A French appeals court upheld billionaire investor George Soros's conviction for insider trading. Soros has acknowledged he knew about a Paris financier's plans to take over Societe Generale in late 1988, but he denied that knowing about the raid influenced his acquisition of shares in the bank. Attorneys for Soros said he planned to appeal to France's supreme court.

Freddie Mac's Loan Portfolio Grows

Freddie Mac said its loan portfolio grew in February for the first time in seven months as loans increased by $7.26 billion, to $654.8 billion. The McLean-based federally chartered home mortgage company said that it agreed to buy $12.9 billion of mortgage loans and securities in February, up from $12.2 billion in January, and that the balance of its guaranteed mortgage bonds grew by $6 billion, to $1.22 trillion.

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Orders for durable goods rose 0.3 percent in February, led by computers, aircraft and metals, the Commerce Department said. The increase followed a 1.1 percent decline in January. Orders excluding transportation fell 0.2 percent, the first drop in three months, after a 0.9 percent increase in January, the Commerce Department said.

ChoicePoint was sued by stockholders who accuse top executives of insider trading after 145,000 consumer records were stolen from its computers. The Atlanta suit says officials of the credit-reporting firm sold more than $18 million in stock and misled the public about company security before revealing the information theft.

Flowserve, a maker of pumps and valves, will pay a $350,000 civil fine to settle regulators' charges that it illegally disclosed financial information to analysts ahead of the public in 2002. Its chief executive, C. Scott Greer, is paying $50,000. The settlement is the first Regulation FD, or Fair Disclosure, case involving a company reaffirming its previous expectations for earnings, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

Toshiba, Japan's second-biggest chipmaker, was told by a jury to pay $84 million in punitive damages to Lexar Media, on top of a $381.4 million award the jury ordered Wednesday. The state court jury in San Jose agreed with Lexar's claims that Toshiba broke a 1997 agreement to co-develop flash memory and then shared it with SanDisk, Lexar's largest competitor.

Yahoo asked a federal appeals court to shield U.S.-based Internet portals whose content is protected by the First Amendment but may be illegal in other countries from foreign suits. Some judges suggested Yahoo's request may be premature since two groups have shown little interest in collecting on a French court's judgment against Yahoo.

Computer security at the Securities and Exchange Commission is lax enough to put financial information and other data at risk, according to an audit by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO said it found computers left logged on in public areas, unprotected passwords and failure to remove terminated employees' access for as long as eight months. The SEC responded by pledging to address the issues by June 2006. A spokesman said the SEC already has installed "intrusion detection systems" and replaced firewalls.

Home Depot paid chief executive Robert L. Nardelli $28.5 million in total compensation for fiscal 2004, a 28 percent increase from the $22.2 million he received in 2003. The compensation figure, which excludes the value of stock-option grants, includes awards of restricted stock and deferred shares the company valued at $13.9 million. Nardelli's fiscal 2004 pay also includes about $2.2 million related to forgiveness of a loan, roughly the same as a year ago, the Atlanta-based company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Intuit said shipments of its TurboTax program have increased 9.7 percent this U.S. tax season, led by Internet sales. Paid shipments through March 19 rose to 8.49 million units from 7.74 million a year earlier; free copies distributed by the Internal Revenue Service almost tripled, to 1.57 million.

Oneida named Terry G. Westbrook, a veteran finance chief, as its new chief executive. Westbrook, 58, replaces Peter J. Kallet, who announced his resignation from that post Wednesday but will remain on the board. Westbrook will be charged with leading the company through a transition from a flatware maker to an importer that puts its name on the products.

Yahoo said it may buy back as much as $3 billion of its shares over the next five years. The announcement came a day after the company's stock dropped to a six-month low.

The Independent Pilots Union's executive board approved a strike authorization vote against United Parcel Service after contract talks broke down. A strike authorization vote allows the union to call a strike without polling its members again but does not mean a walkout is imminent. The two sides have been holding federally mediated talks since June.

Paramount Pictures hired Gail Berman, Fox Broadcasting entertainment chief, for a senior creative role, with responsibilities including development and scheduling, marketing, business affairs and promotions. Peter Liguori, president and chief executive of FX Networks, will succeed Berman.

Laura Zubulake, who has sued UBS for gender bias, told a New York jury that male colleagues excluded her from trips with clients to baseball games, two golf outings and a strip club. The former securities saleswoman said that she was belittled by her boss in front of co-workers, denied lucrative client accounts and fired after complaining to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2001. UBS has said that Zubulake was fired because she was insubordinate and did not get along with her co-workers.

Adelphia Communications founder John J. Rigas and his sons can access a portion of the $10.2 million they requested to pay defense costs in a criminal case and civil lawsuits, a federal judge ruled. The Rigas family had asked for permission to draw the money from companies managed by Adelphia and owned by the family. The funds have been frozen by the court, and lawyers for the family said it no longer has enough money to pay legal costs.

ConAgra will restate financial results for 2004 and the first half of fiscal 2005 because of income tax errors that could cost it up to $200 million. The restatement is the second in four years for the food company. The errors were discovered during a review of financial controls required by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

INTERNATIONAL

Brazil will wait until next week to decide whether to renew a $15 billion International Monetary Fund loan accord that expires at the end of the month, Finance Minister Antonio Palocci said. Brazil has not drawn any funding from the standby agreement signed at the end of 2003.

Canada is considering legislation that would force airlines to advertise ticket prices that include all taxes and fees, which can raise the base fare by more than 50 percent. On Air Canada's Web site, for example, a one-way ticket listed at about $80 rises to more than $145 with fees.

Ireland will become the first country to convert all its movie theaters to digital projection. Under the deal, investors led by Avica Technology will convert 500 Irish cinema screens to technology that allows distribution of films by satellite, at an estimated cost of $50 million.

RECALL

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said Jurong Dumar Bicycle is recalling about 297,000 Bratz Stylin' Scooters it manufactured because the wheels can break or become damaged. Included are scooters with information, found beneath the scooter platform or at the bottom near the rear wheel, identifying the product as Item No. 266563, with a date of manufacture before July 2004, and made by Jurong. Consumers can contact the distributor, MGA Entertainment of Van Nuys, Calif., at 800-222-4685.

EARNINGS

United Airlines parent UAL said its net loss widened in February to $291 million on higher fuel costs and $92 million in reorganization expenses. Fuel expenses were $57 million higher than in February 2004, when UAL's net loss was $259 million.

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

David Hnosko tries out his new PlayStation Portable in Abilene, Tex. Sony expected to sell all of the 1 million PlayStation Portable video-game machines that went on sale yesterday in North America. People waited in lines to buy the PSP as long as 36 hours in San Francisco and New York. Early demand prompted Sony to double output of the devices to 2 million a month in the next few months, said Jack Tretton, an executive vice president at Sony's U.S. unit. The $250 PSP, which plays games, movies and music, is Sony's first bid to challenge Nintendo in the $4.5 billion market for handheld gaming devices.