WASHINGTON

Deal ends agency challenge to Boeing plan for S.C. plant

The National Labor Relations Board on Friday dropped its high-profile challenge of Boeing’s decision to open a nonunion aircraft manufacturing plant in South Carolina.

The board acted after the machinists union approved a four-year contract extension with Boeing this week and agreed to withdraw its charge that the company violated federal labor laws.

Lafe Solomon, the board’s acting general counsel, said he had always preferred a settlement. The agency settles about 90 percent of its cases.

Under the deal, Boeing promised to build the new version of its 737 airplane in Washington state. The machinists agreed to drop allegations that Boeing opened the South Carolina plant in retaliation for past union strikes.

Both Solomon and the agency had come under intense criticism from GOP lawmakers and South Carolina officials for bringing the case. Republicans and business groups claimed the board was setting a dangerous precedent by interfering with a legitimate business decision about where to locate workers.Solomon said he was simply following the law and might do it again if faced with similar facts.

“This case was never about the union or the NLRB telling Boeing where it could put its plants,” Solomon said. “This was a question for us of retaliation, and that remains the law. If we were ever faced with a similar pattern, we might well issue a complaint.”

NEW YORK

S&P 500, Dow achieve gains for the second straight week

A deal to forge stronger ties among most of Europe’s economies sent stocks sharply higher Friday as hopes grew that the region is close to resolving its debt crisis. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 186 points.

The Dow and S&P 500 both had their second straight week of gains. Financial stocks rose the most over the week as worries eased about Europe. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose back above 2 percent as investors shed low-risk investments.

Bank stocks led the market higher, reflecting traders’ optimism about Europe’s progress toward solving its crisis. Citigroup Inc. rose 3.7 percent, Morgan Stanley 3.1 percent and JPMorgan Chase & Co. 3 percent.

The S&P’s 500 index closed up 20.84 points, or 1.7 percent, at 1,255.19. The Nasdaq composite index finished up 50.47, or 1.9 percent, at 2,646.85.

Florida orange crop to beat early estimates by 2 percent

Florida’s orange crop will be 2 percent larger than the October forecast, exceeding analysts’ estimates, because of bigger fruit size, the Department of Agriculture said Friday.

The state, the world’s second-biggest grower, will produce 150 million boxes in the harvest that began in October and runs into July, up from the previous projection of 147 million, the USDA said. The average estimate of six analysts and traders in a Bloomberg News survey was for 147.75 million. The orange crop totaled 140.3 million boxes last year.

The forecast was raised because of “the excellent fruit size,” said Judy Ganes-Chase, the president of J. Ganes Consulting in Katona, N.Y.

— From news service reports