IN BRIEF

CHARLOTTE, N.C.

Bank of America raises nonclient ATM fees

Bank of America Corp. has raised surcharges for noncustomers at most of its automatic teller machines nationwide to $3 from $2.

The Charlotte-based bank, which has more than 17,000 ATMs, made the change in most markets in July and August, spokeswoman Betty Riess said.

Bank of America has the largest ATM network in the United States and the higher fees could affect millions of consumers.

The higher fees are mostly at machines in financial centers and in grocery stores, where most of the users are bank customers, Riess said. Roughly 10,700 ATMs — nearly two-thirds of the bank’s network — are affected.

NEW YORK

Commercial paper market seems steadier

The corporate short-term commercial paper market could be finding its footing, weekly statistics from the Federal Reserve showed Thursday.

During the week ended Wednesday, the outstanding volume of commercial paper dropped by $8.2 billion to $1.917 trillion, its fifth straight week of decline.

Commercial paper plays a key role in funding corporate American’s operations. The volume figure measures how much commercial paper has been offered but remains unsold and the imbalance has been much greater in recent weeks.

By comparison, companies were unable to find takers for $54.1 billion in commercial credit the prior week. During August the totals sometimes stretched over $90 billion.

DETROIT

General Motors named top target for strike

The United Auto Workers union has picked General Motors Corp. as the lead company and potential strike target in contract negotiations with the Detroit Three, a local union official said Thursday.

The official, who requested anonymity because the talks are private, said his local received notice Thursday afternoon that GM would be the lead.

Contracts between the UAW and GM, Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co. expire at midnight.

Normally, the union negotiates an agreement with the lead company, which becomes the pattern for the other two. Contracts usually are extended beyond the deadline for companies other than the lead.

Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans confirmed that Ford had agreed to a contract extension, but a Chrysler spokesman would not comment.

PARIS

Alcatel lowers forecast for revenue growth

Alcatel-Lucent SA on Thursday slashed its full-year revenue growth forecast and said it expects third-quarter operating profit to be “around break-even.”

In a statement, Alcatel-Lucent said it expects revenue growth in 2007 to be flat to slightly up at a constant exchange rate. The company had estimated its full-year revenue would grow in the mid-single digit percentage range at a constant exchange rate.

Alcatel-Lucent said the revision reflects recent discussions with wireless customers in North America.

NEW YORK

Oil prices close above $80 per barrel mark

Oil prices finished above $80 a barrel for the first time Thursday and gasoline prices rose as refiners reported production problems after Hurricane Humberto hit Texas.

Oil first traded above $80 a barrel on Wednesday after the Energy Department reported declines in crude and gasoline inventories and a drop in refinery activity, but ended the day below that psychologically important mark.

On Thursday, Humberto added to the supply concerns by cutting power to several refineries in the Port Arthur, Texas, area. Another tropical system gaining strength in the Atlantic also supported prices.

Light, sweet crude for October delivery finished at a record $80.09, up 18 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange and above the previous record close of $79.91 set a day earlier.

WASHINGTON

Honeywell told to pay $12 million settlement

A federal judge in Louisiana on Thursday ordered Honeywell International to pay $12 million for its negligence in handling hazardous materials that resulted in the death of an employee.

The U.S. Justice Department said the diversified manufacturer will pay an $8 million criminal fine after pleading guilty to violating the Federal Clean Air Act.

The Morris Township, N.J.-based company also agreed to pay the victim’s children $2 million and another $2 million to state funds that handle hazardous materials.

NEW YORK

Blue chips advance, send indexes higher

Stocks advanced solidly Thursday, led by strong gains among the blue chips and mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp., which signaled a possible thawing in the credit markets with the announcement it had lined up additional financing.

The Dow rose 133.23, or 1 percent, to 13,424.88.

Broader stock indicators also advanced, though more modestly. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 12.39, or 0.84 percent, to 1,483.95, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 8.99, or 0.35 percent, to 2,601.06.

OAK BROOK, Ill.

McDonald’s raises dividend; shares surge

McDonald’s Corp. stock surged to an all-time high Thursday after the fast-food chain announced the largest dividend increase in its history and pledged to return more money to shareholders than Wall Street expected.

The dollar’s record low against the euro also boosted McDonald’s, which has more than 6,000 restaurants in Europe.

McDonald’s shares rose $3.10, or 6.05 percent, Thursday to close at $54.17 after reaching a new high-water mark of $54.68.

The increase came a day after McDonald’s raised its annual dividend to $1.50 and said it expects to return between $15 billion and $17 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks between 2007 and 2009.

LOS ANGELES

To the moon, Google with rover contest

Google is bankrolling a $30 million contest that could significantly boost the commercial space industry and spur the first nongovernmental flight to the moon.

The bulk of the prize will go to the first private company that can land a robotic rover on the moon and beam back a gigabyte of images and video to Earth, the Internet search leader said Thursday.

Google partnered with the X Prize Foundation for the moon challenge, which is open to companies around the world. The Santa Monica-based nonprofit prize institute also hosts the Ansari X Prize contest, which led to the first manned private spaceflight in 2004.

NEW YORK

Bond prices decline as stock markets rally

Bond prices fell Thursday as stock markets rallied and speculation grew that the Federal Reserve will cut rates next week.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note closed down 0.53 points at 102.13 with a yield of 4.48 percent, up from 4.41 percent at Wednesday’s close. Prices and yields move in opposite directions.

The 30-year bond fell 0.94 points to 104 with a yield of 4.74 percent, up from 4.69 percent on Wednesday.

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