Durable Goods Orders Rise

U.S. orders for durable goods rose in May, solely reflecting a surge in aircraft bookings, a government report showed. Demand declined for business equipment. Bookings for expensive items made to last at least three years increased 5.5 percent, the biggest rise since March 2004, after a 1.4 percent gain in April, the Commerce Department said. Excluding transportation equipment, orders dropped 0.2 percent, the third decline in the past four months.

New-Home Sales Rise, Prices Fall

Sales of new homes in May climbed to the second-highest level in history, but the median sales price fell sharply, the Commerce Department said. Sales of new, single-family homes rose 2.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.3 million homes. But the median sales price dropped 6.5 percent, to $217,000.


GM May Extend Discount

General Motors said it may extend its employee discount program to all buyers from July 5 through the end of July, encouraged by a strong response from consumers and dealers.

On June 1, GM began giving the same discount it provides to employees to anyone buying a new GM car or truck, except for the Chevrolet Corvette and GMC medium-duty trucks.


Aetna Agrees to Buy HMS

Aetna said it agreed to acquire regional health care network HMS Healthcare for about $390 million in cash. Aetna said the deal would give it greater market share, especially in Michigan but also in Colorado. The deal is subject to closing conditions and regulatory approval.


Senate Votes for Exemptions

The Senate voted to exempt businesses from federal rules that would bar them from faxing advertisements to existing customers without their consent. The rules are set to take effect in one week. The Senate's action would override the Federal Communications Commission's 2003 decision to require businesses to get written permission from all customers before faxing an ad.


Boston Scientific Settles Probe

Boston Scientific agreed to pay $74 million to settle a civil complaint over the medical device maker's 1998 recall of coronary stents. It did not admit liability.

The company disclosed in 1998 that a federal grand jury was probing its recall of stents. Neither the company nor the Justice Department offered details on what the government was investigating about the recall, which involves stents Boston Scientific no longer markets.


Issues Raised in Nextel Merger

Affiliates on both sides of the potential $35 billion merger of Sprint and Nextel Communications are causing their parent companies headaches. Nextel Partners, which sells Nextel-branded services in 31 states, said a special committee of its board recommended shareholders vote in favor of exercising a "put right" that would force Sprint-Nextel to buy the company after the merger. Affiliate U.S. Unwired has asked a federal judge to halt the merger, saying it will violate the company's contract with Sprint to exclusive sales rights in parts of the South.

Officials of Sprint and Reston-based Nextel declined to comment on the Nextel Partners issue and said they will "vigorously" defend against the U.S. Unwired suit.


AOL Unit Files for Protection

America Online Latin America filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Internet service provider said in a statement that subscribers will continue to receive service without interruption.


Shareholders Approve Merger

Shareholders voted to approve security software maker Symantec's takeover of Veritas Software, paving the way for potentially the largest merger ever in the software industry. The stock deal was initially valued at $13.5 billion but is expected to be worth about $11 billion.


IBM to Add Jobs, Union Says

International Business Machines plans to hire 14,000 workers in India by year-end, according to a company document provided by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers union. IBM will boost its staff in India by 58 percent, to 38,196, according to a document on the union's Web site. IBM spokesman Ed Barbini wouldn't comment on whether the document is genuine.


Ban on Modified Food Upheld

Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer failed to win wider access for their gene-modified corn and rapeseed in the European Union when five nations got the right to keep bans on products allowed in other E.U. states. Separately, Monsanto won E.U. approval for another rapeseed type.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.