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BUSINESS TODAY

Zero-percent financing set on all GM vehicles

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp. said it will offer no-interest financing on all U.S. models starting today as the largest automaker tries to boost sales after last week's terrorist attacks damped consumer demand.

Buyers will be offered the interest-free financing on loans of as long as 60 months on 2001-model cars and on loans of 36 months on this year's trucks and 2002-model cars and trucks, the company said. Other rates depend on loan length.

The offer, which General Motors said is its first nationwide no-interest financing on all models since the 1980s, runs through October.

U.S. auto dealers' sales have been down 23 percent to 38 percent each day since the Sept. 11 attacks from levels of the previous four weeks, J.D. Power & Associates said.

JetBlue reduces flight schedule

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- JetBlue Airways Corp., the closely held, low-fare airline that began service in February 2000, said it will reduce its daily schedule by five round-trip flights, including one round-trip flight from Buffalo Niagara International Airport to JFK in New York.

JetBlue said it doesn't plan to lay off employees. U.S. airlines have announced plans to cut more than 68,000 jobs as last week's terrorist attacks reduced demand. JetBlue will eliminate a total of 10 flights each day, spokeswoman Fiona Morrisson said. The company currently has 84 flights a day.

New York-based JetBlue, will eliminate one round-trip flight to each of the following cities: Syracuse and Buffalo, New York, and New Orleans. It will cut two round-trip flights to Rochester. The new schedule takes effect Oct. 1.

Housing starts off 6.9%

WASHINGTON (AP) -- New housing construction plunged in August by the largest amount in 17 months as the slumping economy made builders and prospective home buyers more cautious.

The number of new housing units fell by 6.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million, the Commerce Department reported today. The drop was the steepest since March 2000 and left housing starts at their lowest level in 10 months.

In July, housing construction rose by 0.4 percent, according to revised figures.

GM to take stake in Daewoo

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- General Motors Corp. has agreed to acquire key operations of bankrupt Daewoo Motor Co. in a deal that will give the U.S. auto giant a stepping stone into the Asian market, company officials said Thursday.

The state-run Korea Development Bank, Daewoo Motor's main creditor, has been leading the negotiations between GM and Daewoo's lenders. Bank spokesman Kim Yong-soo and Lee Key-sup, a spokesman for GM in Seoul, said a deal was expected to be announced Friday.

Economy soft before attack

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Economic activity was weakening around the country in August and early September even before the terrorist attacks, according to a new Federal Reserve survey.

The central bank's check of economic conditions in its 12 regions for that period showed faltering manufacturing activity, slowing retail sales and rising layoffs.

Analysts said the data depicted an economy flirting with recession before terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

"The economy has been very vulnerable and fragile all year," said Lawrence Chimerine, chief economist at Radnor Consulting. "The attacks were devastating, and the timing could not have been worse because they came when the economy was already slipping."

The survey of economic conditions, known as the beige book, was prepared for the Fed's Oct. 2 meeting, when analysts expect a ninth rate cut.

In other business news

The number of Americans filing new claims for state unemployment insurance fell by 49,000 to 387,000 for the workweek ending Sept. 15, the Labor Department said. The latest report doesn't capture the impact of last week's attacks because it normally takes time for people to file jobless claim applications after disasters, economists say.

Verizon Communications won Federal Communications Commission permission to sell long-distance service in Pennsylvania. The FCC, in a 3-1 vote, said Verizon met all the conditions for opening the local phone market to competitors, as it has in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Glenn E. Conley of Portland, Ore., accused of illegally using mass e-mail, known as "spam," to promote stocks he owned, agreed to forfeit $458,965, representing his allegedly ill-gotten profits. All but $209,253 of this was waived however, based on his demonstrated inability to pay, the SEC said.

Tyco International Ltd. reiterated that it will meet earnings forecasts for this fiscal year and next. The company said in a statement it will earn $2.77 to $2.78 a share in the year ending Sept. 30, and $3.20 to $3.65 in 2002, with $3.45 "most likely."

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