BUSINESS HIGHLIGHTS

Food, clothes nudge prices Washington

Consumer prices rose 0.2 percent in August as higher prices for food and clothing offset fresh declines in gasoline costs, the United States Department of Labor reported Tuesday. Consumer costs have risen at an annual rate of just 0.1 percent this year, the best January-August performance since 1955. Defense lag cuts plant orders Washington

Orders to US factories for ``big ticket'' durable goods fell 2.6 percent in August, the biggest decline since March. The Commerce Department said the weakness came primarily from a giant 24.5 percent drop in orders for defense equipment. Defense orders had risen 40 percent in July. Fiat to buy back Libyan stake Rome

Italian Defense Minister Giovanni Spadolini announced Tuesday that Fiat, the Italian carmaker, will be buying back a minority stake owned by Libya. Fiat's stock rose nearly 4 percent after Spadolini said Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Co. was selling its interest. USX looking at new structure Pittsburgh

Embattled USX Corporation has announced a 30-day study of ``a wide range of restructuring alternatives'' to increase the price of its stock amid heavy trading and escalating rumors of takeover attempts.

Wall Street analysts have estimated USX's value at up to $40 a share. The stock closed unchanged at 25 a share in New York Stock Exchange composite trading on Monday after more than 13.6 million shares changed hands. Microchip circuits protected San Jose, Calif.

The internal design of microchips is protected by US copyright law, a federal judge has ruled in a case with widespread implications for the semiconductor industry.

US District Judge William Ingram issued the ruling on Monday in a trial involving Intel Corporation of Santa Clara and NEC Corporation of Japan. Intel sued NEC, alleging that the Japanese company's V20 and V30 microprocessors illegally reproduce the microcode of Intel's 8086 and 8088 chips, the brains of IBM and IBM-compatible personal computers.

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