- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

Regional

XM Satellite Radio of the District said its fourth-quarter loss narrowed as new subscribers from car sales doubled. The net loss shrank to $238.8 million (78 cents) from a loss of $256.7 million (90 cents) a year earlier. Sales rose 20 percent to $307.7 million.

Smithfield, Va., pork producer Smithfield Foods said third-quarter profit fell about 10 percent on lower live hog prices and higher raising costs, but the results beat expectations handily. Net income dropped to $54.6 million (41 cents per share) for the three months ending Jan. 27, from $60.4 million (54 cents) a year ago.

Lockheed Martin of Bethesda reached a tentative agreement with a union representing about 6,000 machinists, which may help avoid a strike at plants including one where the F-22 jet fighter is built. The proposed three-year agreement offers a $2,000 ratification bonus and a 10 percent wage increase, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said.

Dollar Tree Stores Inc. of Chesapeake, Va., said net income for its fourth quarter, ending Feb. 2, fell 3 percent to $94.7 million ($1.04) from $97.6 million (97 cents) a year ago.

National

Leading Internet scholars at Harvard University will convene a yearlong task force to explore how children can avoid unwanted contact and content when using MySpace and other popular online hangouts. The Internet Safety Technical Task Force is the result of an agreement that MySpace reached with the state attorneys general in January.

Conrad Black, the former Hollinger International Inc. chairman convicted of fraud and obstructing justice, lost a bid to delay the scheduled March 3 start of his 6½-year prison sentence. A federal appeals court in Chicago denied a request by Black’s attorneys to postpone his punishment while the panel considers an appeal of his conviction.

McClatchy Co. is taking a $1.47 billion accounting charge to reflect further declines in its stock price and a tough outlook for its newspapers. McClatchy said the charge brought the Sacramento, Calif., company to a loss of $1.43 billion in the fourth quarter.

Tribune Co.’s Newsday newspaper in Long Island, N.Y., is cutting 120 jobs, or 5.2 percent of its work force, because of declining advertising revenue. Meanwhile, the Daily News of Los Angeles told workers it will eliminate 22 newsroom jobs, or about a fifth of the total, and the Boston Globe said it will cut 60 jobs by offering voluntary employee buyouts.

Rates on 30-year mortgages rose for a third straight week, hitting the highest level in more than three months. Freddie Mac said that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.24 percent this week, up from 6.04 percent last week.

Crude oil prices rebounded, shooting up more than $2 a barrel to a record as a falling dollar and the prospect of lower interest rates attracted fresh money to the oil market. Light, sweet crude for April delivery rose $2.56 to $102.20 a barrel in New York.

Chevron said its petroleum reserves dropped 7.3 percent last year to the lowest since at least 1998 as oil-rich nations commanded a greater share of output. Chevron had oil and natural-gas reserves equivalent to almost 10.8 billion barrels of crude as of Dec. 31, down from 11.6 billion barrels a year earlier, the company said.

Wachovia Corp., the fourth-largest U.S. bank, raised its expected losses from lending to more than triple last year’s levels because of rising mortgage defaults. Wachovia said it expects losses to exceed 0.75 percent of its loans this year, according to a regulatory filing. The lender charged off 0.23 percent of total loans last year.

New Century Financial Corp. estimates that its Chapter 11 case would produce a recovery of from 2 percent to 17 percent for unsecured creditors of its defunct home lending business. More than $35 billion in claims for payment hit the Irvine, Calif., company after it filed for Chapter 11 protection last April. Many were duplicates or otherwise subject to challenge, attorneys for New Century said.

The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acknowledged that more should have been done to thoroughly investigate a tip that security guards routinely took naps while on the job at a Pennsylvania nuclear plant. It wasn’t until a videotape of guards sleeping in a “ready room” at the Peach Bottom plant in south-central Pennsylvania surfaced several months later that the NRC announced a special investigation.

Dell Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit dropped 6.4 percent and fell short of expectations, and the personal computer maker cautioned that more cautious spending by customers and higher costs could hurt its business. The Round Rock, Texas, company said it earned $679 million (31 cents) in the quarter ended Feb. 1, down from $726 million (32 cents) a year ago.

Kohl’s Corp. said its fourth-quarter profit fell about 15 percent as shoppers continued to pull back their spending. The department store chain said it earned $411.7 million ($1.31) during the quarter ending Feb. 2, compared with $484.6 million ($1.48) a year ago.

Profit at Sears Holdings Corp. skidded to $426 million ($3.17) during the three months that ended Feb. 2, down 47 percent from $811 million ($5.27) during the same period last year. Revenue slipped to $15.07 billion from $16.18 billion. For the fiscal year, Sears’ net income fell 44 percent to $826 million ($5.70).

US Airways Group Inc., which lags behind rival carriers in overseas flights, said it plans to boost its capacity to markets outside the U.S. to 27 percent by the end of 2011 from 20 percent now. Domestic capacity in the same period will decline in a range of about 1 percent to 2 percent. The airline said it plans to add more flights to Europe from Philadelphia.

Setting up a huge health care trust for hourly retirees could force General Motors to cut or delay spending in other areas, the automaker said in its annual report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. GM said it will have to pay up to $33.7 billion into the fund, including $25 billion in a relatively short period. If it can’t get financing on the right terms, it will affect the company’s spending in other areas, GM said.

Time Warner Inc., under new Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes, plans to combine its Warner Bros. and New Line film studios to cut costs at the world’s largest media company. Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne, New Line’s co-chairmen, will leave the studio, which will be operated as a unit of Warner Bros., New York-based Time Warner said.

International

Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, said the United States should not reopen talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement as the two U.S. Democratic presidential hopefuls have proposed. Mr. Harper warned that reopening trade negotiations could lead Canada to seek a better deal over access to Canadian oil.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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