounting fraud. The money will go to shareholders who were victims of the fraud.

A former student at the University of Texas was indicted on charges of hacking into the school's computer system and stealing Social Security numbers and other personal information from more than 37,000 students and employees. Christopher A. Phillips's attorney said he had no criminal intent.

Paul G. Allen sold 4.9 million of his DreamWorks Animation shares for $137.3 million.


Key European banks left their target interest rates unchanged as oil prices continue challenging Western economies. The European Central Bank's main borrowing rate, which directly affects the 12 nations using the euro, stayed at a post-World War II low of 2 percent, where it has been since June 2003. The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee kept the benchmark lending rate at 4.75 percent on signs of a slowing economy.


Valvoline is recalling about 2.8 million cans of brake cleaner because a spray valve can stick open. Valvoline has received nine complaints, and one person was injured when the cleaner sprayed into his eye, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said. The 13-ounce cans branded Pyroil and NAPA were sold nationwide between March and September. Purchasers can contact Valvoline for a replacement by calling 800-255-3533.


CVS, the nation's largest drugstore chain, posted third-quarter earnings of $184.6 million, down from $187.8 million in the same period last year, as it absorbed the cost of acquiring part of rival Eckerd. Revenue rose to $7.91 billion from $6.38 billion.

Univision Communications, the largest U.S. Spanish-language television and radio broadcaster, said third-quarter profit rose 74 percent, to $73.4 million from $42.2 million in the corresponding quarter a year earlier. Revenue was up 49 percent, to $477.4 million.

Sinclair Broadcast Group said third-quarter profit fell 46 percent, to $3.51 million from $6.46 million in the same quarter a year earlier, as automobile advertising declined. The Hunt Valley, Md., company said revenue rose 1.1 percent, to $181.5 million.

Charter Communications lost nearly $3.3 billion in the third quarter, compared with a profit of $37 million in the same quarter a year earlier, largely due to a $2.4 billion charge to reflect the decreased value of some of the cable television company's assets. Revenue increased by 3 percent, to $1.25 billion.

Qwest Communications International posted a third-quarter loss of $569 million, compared with a profit of $1.83 billion in the same period a year earlier, after setting aside money to settle lawsuits stemming from an accounting fraud. Revenue fell 3.4 percent, to $3.45 billion.

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

Smithfield Foods, with headquarters in Smithfield, Va., bought meat processors in Poland and Romania for a combined $83 million. Smithfield's Animex Group, the largest meat processor in Poland, purchased Morliny, which has revenue of more than $100 million, said Smithfield, the world's largest hog and pork producer. It also bought Comtim Group, its second acquisition in Romania, which has production facilities with a capacity of 15,000 sows.