Pacific Northwest Washington Mutual said Wednesday it would stop offering negative-amortizing loan products and WaMu Mortgage Plus loans...

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Pacific Northwest

Washington Mutual said Wednesday it would stop offering negative-amortizing loan products and WaMu Mortgage Plus loans.WaMu Mortgage Plus loans are mortgages with built-in lines of credit and flexible payments.

Negative amortizing loans, also called “option” adjustable-rate mortgages, offer very low introductory payments and let borrowers defer some interest payments until later years. But monthly minimum payments don’t cover the interest accruing, and homeowners may end up owing more than they borrowed.

Washington Mutual also said it is adding $1 billion to its borrowers’ assistance program to help people with subprime-mortgage loans stabilize their finances.

Separately, the Seattle thrift is planning to lay off hundreds of workers across the country, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

A WaMu spokeswoman said there were no job cuts to announce Wednesday.

Cell Therapeutics

Cancer drug may get boost from deal

Cell Therapeutics said Wednesday it reached a deal with Bayer Schering to access data that could help expand the authorized applications of its newly acquired cancer drug Zevalin.

The Seattle-based company bought the U.S. rights to Zevalin in December. The drug, Cell Therapeutics’ only commercially available product, is approved to treat patients with relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Bayer Schering owns Zevalin’s European rights.

Airlines

American may want 737s sooner

American Airlines may accelerate deliveries of more 737s and the retirement of older Airbus A300s as it tries to boost fuel efficiency in response to soaring costs.

The airline will add 70 Boeing 737-800 aircraft to its fleet in 2009 and 2010 to help replace aging MD-80 jets that account for nearly half of its planes, Chief Executive Gerard Arpey said Wednesday.

Mozilla

Firefox 3 browser makes big debut

Mozilla’s new Firefox 3 Web browser, the main rival to Microsoft’s dominant Internet Explorer, shattered the company’s previous record by attracting more than 8.2 million downloads in its first 24 hours.

Firefox 3 passed its predecessor’s first-day download total of 1.6 million in five hours, according to Mozilla, which released the program Tuesday.

Firefox accounts for about 18 percent of the market for browsers, software that connects computer users to the Web, according to Aliso Viejo at Net Applications. Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, has 74 percent.

Maritime shipping

Tentative deal with dockworkers

West Coast shippers say they have reached a tentative agreement with dockworkers on health-care benefits, although contract talks continue.

Neither the Pacific Maritime Association nor the International Longshore and Warehouse Union gave specifics late Tuesday on the proposed health-care package.

The current contract expires July 1.

West Coast ports are the nation’s principal gateway for cargo-container traffic from the Far East. The adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle about 40 percent of the nation’s cargo. Nearly 20,000 of the union’s 26,000 members work in the two ports.

DataQuick Information

California median home price drops

The median price of a home in California plunged 30 percent to $339,000 in May, a real-estate research firm said Wednesday.

The annual decline was driven by home depreciation, fewer sales of high-end homes, and a surge in sales of heavily discounted foreclosed properties, DataQuick Information said.

The statewide median home price peaked at $484,000 in May 2007.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, Bloomberg News and The Associated Press.