Business digest 11/17/05

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Inflation slows down; natural gas prices rise

WASHINGTON -- Helped by a retreat in gasoline prices, consumer inflation slowed last month after racing ahead in September at the fastest clip in a quarter-century. But natural gas prices rose sharply, a troubling sign for the upcoming home heating season. The Labor Department reported Wednesday that consumer prices increased by 0.2 percent in October, compared with 1.2 percent in September, when the Gulf Coast hurricanes caused gasoline prices to climb above $3 per gallon.

Delta asks judge to void contract with pilots

NEW YORK -- Delta Air Lines Inc. asked a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge Wednesday to void its contract with the Delta pilots union so the beleaguered airline can impose deep wage and benefit cuts and avoid further financial erosion. In a hearing that lasted into early evening and was to continue today, Delta attorney Jack Gallagher said the airline valued its pilots and tried to negotiate reductions, but ultimately failed. Faced with rising fuel costs, Delta is seeking to slash $325 million from its collective bargaining agreement with its pilots, saying the money is needed to keep its operations running. The ALPA, which has offered $90.7 million in concessions, has threatened to strike if the court grants Delta's request.

Ford recalls vehicles because of battery cable

WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. recalled 220,000 vehicles from the 2005 model year Wednesday amid fire worries from a battery cable rubbing against the frame and concern that a fuel tank strap could separate after tens of thousands of miles. The recall linked to the cable involves more than 98,000 Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Grand Marquis sedans. Ford said in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it has received four reports of fires.

Two stock market mergers OK'd by feds

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department on Wednesday approved big mergers planned by the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market, saying the new combinations were not likely to damage competition. The deals await approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees U.S. stock markets. The separate mergers by the two biggest stock markets in the world, fierce competitors for investors, will reshape the securities markets. They are expected to give the NYSE and Nasdaq an estimated 49 percent and 47 percent, respectively, of the market in stock trading.

Bush veto threat nixes Cuba trade provision

WASHINGTON -- Midwestern lawmakers expressed disappointment Wednesday after a measure to ease restrictions on agriculture trade with Cuba was dropped -- under the threat of a presidential veto -- from a massive spending bill. The dispute is over a recent Treasury Department rule that requires Cuba to pay in advance for food shipments before they are sent from U.S. ports. The Bush administration wants the stiffer rule to punish Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba, but opponents in Congress say it just hurts farmers.

-- From wire reports

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