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The Boeing Co. posted a loss of $696 million for the third quarter despite record sales. The aircraft maker had warned Wall Street earlier this week that it expected the loss because of production problems.

It was only the third quarterly loss for Boeing in the last 25 years.

The loss reported today amounted to 72 cents a share for the July-September period. Boeing earned $466 million, or 48 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Revenue rose to $11.4 billion from $9 billion a year ago.

Boeing blamed the loss on late aircraft deliveries, snarled assembly lines and shortages of parts and skilled labor for the loss.

GM laying off at two plants
WENTZVILLE, Mo. (AP) -- About 200 hourly workers at the General Motors Corp. plant in this suburb near St. Louis will be laid off indefinitely as the automaker cuts back on production.

GM also announced Wednesday that it will lay off about 1,600 hourly workers next week because of sluggish sales of full-sized vans. Those workers are expected to return to work in one week.

The plant, which employs about 2,500 hourly workers, is the only one in the GM system to assemble full-sized vans.

The three models assembled at Wentzville are the Chevrolet Express, Chevy Van and GMC Savana.

Niagara Mohawk in black for quarter
SYRACUSE (AP) -- Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. earned $22.3 million in the third quarter, a reversal from the same period a year ago but not enough of a turnaround to improve its calendar-year profits.

The Syracuse-based utility's earnings of 15 cents per share reported on Thursday were an improvement over the third quarter of 1996 when the company lost $22.5 million, or 16 cents a share.

The 1996 third-quarter loss was due primarily to an after-tax charge of $44.5 million, or 31 cents a share, for bad debt expense related to the collection of overdue customer bills.

During the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, Niagara Mohawk posted earnings of $112 million, or 78 cents a share, compared to $125.7 million, or 87 cents a share, for the same period a year earlier.

Ivester takes over as Coke chairman
ATLANTA (AP) -- Leadership of the Coca-Cola Co. has passed from the Yale-educated, Havana-born scion of a prominent Cuban sugar family to a small-town Georgia native and textile mechanic's son who earned his way to the University of Georgia by bagging groceries.

But little major change is expected in company strategies and style under new chief M. Douglas Ivester. Ivester, groomed by the late Roberto C. Goizueta to succeed him, was elected the 10th chairman in the global soft-drink giant's history Thursday.

Orange County treasurer released
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) -- The former Orange County treasurer at the center of the nation's biggest municipal bankruptcy has earned an early exit from his work-release program because of good behavior.

Robert L. Citron, 72, was to be released today after serving two-thirds of a one-year sentence for fraud. Because of ill health, Citron began serving a work-release sentence at the sheriff's commissary warehouse in January. The program allowed him to spend nights and weekends at home.

Mortgage rates slightly higher
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages inched up to 7.35 percent this week, Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, said Thursday.

The increase, from 7.34 percent a week earlier, was the second in a row since the average hit a 20-month low of 7.26 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgages averaged 6.90 percent, up from 6.89 percent. One-year, adjustable-rate mortgages held steady at 5.55 percent.

In other business news
A three-week strike at Crucible Specialty Metals in Geddes, N.Y., ended Thursday with workers' approval of a new four-year contract.

LucasVarity Plc, a United Kingdom-based auto and aircraft parts maker with U.S. headquarters in Buffalo, said it is in talks to buy the 66 percent of shares it doesn't already own in Freios Varga SA, Brazil's largest brakes manufacturer.

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