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BUSINESS IN BRIEF

State Street unit to liquidate bond fund

State Street unit to liquidate bond fundState Street Corp.'s SSgA Funds Management Inc. is planning to liquidate the SSgA Intermediate Municipal Bond fund Sept. 15. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, SSgA Funds said the board overseeing the fund approved the liquidation plan Aug. 13. As of Aug. 29, the fund will stop selling its shares, and it is expected that proceeds of the liquidation will be distributed to shareholders Sept. 15. The filing didn't say why the fund is being liquidated. SSgA Funds Management, based in Boston, had more than $810 billion under management as of July 1. (Dow Jones)

Raytheon, DRS won't make joint bids

Raytheon Co., the fourth-largest US defense contractor, agreed not to make joint bids with DRS Technologies Inc. on US contracts for night-vision equipment, the Justice Department said. The department said the so-called "teaming agreement" between Raytheon and DRS to bid on contracts to develop infrared sights for military vehicles "raised significant competitive concerns." The modified agreement won't affect existing contracts to produce the equipment, Justice said. Lexington-based Raytheon and DRS have jointly developed and manufactured infrared sights for various defense programs. A Raytheon spokeswoman said she had no information on the Justice Department statement and declined to comment. (Bloomberg)

THE NATION

Buffett loses appeal on disclosures

Warren Buffett lost an appeal before the Securities and Exchange Commission to delay disclosure of certain stock holdings, part of an effort by the billionaire to prevent copycat investing. As chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Buffett has argued that his short-term trading strategies qualify as intellectual property and warrant an SEC filing exemption. Publication of Berkshire's holdings, Buffett says, leads to price movements that drive up his investment costs. The SEC acknowledged that traders attempt to mimic Buffett's selections. At the same time, the agency said Buffett failed to show that complying with disclosure rules would cause Berkshire competitive harm. The agency requires individuals and companies that manage $100 million or more of stock to disclose their holdings at the end of each quarter in a filing called Form 13F. An SEC spokesman declined to comment. (Bloomberg)

Goodyear, union may have a deal

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., North America's largest tire maker, said it reached tentative agreement with the United Steelworkers of America on a three-year labor contract. About 16,000 union members will be asked to ratify the agreement, a Goodyear spokesman said. Details won't be made public until union members have had a chance to review it, the company and the union said. Goodyear is seeking to reduce expenses after $1.31 billion in losses in the past two years and declining revenue in North America, its biggest market. The union wants reassurances that Goodyear won't close plants and will limit cuts in healthcare and pension benefits. Goodyear said in April that it planned to cut costs by as much as $1.5 billion by the end of 2005, after its loss widened in the first quarter. Goodyear said it would eliminate brands, product lines, and jobs. (Bloomberg)

Dell cuts prices on computers, printers

Dell Inc. yesterday cut prices on computers, printers, and other products by up to 22 percent, using its direct-to-customer sales method to undercut the competition for the back-to-school season. Dell, the number one personal computer maker, made the cuts a day after one of its largest competitors, Hewlett-Packard, said its personal computing business lost money in the most recent quarter. Dell sells most of its computers directly to customers, enabling it to pass on lower costs to customers. In the past few years, it has used this method to take market share from competitors like HP and Gateway Inc., which is also losing money on its PCs. (Reuters)

P&G counting on its version of Prilosec

Procter & Gamble Co. has big expectations -- anticipating up to $400 million in annual retail sales -- for its over-the-counter version of Prilosec, a heartburn and ulcer drug. Industry-watchers say P&G's move, coupled with those of two other companies which are considering marketing low-cost generic competitors to Prilosec, could significantly drive down the cost of the medicine for people who have no insurance coverage for prescription drugs. P&G's Prilosec OTC is the latest entry in an increasingly crowded market for competitors of AstraZeneca's Prilosec. The $12 billion market for the drugs, known as proton-pump inhibitors, makes it one of the most lucrative drug categories. Other branded versions on the market are Prevacid, Protonix, Aciphex, and Nexium. (AP)

Escalade has highest theft rate

Thieves go after the $55,000 Cadillac Escalade SUV at a higher rate than any other vehicle, according to a report by a research group funded by auto insurers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reviewed insurance claims for thefts or break-ins for the 2000-2002 model year, then compared those claims to the total number of insurance policies for each of those vehicles. Based on theft claims per 1,000 insured vehicles, five of the top 10 vehicles stolen or broken into are SUVs. The Dodge Stratus, ranked second on the list, was the four-door car targeted at the highest rate, according to the Insurance Institute. As far as the most frequently stolen vehicles are concerned, the Toyota Camry has held that dubious distinction for six straight years, according to the Chicago-based CCC Information Systems Inc., which tracks the total number of vehicles stolen. Camry didn't make it into the Insurance Institute's top 10 list, because the Camry's percentage of theft claims is low, compared with the large number of Camrys on the road. Insurance Institute spokesman Russ Rader said the ratings help consumers because they may end up paying more to insure a vehicle with a higher likelihood of theft. (AP)

Fannie Mae cuts applications forecast

Fannie Mae, the largest source of US mortgage financing, cut its forecast for home loan applications this year by 8 percent, to $3.4 trillion, as the rise in interest rates slows refinancing. Fannie Mae, which is a government-chartered company that buys mortgage loans from lenders, also trimmed its 2004 forecast, to $1.5 trillion from $1.75 trillion. The average rate on a 30-year mortgage has risen to 6.22 percent from a record low of 4.99 percent in June, making it more expensive to finance a home, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Fannie Mae's 2003 outlook is now the same as the forecast from the trade group, which cut its loan estimate for 2003 on Monday, reducing it by 6 percent to $3.4 trillion. (Bloomberg)

THE WORLD

Poor nations assail EU-US plans on trade

A group of poorer countries submitted their own propsal for a global agricultural trade treaty, demanding wealthy countries do more to help less-affluent nations. The proposal from Brazil, India, China, and 13 other nations calls on the World Trade Organization to force rich countries to make big cuts in import duties and farm subsidies, while making much smaller demands on poorer nations. The document is in reaction to a proposal put forward last week by the United States and the European Union which called for big cuts in duties but stopped short of agreeing to complete elimination of export subsidies -- a key demand of developing countries. (AP)

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