Business & Finance

Exactly how fast is the booming economy of China growing? According to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics Wednesday, it surged 9.5 percent in the first half of the year - or as much as 1.5 percent ahead of the government's growth target for 2005. The growth was led by the rising volume of exports and by investment in construction and the industrial sector, despite efforts by regulators to tighten credit and limit lending. Gross domestic product for the period was valued at $811 billion.

Against that backdrop, however, efforts by two major Chinese companies to buy out American rivals appeared to have stalled, if not died. Unocal's board recommended late Tuesday that shareholders accept an improved $17.1 billion bid from Chevron Corp. - a jump of $500 million over the offer already agreed to. That is still well below the $18.5 billion offered by China's CNOOC Ltd., which said it remains interested in negotiating with Unocal. But analysts predicted that CNOOC will have to up the ante by as much as 10 percent to change minds at Unocal, whose shareholders meet in three weeks to vote on the competing bids. Meanwhile, Chinese appliance builder Haier Group and two partners pulled out of the bidding for Maytag of the US. Their $1.28 billion offer was the highest on the table before Whirlpool entered the bidding Monday at $1.37 billion.

Eastman Kodak, the photography giant, said it will cut as many as 10,000 more jobs in an effort to reduce its worldwide infrastructure. Its original plan, announced in January 2004, called for 15,000 layoffs, but a faster-than- expected decline in film sales spurred the decision to downsize further. Kodak posted a second quarter loss after reporting a profit for the same period a year ago.

Reeling from a 7 percent quarterly earnings drop, PNC Financial Services said Tuesday it will cut 3,000 jobs. The Pittsburgh company, which has 774 branches in six states, anticipates half the layoffs will come through attrition and by not filling open positions.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, opened its first "environmentally friendly" store in McKinney, Texas. Recycled cooking oil from the deli and motor oil from the auto service center will be used to help heat the building. The design also includes a wind turbine that will produce 5 percent of the store's energy needs and a rainwater- harvesting pond for capturing 95 percent of its irrigation water.

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