Business news

Verizon workers turn out for picket lines


Thousands of Verizon landline workers took to picket lines Monday from Massachusetts to Virginia, fighting management demands for contract givebacks and disputing that their work is unprofitable.

Verizon Communication Inc. countered that its 45,000 unionized workers in the East should not expect the kind of compensation they were paid when the phone company was a monopoly -- and when no one questioned whether a household needed a land line.

Analysts said the strike came at a key point in the evolution of telecommunications: the beginning of the demise of the ordinary wired home phone.

Freddie Mac asks for $1.5 billion more aid

WASHINGTON --- Government-controlled Freddie Mac is asking for $1.5 billion in additional federal aid after posting a loss this spring.

The mortgage giant says it lost $4.69 billion, or $1.44 cents per share, in April-June quarter.

That takes into account $1.6 billion in dividends paid to the Treasury Department.

It compares with a loss of $6 billion, or $1.85 per share, during the same quarter in 2010.

The government rescued McLean, Va.-based Freddie Mac and sibling company Fannie Mae in September 2008 after massive losses on risky mortgages threatened to topple them.

Promoter turns profit during second quarter

LOS ANGELES --- Concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc. made a profit in the second quarter, reversing a loss from a year ago, by doing away with fire-sale discounts and instead adjusting prices to accommodate both super-fans and casual concertgoers.

As a result, it generated more revenue from higher-priced seats closest to the stage, while drawing in more fans to the cheap seats in the back. Concert attendance went up 13 percent in North America and people who visited its amphitheaters spent 3 percent spent more than last year, at $19.21 each, on beer, food and parking.

The results announced Monday beat analyst expectations for a break-even quarter and provided some upbeat news on a day the stock market fell sharply because of worries about the slowing U.S. economy and escalating debt problems threatening Europe.

IBM quits project to build supercomputer

CHAMPAIGN, ILL. --- IBM Corp. on Monday dropped out of a project to build one of the world's fastest supercomputers at the University of Illinois, saying it requires too much financial and technical support.

The move leaves the university looking for someone to build the $300 million-plus Blue Waters system that it still hopes to deliver by the fall of 2012.

The school's National Center for Supercomputing Applications will have just a few weeks to customize its plans to a new builder and present them to the project's primary financier, the federal government's National Science Foundation.

There is no guarantee the project, which was originally expected to go online this year, will continue.

IBM won't say how much the project would have cost the company, but Monday's announcement followed several months of talks with university officials.

Drop in oil prices will help U.S. consumers

Oil's plunge to its lowest price of the year should provide Americans with some relief at the pump.

That might not be enough to calm their fears about the economy, however.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude fell 6.4 percent Monday, to settle at $81.31 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement price of the year and down about 30 percent from its high in April.

Oil is still higher than the $71.63 per barrel low of the past 12 months, which was set Aug. 24, 2010.

Meanwhile, gasoline futures have fallen between 35 cents and 40 cents in the past two weeks.

The national average price for retail gas was $3.663 a gallon Monday, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. That's down 4.2 cents in the past week but still 88.7 cents more than a year ago.