BUS BRIEFS In surprise, factory orders down

WASHINGTON -- Orders placed with U.S. factories fell for the first time in four months, the Commerce Department said Monday, with demand dropping sharply for commercial airplanes and parts.

Factory orders declined by 0.1 percent in August, following an increase of 1.7 percent in July. August's drop was the first since April, when orders declined by 1.1 percent.

Economists had expected an August increase of about 0.3 percent.

Orders for durable goods fell by 0.3 percent. That was better than a previous estimate of a 0.5 percent drop.

PeopleSoft's board fires CEO


WILMINGTON, Del. -- PeopleSoft Inc.'s board fired Craig Conway as its chief executive after hearing him explain why he made a misleading statement about the business software maker's ability to close sales while fighting rival Oracle Corp.'s $7.7 billion takeover bid.

Kicking off a two-week trial over PeopleSoft's anti-takeover defenses, company director Steven Goldby testified Monday that concerns about Conway's "situational ethics" contributed to the surprise decision to fire him late last week.

Conway, who marshaled PeopleSoft's 16-month resistance to Oracle until his ouster, misled industry analysts in September 2003 when he told them the hostile takeover bid wasn't a sales deterrent, Goldby said.

Credit card interest rates might decrease

NEW YORK -- Visa USA Inc. and MasterCard International Inc. can no longer block their partner banks from issuing cards from other competitors after the Supreme Court on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that found the practice anticompetitive.

The decision opens up competition to Discover Financial Services Inc. and American Express Co. in both credit card and debit card issuance, which could push down interest rates charged to consumers. Discover also sued the two top card issuers for damages allegedly incurred by their practices shortly after the high court decision was released.

Gas prices up, unlikely to plummet soon

WASHINGTON -- Oil futures retreated below the $50-a-barrel level Monday, though analysts said there is enough uncertainty about geopolitics and weather -- and the industry's ability to quickly boost crude output -- to keep prices from plummeting anytime soon.


Light crude futures for November delivery settled 21 cents lower at $49.91 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The retail price of gasoline, however, rose for the third straight week to an average of $1.94 per gallon, the Energy Department reported Monday. The average price nationwide of regular-grade unleaded gasoline increased 2.1 cents last week to $1.938, the government survey said.

2 states go for drugs from Canada, Europe

CHICAGO -- The governors of Illinois and Wisconsin on Monday launched the first state-sponsored program to help residents buy cheaper prescription drugs from both Europe and Canada -- despite federal laws banning prescription drug importation.

The program, called I-SaveRx, works through a Canada-based clearinghouse and claims it can save residents 25 percent to 50 percent off U.S. retail prices on about 100 prescription medications.

By including pharmacies in Ireland and the United Kingdom, I-SaveRx goes beyond programs in other states that direct residents on how to buy prescription drugs from Canada, where drugs are often cheaper because of government price controls.

Tobacco lawyer denies document destruction

WASHINGTON -- A longtime lawyer for major cigarette manufacturers said Monday government lawyers got it wrong when they speculated he would testify he knew firsthand that the industry had destroyed documents.


Justice Department lawyers had written in a court filing that attorney Robert Northrip would say he knew that documents central to a lawsuit in Australia were destroyed.

But when Northrip took the stand Monday in the government's racketeering case against the industry, he said he first heard the allegations about document destruction when they became public as part of the court decision against the Australian company two years ago.

Office Depot CEO forced out

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Office Depot Inc. chairman and CEO Bruce Nelson has been forced out after four years in the job for what his interim successor said Monday were failures of execution and accountability at the nation's second-largest office supply retailer.

Neil Austrian, a board member and head of the finance committee, was named to replace Nelson temporarily.

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