Retail sales rose only 0.2 percent in October after a 1.6 percent increase in September, the Commerce Department said. Automobile sales declined 2.2 percent after climbing 4.3 percent in September when buyer incentives were restored. Clothing store sales climbed 3 percent in October; general department store sales rose 0.9 percent. U.S. business inventories rose 0.1 percent in September, to $1.26 billion, the slowest monthly rate of increase in more than a year.

Fannie Mae to Increase Capital Surplus

Fannie Mae, the largest source of money for U.S. home mortgages, was to submit to its regulator yesterday a plan for increasing its capital surplus 30 percent above the required minimum, a company spokesman said. District-based Fannie Mae on Sept. 27 agreed with the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight to expand its capital surplus to dispel the regulator's concerns about accounting errors. OFHEO said in September that as of June 30 Fannie Mae's core capital was 15.8 percent above its minimum.

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Two multinational banks fined for violating U.S. sanctions against Iraq during Saddam Hussein's regime received contracts from the U.S.-led postwar government in Iraq. The Coalition Provisional Authority awarded one of the first foreign banking licenses in Iraq to HSBC, the only firm fined twice for transactions with Iraq by the U.S. Treasury Department. J. P. Morgan Chase, which U.S. officials chose to manage the Trade Bank of Iraq, paid a fine four years ago to resolve allegations that its Chase Manhattan Bank allowed a $50,000 funds transfer.

The Georgia insurance commissioner rejected Anthem's proposed $16.4 billion acquisition of WellPoint Health Networks, which would create the nation's largest health insurance company. Anthem has said the merger would improve health care in Georgia, but Commissioner John W. Oxendine said Georgia must see additional benefits before he will approve Anthem's acquisition of WellPoint, the California-based parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia.

Merck does not plan to cut its dividend to pay for legal costs associated with the withdrawal of the Vioxx painkiller, Chief Financial Officer Judy C. Lewent said. The company has $14 billion in cash and investments to cover legal costs from the more than 370 lawsuits concerning Vioxx that have been filed, she said.

Chesapeake Corp., which makes packaging and labels for food and drugs, said the Securities and Exchange Commission recommended civil actions after investigating the company's earnings restatements in 2000. The SEC may take action against the company and four former employees for alleged securities law violations, Chesapeake said in a filing.

EchoStar Communications, the parent company of satellite TV service Dish Network, named David J. Rayner, chief financial officer at Time Warner Telecom, as its finance chief effective Dec. 27.

INTERNATIONAL

Economic growth in the 12 European nations using the euro common currency slowed sharply in the third quarter, to 0.3 percent from the second quarter and 1.9 percent from the third quarter of 2003, led by weaker-than-expected results in France and Germany, the European Union statistics agency reported. In the second quarter, gross domestic product expanded by 0.5 percent for the quarter and 2 percent for the year.

EARNINGS

GSE Systems, a Columbia maker of simulation software, reduced its third-quarter loss to $137,000 (2 cents a share) on revenue of $7.3 million, compared with a loss of $696,000 (13 cents) on revenue of $6.1 million in the third quarter of 2003.

SunTrust Banks' third-quarter profit rose 11 percent, to $368.8 million, and the company restated its earnings for the first half of the year higher by $25.1 million for the improper booking of nonperforming loan reserves. Third-quarter revenue rose 7.2 percent, to $1.52 billion.

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