LABOR

Boeing Machinists Vote to Strike

Machinists at Boeing voted to strike as union members overwhelmingly rejected a three-year contract proposal their leaders had deemed "insulting." The walkout was set to begin at 12:01 a.m. local time today and involve 18,400 machinists who assemble Boeing's commercial jets at facilities in Seattle, Gresham, Ore., and Wichita, Kan.

Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said the company was "disappointed" and said it would halt assembly of commercial airplanes during the strike.

Union members voted 86 percent in favor of a strike. The contract would have been automatically ratified unless two-thirds of the union members voted to strike.

ECONOMY

Home Prices Continue Upward

Average U.S. home prices rose 13.4 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the biggest increase for a comparable period in a quarter-century, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight reported. The annualized figure is derived from an average of prices in April, May and June. Prices in Virginia rose 20.9 percent, those in Maryland rose 23.0 percent and those in the District rose 23.5 percent.

Spending Gain Outstrips Wages

U.S. consumer spending rose 1 percent for a second month in July, outstripping a 0.3 percent rise in incomes. The spending increase matched June's as the biggest since May 2004 as consumers bought cars to take advantage of discounts, the Commerce Department said.

The jump in spending pushed the personal saving rate down from zero in June. A negative savings rate means people spent more than they earned through wages, dividends and government payments. The only other time that happened was in October 2001, when vehicle purchases jumped as automakers introduced zero-interest loans after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Retail Sales Up 3.6 Percent

Sales at U.S. retailers rose 3.6 percent in August as gas prices trimmed consumer spending on fall clothing and school supplies. August sales at stores open at least a year rose less than the 4 percent predicted, the International Council of Shopping Centers said.

Wal-Mart had a 3.3 percent increase, its smallest gain since May, and Target had a 6.3 percent rise. Sales at Federated Department Stores rose 1.1 percent, and sales at J.C. Penney rose 2.8 percent, lagging behind those of some luxury and teen-oriented chains. Gap sales, however, fell 9 percent. Neiman Marcus said sales surged 8.7 percent, and Nordstrom had an 8 percent increase.

LEGAL

Enron Charges Contested

Lawyers for former Enron chairman Kenneth L. Lay and former chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling will ask a judge to dismiss criminal charges in the case over claims that prosecutors intimidated witnesses.

Skilling's lawyers gave U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in Houston statements from attorneys for possible witnesses who say they fear government reprisals if their clients cooperate with the former executives' defense. Skilling and Lay are scheduled to go on trial in January on fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from Enron's 2001 collapse.

AIRLINES

Northwest Pilots to Negotiate

Pilots at Northwest Airlines said they would negotiate a voluntary round of pay cuts to help the financially struggling carrier avoid filing for bankruptcy protection.

Northwest had been seeking $1.1 billion in annual savings on labor costs. The carrier said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that rising fuel prices may force it to seek additional cuts and may hasten its entry into Chapter 11 proceedings.

The airline's mechanics have been on strike for nearly two weeks, but the nation's fourth-largest carrier has continued to fly by using replacement workers. Yesterday, it said the strike has not had a significant impact on revenue.

AUTOMOTIVE

August Car Sales Slow

Automakers saw mixed sales results in August. General Motors' domestic sales in August fell 16 percent compared with a year ago, as the lure of its "employee discount" offers waned. U.S. sales for all Ford divisions rose 6 percent while DaimlerChrysler sales rose 5 percent, but both trailed predictions. Meanwhile, Asian automakers saw their sales steadily increase in August even though they didn't match the discounts.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.

Clifton Wyatt leads a group of Boeing employees in Everett, Wash., going to vote on the company's latest contract offer. Machinists union leaders called the offer "insulting."