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The government's pension insurance program is asking a federal court to give it control of the underfunded retirement plan of a former Global Crossing-owned company.

Pensions of 5,500 workers and retirees of Frontier Corp. are short by $105 million, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. estimates. The telecommunications company is based in Rochester and was owned by Global Crossing until it was sold last year.

The government corporation is asking the U.S. District Court in New York to terminate the pension plan as of Dec. 3 and to name it as the trustee.

Frontier was sold to Citizens Communications Co. in 2001, and the sale agreement specified that Global Crossing transfer almost all the pension plan to the buyer. Global Crossing, the fiber-optics company that has filed for bankruptcy protection, has not made the transfer, according to the PBGC.

In bankruptcy proceedings, Global Crossing has proposed a reorganization that includes transferring the retirement plan to a liquidating trust controlled by its creditors. The reorganization plan could be approved at a Dec. 4 court hearing, and the PBGC wants to act before then.

The PBGC would prefer that the retirement plan be transferred to Citizens Communications as originally planned.

Existing home sales up 6.1%

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of previously owned homes shot up in October by 6.1 percent to the third highest monthly level on record as house hunters scrambled to take advantage of low mortgage rates amid an uncertain economic climate.

The big jump pushed sales of existing homes to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. That tied with April as the third highest monthly level on record.

The performance exceeded analysts' expectations. They were forecasting a small dip in sales of existing homes.

Housing is one of the struggling economy's few bright spots. Home sales have held up well this year and during last year's recession because mortgage rates are so low.

The average rate on a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage was 6.11 percent in October, well below the 6.62 percent average rate seen in October 2001.

Low mortgage rates this year have been feeding a refinancing boom. The extra monthly cash consumers are saving by refinancing their mortgages at lower interest rates is helping to support consumer spending, which has been the main force keeping the economy going this year.

Gas prices drop by a nickel

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) -- The price of a gallon of gas fell more than a nickel nationwide over the past two weeks as crude oil prices stayed low and supply outpaced demand, an industry analyst said Sunday. It was the largest two-week drop in about a year.

The average price for gas nationwide, including all grades and taxes, was about $1.44 a gallon on Friday, according to the Lundberg survey of 8,000 stations nationwide.

That was down 5.56 cents a gallon from Nov. 8, the date of the last Lundberg survey, when the average cost for a gallon of gas stood at $1.49, analyst Trilby Lundberg said.

The national weighted average price of gasoline, including taxes, at self-serve pumps Friday was about $1.41 per gallon for regular, $1.50 for mid-grade and $1.59 for premium.

Developer bids for shirt factory

WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) -- An Arizona developer is offering to buy the shuttered Hathaway shirt factory for $1.3 million, in part because he was upset about the closing of the nation's last major shirt manufacturing plant and the moving of jobs overseas, his lawyer said.

The plant closed Oct. 18 after 165 years of making shirts in Maine. Hathaway's clothing was worn by Union soldiers and was made famous by the man-with-an-eyepatch logo.

Michael J. Peloquin's offer is a departure for the developer, whose past projects in the Southwest have involved residential developments and office buildings.

Hathaway CEO Donald Sappington said Peloquin wants to set up a new shirt-making operation in the factory and rehire as many former Hathaway workers as possible. Distribution of the remaining shirts will keep 25 employed through December, but the closing puts 235 people out of work.

This week in business . . .

Major business and economic events scheduled for the week.

Tuesday -- The Conference Board releases results of its monthly survey on consumer confidence. Commerce Department reports on gross domestic product, third quarter, preliminary, and new home sales for October. The Consumer Product Safety Commission discusses its holiday toy recall checklist.

Wednesday -- Labor Department reports on weekly jobless claims. Commerce Department reports on personal income and spending for October and durable goods orders for October. Federal Reserve releases survey of regional economic conditions. Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, reports on mortgage rates.

Thursday -- U.S. financial markets closed for Thanksgiving Day.

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