Pacific Northwest Air China, the nation's largest international carrier, said its board approved the purchase of 45 aircraft from Boeing...

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Aerospace

Air China, the nation’s largest international carrier, said its board approved the purchase of 45 aircraft from Boeing at a list price of $6.3 billion.

Approval came three weeks after Air China placed an order for 20 Airbus aircraft.

The carrier will buy 15 Boeing 777s and 30 Boeing 737s, with delivery expected in stages from early 2011 to 2015, the Beijing-based company said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange Tuesday.

The purchase will increase Air China’s fleet capacity by 35 percent.

Boeing has given Air China “significant price concessions,” the airline said.

China, the world’s fastest-growing major economy, is a critical market for Boeing and its rival Airbus.

Banking

WaMu stock rebounds 12%

Washington Mutual stock rebounded from its biggest drop in 25 years after telling investors that it’s “well-capitalized.”

The Seattle-based thrift gained 38 cents, or 11.8 percent, to $3.61 Tuesday. The shares tumbled 35 percent Monday and have lost more than 90 percent of their value in the past year.

“The stock’s been absolutely crushed here, and they don’t go down forever,” said Kevin Kruszenski, director of equity trading at Keybanc Capital Markets in Cleveland.

Seattle-based Washington Mutual, which has 2,500 branches throughout the country, said after the close of trading Monday that it has more than $40 billion in liquidity and $150 billion in retail deposits.

The company has recorded $3 billion in losses in the past two quarters amid tumbling home prices.

Insurance

Safeco gains most since buyout OK’d

The stock of Safeco, the property insurer that agreed in April to be acquired by Liberty Mutual, rose the most since the deal was announced after the company reaffirmed its commitment to complete the $6.2 billion buyout.

Seattle-based Safeco climbed $3.25, or 5.3 percent, to $64.85 Tuesday after Boston-based Liberty Mutual said it expects the transaction to be completed by the end of September at the previously announced price of $68.25 a share.

The two companies said in a statement late Monday that they would not address “rumors in the market” after Safeco fell as low as $59.20.

The Seattle-based insurer hadn’t traded below $65 a share since the deal was announced on April 23.

Aluminum

Hydropower gives smelter a boost

Alcoa, the world’s third-largest aluminum company, signed a new hydropower deal that will allow it to boost production at its Wenatchee smelter.

The agreement with the Chelan County Public Utility District lasts through 2028 and would help increase the smelter’s output by as much as 42,000 tons a year, New York-based Alcoa said Tuesday. The new contract begins in 2011.

The new contract will protect about 400 jobs in Wenatchee and add as many as an additional 80 if Alcoa decides to start a third potline.

The company will now seek to negotiate a long-term agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration to supply its Ferndale, Whatcom County, smelter, said John Thuestad, president of Alcoa’s U.S. primary-products unit.

Economy

Inflation jumps as costs skyrocket

The U.S. economic picture worsened Tuesday, with a report of the highest inflation since the early 1980s.

The Labor Department said wholesale inflation, driven by skyrocketing gas and food costs, rose by 9.2 percent for the 12 months ending in June — the fastest pace since the summer of 1981, during another energy crunch.

At the same time, consumers hit the brakes hard despite a massive infusion of government stimulus checks. Retail sales turned in their poorest showing in four months.

Semiconductors

Intel earnings leap, beating forecast

Intel says its second-quarter profit jumped 25 percent. Blossoming sales of laptop chips helped the company cruise past Wall Street’s estimates.

The chip-maker said Tuesday that net income was $1.6 billion, or 28 cents per share, in the quarter.

That was 3 cents per share higher than what analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting. It was a 25 percent jump from the $1.28 billion, or 22 cents per share, that Intel earned a year ago.

Sales set a record at $9.5 billion, up 9 percent over last year and $150 million higher than analysts’ forecasts.

Some analysts’ expectations were subdued on fears that the sputtering U.S. economy could be dragging down PC sales. They could be reassured that Intel’s sales forecast for the current quarter is in line with Wall Street’s predictions.

Petroleum

Oil prices drop on economic fears

Oil prices fell harder than they have in 17 years Tuesday as fears that record fuel prices are damaging the economy led to the third big sell-off in just over a week.

Light, sweet crude plunged $6.44, or 4.4 percent, to settle at $138.74 a barrel in an extremely volatile session. Prices at one point plummeted more than $10 from the day’s high.

Mounting concerns about the risks inflation poses to the U.S., the world’s biggest oil consumer, helped spark the declines. Analysts also attributed the sell-off to Thursday’s expiration of options contracts and program trading.

The drop marked the biggest decline in dollar terms since the Gulf War. Even so, prices remain no lower than they were a week ago.

Pharmaceuticals

Arthritis improves with Amgen drug

Amgen’s Enbrel anti-inflammatory drug reduces the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis when given with a standard therapy early in the disease, a study found.

Treatment with Enbrel and the generic drug methotrexate led to disease remission in about 50 percent of patients with moderate-to-severe arthritis after a year, compared with 28 percent of patients given the older drug alone, a study published in The Lancet said. The treatment also increased the ability of patients to remain employed, the study found.

Enbrel, which was the world’s fifth best-selling drug last year, was developed by Seattle’s Immunex before it was sold to Amgen in 2002.

Airlines

go! airlines to add bag fee

Passengers of go! airlines in Hawaii will soon be charged a $10 fee to check a bag for inter-island trips.

go!’s parent, Mesa Air, says it’s joining several other carriers with the checked bag charge. Officials say the airline needs to find other sources of revenue to deal with a spike in fuel prices.

The bag fee will begin on flights leaving August 10 or later. Anyone who bought tickets before July 10 will not be charged the new fee.

The carrier is also cutting fees for checking a second bag to $17 from a previously announced $25.

Consumer goods

Chief marketer at P&G to retire

The marketing chief who directed about $8 billion a year advertising products such as Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste and Gillette shavers is stepping down, Procter & Gamble Co. said Tuesday.

Global marketing officer Jim Stengel, 53, will retire from the company — the nation’s biggest advertiser — in October after 25 years.

P&G said Marc Pritchard, 48, will take over global marketing Aug. 1. Pritchard is 26-year company veteran who is now president for strategy, productivity and growth.

Mobile telecom

Korean carrier eyes Sprint, report says

South Korea’s SK Telecom is in talks to buy struggling U.S. wireless carrier Sprint Nextel, business news channel CNBC reported Tuesday

An agreement would be at best weeks away, CNBC said, citing people familiar with the talks.

Sprint spokesman James Fisher had no comment.

Internet

Viacom, YouTube agree on data mask

In a nod to privacy complaints, Viacom won’t be told the identities of individuals who watch video clips on the video-sharing site YouTube.

Viacom and other copyright holders have agreed to let YouTube mask user IDs and Internet addresses when Google’s online video site hands over viewership records in a $1 billion lawsuit accusing YouTube of enabling copyright infringement.

A federal judge ordered the database produced in a July 1 ruling widely criticized by privacy activists.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News