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Originally published Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Annual salaries up 5% in state

Pacific Northwest Annual salaries in Washington state jumped 5 percent last year to an average $44,721. According to the state's Employment...

Pacific Northwest

Economy

Annual salaries in Washington state jumped 5 percent last year to an average $44,721.

According to the state's Employment Security Department, 2007's growth rate is down slightly from the 5.4 percent jump experienced in 2006.

Weekly wages averaged $860 in 2007.

Officials at the Employment Security Department say these numbers show the state's economy has remained strong while other parts of the country have experienced slowdowns.

Washington Mutual

Bank denounces regulatory rumors

After watching its shares sink again Wednesday, Washington Mutual issued a statement denouncing speculation that it is the subject of any regulatory-enforcement actions.

"Neither our primary federal regulator, the OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision], nor any other bank-regulatory agency has taken any enforcement action against WaMu that we have not previously disclosed," Washington Mutual said. "Further, the company is not currently in such discussions with any regulatory agency."

Washington Mutual shares closed down 62 cents, or 9.3 percent, at $6.06 Wednesday. The plunge followed a 17 percent decline on Monday and a 7 percent rebound on Tuesday.

Boeing

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Testing begins on 787 power systems

Boeing began testing the 787 Dreamliner's power systems Wednesday as it aims to meet a revised schedule to fly the plane by year-end and deliver it to the first customer in the third quarter of 2009.

The "power-on" test is a crucial milestone for the new carbon-composite aircraft, which has been postponed at least 14 months already from the original delivery target of last month because of manufacturing delays and design issues.

"It's going well, and we're confident we'll meet the milestone by the end of June," spokeswoman Yvonne Leach said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "There's different sections that are powered on at different times," meaning the test will take from 10 days to two weeks, Leach added.

The 787's electric system plays a bigger role than on any other commercial aircraft, with power levels that are five times higher than on Boeing's 767, Tim Morris, president of aerospace-power systems for United Technologies' Hamilton Sundstrand unit, said earlier this month.

Starbucks

Agreement made to resolve Wi-Fi suit

Starbucks said it agreed to resolve a lawsuit in which T-Mobile USA accused the coffee chain of breaching a contract by allowing AT&T to supply wireless Internet access free to customers using T-Mobile equipment.

"T-Mobile, AT&T and Starbucks" have agreed "to resolve their disputes" Starbucks spokeswoman Stacey Krum said in an e-mail message.

T-Mobile sued June 5 in a New York state court saying it had installed equipment at thousands of Starbucks coffee shops. Then Starbucks decided to switch to AT&T, leading to an agreement for a transition period ending next Jan. 4. The carrier said Starbucks then allowed AT&T to provide and promote the service — at T-Mobile's expense — in violation of the transition agreement.

"T-Mobile, AT&T and Starbucks have entered into a memorandum of understanding to resolve their disputes," AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said in a statement.

Peter Dobrow, a T-Mobile spokesman, couldn't be reached for comment.

Amazon.com

A potential buyer for Borders?

William Ackerman, the billionaire hedge-fund manager who is a major stakeholder in Borders Group, said Wednesday the bookseller should consider approaching online retailer Amazon.com about a possible acquisition.

The founder of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, which owns about 30 percent of Borders, said the bookseller could become the "bricks-and-clicks" component of Seattle-based Amazon's nationwide sales strategy. Borders, which put itself up for sale in March, has about 500 retail outlets across the country.

One factor that might persuade Amazon is that the company may soon lose its state tax advantage across the nation. Some 18 states are ramping up to require e-commerce businesses to collect sales tax.

Ackerman said that once Amazon loses its tax advantage, buying retail locations will make sense.

Microsoft

Interactive tables in use at Harrah's

Microsoft and Harrah's Entertainment introduced a high-tech interactive bar table Wednesday that lets patrons order drinks, watch YouTube videos, play touch-screen games and even flirt with each other.

The six rectangular tables with built-in 30-inch flat screens using Microsoft Surface technology were installed in a lounge at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, with custom applications built for Harrah's. A spokeswoman for Microsoft said the units sold for a base price of $10,000.

A program called Mixologists lets patrons play bartender by creating and ordering concoctions of whatever cocktails and mixers they click on. Another program lets users watch YouTube videos, either by searching or choosing from a list of popular videos. The table also includes a program called Flirt, which lets customers sitting at any such table in the lounge see and chat with each other, take and e-mail pictures and even trade cellphone numbers.

Surface was first put into use in April by AT&T at its wireless stores.

Microsoft

New program helps analyze markets

Microsoft has developed a financial program designed to help investors track stock markets.

Microsoft will offer a test version of the program through the Web site of partner Zignals, a Dublin-based online-finance firm. The site uses Microsoft's Solver Foundation technology, which detects patterns in large amounts of fluctuating data.

The software helps users analyze patterns and build trading strategies, competing with similar programs used by investment banks. The Zignals software may eventually be linked to Microsoft's MSN Web site to help drive traffic, said David Harnett, a senior director at Microsoft.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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