Pacific Northwest Washington state posted the nation's third-fastest growth rate last year and was one of only 13 states where economic...

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Pacific Northwest

Washington state posted the nation’s third-fastest growth rate last year and was one of only 13 states where economic activity expanded, according to federal data released Thursday.

State gross domestic product — the sum of all goods and services produced within a state’s borders — rose 4.3 percent in Washington after adjustment for inflation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

That put the state’s 2007 growth rate behind just Utah (5.3 percent) and New York (4.4 percent).

Growth in Washington accelerated from 3.5 percent in 2006.

Nationally, GDP growth slowed to 2 percent last year from 3.1 percent in 2006.

Information industries, retail and durable-goods manufacturing were the largest contributors to Washington’s economic growth last year, while construction and finance were the biggest drags.

Boeing

Romanian, Korean carriers order jets

Boeing said Thursday that Romanian airline Blue Air has ordered three 737-900ER jetliners, worth $239 million at list prices.

Blue Air started operations in December 2004 as the first Romanian low-cost carrier. It operates a fleet of five 737s.

Separately, Korean Air Lines, South Korea’s largest airline, said it will purchase one 777-300ER plane for delivery in July 2010. The jet has a list price of $257 million.

Starbucks

25 here among 100 losing jobs

Starbucks laid off 100 employees this week, including 25 at its Seattle headquarters.

The other 75 worked in field locations throughout the U.S., spokeswoman Anna Kim-Williams said Thursday. No store employees were laid off.

The layoffs come in Starbucks’ store-development department, as the company applies the brakes to its breakneck growth.

In May, it announced it will slow U.S. growth to fewer than 400 stores annually beginning next year, down from 1,788 new U.S. stores last year.

Starbucks had 172,000 workers worldwide, including 144,000 in the U.S., at the end of September.

In February, the company cut about 600 positions, some through attrition and about 220 through layoffs. Many of those jobs, including about a third of the layoffs, were at headquarters.

Nation & World

Ford Motors

White-collar force warned of job cuts

Ford Motor sent an e-mail to offices across North America notifying workers it will cut white-collar salary costs 15 percent by Aug. 1. An unspecified number of people will lose their jobs.

The cuts are in response to shrinking U.S. auto sales brought on by $4 per gallon gasoline and a rapid shift to smaller vehicles from Ford’s traditional moneymakers — pickups and SUVs.

Justice Department

The U.S. Department of Justice says its antitrust division has ended its investigation of Molson Coors Brewing and SABMiller’s proposed joint venture to market and distribute their beers in the U.S.

The division said Thursday in a statement that an eight-month investigation concluded the joint venture would not reduce competition in the market. That clears the way for the deal to go forward.

Milwaukee-based Miller and Denver-based Molson Coors announced in October that they would form a joint venture called MillerCoors that would market and distribute their beers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The deal is aimed at helping them compete against Anheuser-Busch, which has about half the U.S. market.

The Justice Department says its investigation shows the joint venture will save the companies money and have “a beneficial effect” on prices.

Nymex

Oil prices soar as dollar droops

Oil prices soared Thursday as the dollar swooned and prices at the pump edged to within a penny of $4 a gallon.

Light, sweet crude for July delivery rose as high as $128.26 before easing to settle up $5.49 at $127.79 on the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex). It was the biggest single-day price increase in the history of the Nymex crude contract, though larger one-day percentage jumps have occurred.

Crude’s surge came as the dollar fell in response to comments by European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet suggesting the bank could raise interest rates.

Broadcom

Co-founder faces numerous charges

Broadcom co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III was in custody Thursday on charges that he slipped ecstasy into the drinks of technology executives, maintained a warehouse to store cocaine and tried to conceal his illegal conduct with bribes and death threats.

The billionaire also is accused of committing conspiracy, securities fraud and other violations while he led the Irvine-based computer-chip company.

A pair of indictments was unsealed Thursday, one addressing the drug charges and the other allegations related to the improper handling of backdated stock options.

Nicholas is accused of using much of his fortune to fund drug parties and to build a secret tunnel and room beneath his mansion in Laguna Hills, Calif.

Federal Reserve

Bank of America wins approval to buy Countrywide

The Federal Reserve has given approval for Bank of America to purchase distressed subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.

The Fed board approved the deal in a 32-page order issued Thursday. Countrywide had said previously that it will hold a special meeting of shareholders June 25 to approve the proposed sale.

In its order, the Fed board said that after the proposed deal Bank of America would remain the largest depository institution in the country, controlling approximately $773.4 billion in deposits, which represent 10.9 percent of total insured bank deposits in the country.

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