LABOR

Boeing Braces for Possible Strike

Boeing prepared for a possible strike at its commercial airplane operations after leaders of more than 18,000 machinists advised workers to reject a final contract offer they deemed "insulting."

Hundreds of workers used their lunch breaks to protest the company's offer, as Boeing provided its own take on the contract in an effort to gain support for the offer.

Union members are to vote on the three-year offer today. Under union rules, the contract will automatically be ratified unless two-thirds of covered workers approve a strike.

ECONOMY

Growth Slows on Energy Costs

U.S. economic growth slowed to a 3.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter, as consumers, pinched by rising energy costs, spent less than the government had estimated.

The quarter's gross domestic product, which is the value of all goods and services produced in the country, compares with the 3.4 percent pace estimated a month ago and 3.8 percent growth in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said.

AIRLINES

Northwest Matches United Offer

Northwest Airlines offered its passengers double frequent-flier miles, countering a United Airlines promotion aimed at snatching Northwest customers during that airline's mechanics' strike. United offered double frequent-flier miles for flights beginning Aug. 22, two days after Northwest's mechanics went on strike. The two airlines are the nation's two main carriers to the lucrative Asia market.

CREDIT

MasterCard to Pursue IPO

MasterCard unveiled plans for an initial public offering to help reshape its business during a time of unprecedented competitive and legal challenges in the credit card business. The IPO is expected in next year's first quarter, and will transfer a 49 percent equity stake and voting control into the hands of investors.

The move comes as both MasterCard and larger rival Visa USA contend with a court ruling that allows member banks, for the first time, to issue competing card brands of companies such as American Express and Discover. This opened the door for those companies to file lawsuits against the two credit card giants seeking unspecified damages stemming from anticompetitive practices.

INVESTORS

TIAA-CREF May Close Funds

TIAA-CREF, the largest U.S. retirement fund, said it may close as many as nine mutual funds after investors rejected fee increases that the company said were needed to make them profitable.

New fees for the so-called institutional funds, sold mainly through trust companies and college-savings plans, failed to win approval at shareholder meetings, the company said in a statement.

Shareholders did approve fees increases on 13 institutional funds, mostly index products, as well as so-called life-cycle funds that invest less aggressively as investors grow older.

REAL ESTATE

IAC Launches Brokerage Unit

IAC/InterActiveCorp, a television and Internet-services company, plans to enter the U.S. real estate brokerage business next year to expand beyond offering property and mortgage listings on Web sites.

The company's RealEstate.com business will open brokerage offices in the Pacific Northwest in the first half of 2006, a RealEstate.com spokeswoman said. The company has yet to decide how much to invest, whether to buy related businesses and whether to expand the service nationally, she said.

New Wells Fargo Lending Policy

Wells Fargo announced new policies it said will protect customers with subprime loans from overly burdensome repayment terms.

The bank changed its mortgage-lending policies to ensure that subprime customers with negative credit records aren't saddled with unfairly burdensome loan terms, the company said in a statement. Banks charge subprime customers higher interest rates and fees than prime borrowers to cover the higher risk of default.

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Providian Approves Takeover

Providian Financial's shareholders accepted Washington Mutual's $6.5 billion takeover bid, brushing aside concerns that one of the country's last independent credit card lenders could have been sold for a higher price.

Providian's announcement ended months of debate about whether Washington Mutual -- the country's largest savings and loan -- is paying enough to buy a credit card company that will help it diversify beyond home mortgages.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.

A Boeing worker demonstrates with other machinists at a rally during a lunch break outside the company's giant Everett, Wash., facility.