Why do yum commands error with "Error while executing packages action: empty transaction [[6]]" (code -1)" ?

Solution Verified - Updated -

Issue

  • can't update system with yum
  • "yum repolist" shows no channels
  • "yum update" results in
    No Packages marked for Update
    
  • scheduled errata updates fail with error:
Client execution returned "Error while executing packages action: empty transaction [[6]]" (code -1)"
  • /etc/yum/pluginconf.d/rhnplugin.conf contains
        [main]
        enabled = 0
        gpgcheck = 1

Environment

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 or later

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