Labor agreement ends GM strike

General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached agreement this morning on a tentative four-year labor pact, ending a two-day-old strike. The details were not disclosed, but a source told the AP that GM will put $36 billion into a UAW-managed trust fund that will relieve GM of $51 billion in retiree health care costs. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) UAW president Ron Gettelfinger said the union also got "outstanding'' job security pledges. The pact "is great news for GM and its employees," and should boost for GM's struggling domestic operations, said BGC Partners strategist Howard Wheeldon. "It's an object lesson of what has to happen in the U.S. auto industry." (Bloomberg)

Amazon enters music market

Online retail giant Amazon launched a music-download service, Amazon MP3, entering the increasingly crowded online music marketplace. Amazon MP3 offers almost 2.3 million songs from EMI, Universal, and independent labels -- and none of the music is copy-protected. (AP in The New York Times, free registration required) Apple's dominant iTunes Store has more than 6 million songs, but most of them are locked by copy-resistant software. "Given Amazon's strong market position in e-commerce," said Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian, its "decision to support music files free of copy protection is likely to provide a boost to the open format." (MarketWatch)

More bad news for Vonage

Struggling Internet phone company Vonage lost a patent suit brought by Sprint, in its second legal setback this year. A federal jury yesterday ordered Vonage to pay Sprint $69.5 million for infringing on six Sprint patents. ( The ruling sent Vonage shares down 33 percent to close at a record low of $1.30 a share. Vonage is still appealing a $58 million verdict for Verizon handed down in March. (MarketWatch) The new decision "feels like a death knell" for Vonage, said telecom analyst Greg Gorbatenko, because it threatens much needed revenue for investment. "It's just bad news any way you slice it for Vonage," he said. (AP in

Making money off friends' opinions

Arianna Huffington's two-year-old Web site, The Huffington Post, profits off a novel business plan: have your celebrity friends air their opinions, reap the ad money. The mainly political forum is now the fifth-most-linked to blog on the Web, has 43 full-time employees and 1,800 bloggers, and is on track to recoup its $10 million in startup costs next year. Analysts attribute the site's success to its agglomeration of opinionated news. Traditional newspapers should take heed, says Barry Parr at Jupiter Research. "People are looking for places that pull together the best information into one place," regardless of the source, he says. (USA Today)