ECONOMIC REPORTS

Campaign Goodies for House Sales

Regardless of who wins the election today, homeowners planning to sell their houses can celebrate - if the winner keeps his election pledges.

President Clinton says he will eliminate taxation on up to $500,000 in capital gains on the sale of a residence by a couple who have lived in it for at least two of the past five years ($250,000 for an individual). Republican candidate Bob Dole promises a tax break up to $250,000 for those who have owned and lived in their home for at least three of the past five years. For those with 10 years or more residency, the capital-gains break will increase by $25,000 a year up to $500,000.

Who might want to postpone a home sale to see if these changes are enacted?

Mark Watson, a personal financial planning adviser for KPMG Peat Marwick LLP, says homeowners age 55 and older whose capital gains are likely to exceed the present one-time exclusion of $125,000 should wait. So should those with hefty capital gains who don't plan on buying a new house of equal or greater value, he says.

But for many, a new tax deal will offer no advantage.

Phone costs may fall by $1 trillion

So far, it's unclear how much consumers will benefit from phone-industry consolidation - a trend highlighted by this week's $21 billion merger of MCI and British Telecom to form Concert Global Communications PLC.

But deregulation, a driving force behind the mergers, may bring consumers $1 trillion in benefits between now and 2010, says the Institute for International Economics. The price and quality gains would come heavily in developing nations.

Since the 1984 breakup of AT&T, long-distance rates in the US have fallen 70 percent. In Japan, prices are down 50 percent since 1985.

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