- - Sunday, September 2, 2012

PITTSBURGH — U.S. Steel and the United Steelworkers announced a tentative agreement Sunday on a three-year contract covering more than 16,000 workers at domestic facilities.

Details of the contract were not announced. The union said members will vote after reviewing details over the next few weeks. The two sides had been negotiating since June on a contract to replace the existing pact, which expired Saturday.

U.S. Steel said the talks covered employees at domestic flat-rolled and iron ore mining facilities as well as tubular operations in Lorain, Ohio, and Fairfield, Ala.

“We believe that this agreement is in the best interests of our company, our employees and all of our stakeholders,” John Surma, U.S. Steel chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

COMMERCE

Factory orders rose 2.8% in July, though investment figures weaken

Orders to U.S. companies rose in July, reflecting a surge in demand for autos and commercial aircraft. But in a troubling sign of manufacturing weakness, a key orders category that tracks business investment plans fell by the largest amount in eight months.

Factory orders rose 2.8 percent in July, the biggest overall advance in a year, reflecting sizable gains in demand for motor vehicles and airplanes, the Commerce Department said Friday. But core capital goods orders, viewed as a good proxy for investment spending, plunged 4 percent, the fourth setback in the past five months.

The worry is that businesses have begun to scale back their plans to expand and modernize in the face of spreading economic weakness in Europe and such major U.S. export markets as China, Brazil and India.

ENERGY

Russian leaders praise oil and gas production as industry hits post-Soviet high point

MOSCOW — Russian leaders hailed their powerful energy industry Sunday as the country posted a post-Soviet record high rate of oil production that should boost coffers in uncertain global economic times.

The energy ministry said private and state companies extracted a combined 10.38 million barrels per day in August — only a slight increase over July but higher than any figure seen in the past two decades. Nearly a quarter of the oil was produced by the government’s expanding Rosneft unit that last year struck Russia’s first Arctic exploration agreement with ExxonMobil.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the country had assumed its “rightful place” as the world’s largest combined exporter of oil and natural gas.

More oil and gas workers returning to Gulf facilities after Isaac evacuations

NEW ORLEANS — More crews are returning to offshore drilling rigs and production platforms as the weather clears after Isaac.

The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement says crews returned to 86 production platforms between 11:30 a.m. Saturday and the same time Sunday, leaving 131 unstaffed. That compares with 219 vacant Saturday and 499 early last week. Those still unstaffed are about 22 percent of the total.

The agency says 71.5 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s daily oil production and 55.6 percent of its natural gas remains shut-in.

Companies operating in the Gulf say it takes a few days to fully restore production.

Workers remain evacuated from 18 rigs; 48 were evacuated as the storm approached.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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