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AP Financial News Summary at 9:01 a.m. EDT

September 24, 2004

Demand for Big-Ticket Goods Drops in Aug.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket goods dropped in August, largely weighed down by a sharp decline in demand for commercial airplanes.

Market Looks Toward Durable Goods Report

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks are not expected to move much at the open Friday, with no big earnings news on the schedule, though a report on U.S. durable goods could set the tone.

Halliburton Co. to Restructure Unit

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HOUSTON (AP) _ Halliburton Co. is restructuring its troubled engineering and construction subsidiary, and company officials say they would consider selling or spinning it off.

Sony-Led Group to Buy MGM in $5B Deal

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A consortium led by Sony Corp. that includes cable television giant Comcast Corp. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire venerable film studio Metro-Goldyn-Mayer, the parties said Thursday.

United Says Ending Pensions ‘Best’ Option

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CHICAGO (AP) _ United Airlines considers terminating its employee pension plans the ``best of a bad set of options″ to help it emerge from bankruptcy, parent company UAL Corp. said in a court filing late Thursday.

Witness: Merrill Execs Discussed Buyback

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HOUSTON (AP) _ Several Merrill Lynch & Co. executives knew Enron Corp. pushed hard for the brokerage to buy interest in three barges by the end of 1999 so the energy company could book the profit, a former credit analyst for Merrill Lynch said Thursday.

Bof a to Move Some Business to Boston

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BOSTON (AP) _ Bank of America Corp., which endured sharp cries of broken promises from state officials after it cut jobs at former Fleet branches, announced Thursday that it would move its wealth and investment management business to Boston.

Forbes List Has Most Billionaires Ever

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NEW YORK (AP) _ It looks like the U.S. billionaire’s club isn’t quite as exclusive as it once was. There are now 313 billionaires in the country, the largest number ever and a huge jump over the 262 counted last year, according to Forbes magazine, which Thursday released its annual ranking of the 400 richest Americans.

Ex-Qwest Executive Hall Pleads Guilty

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DENVER (AP) _ Former Qwest Communications International Inc. executive Thomas Hall pleaded guilty Thursday to a single misdemeanor count of falsifying documents, ending the first criminal case stemming from a federal investigation of the company.

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