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Lucent technologies is negotiating to buy Ascend Communications for more than $16 billion - a deal that would likely challenge networking leader Cisco Systems, industry sources said. Lucent is the largest maker of telecommunications equipment; Ascend, based in Almeida, Calif., is the fourth-biggest maker of computer-networking gear. Demand for US machine tools fell 17 percent in November, suggesting a modest market in 1999, industry groups said. The American Machine Tool Distributors' Association and the Association for Manufacturing Technology estimated demand at $440 million, down from $532 million in October. Orders in the first 11 months of 1998 were estimated at $7.1 billion, down 10 percent from the same period in 1997. No preference will be shown to foreign investors in the collapse of China's second-largest trust company, the central bank in Beijing said. Guangdong International Trust and Investment Corp. (GITIC) leaves debts of $4.3 billion, much of it owed to overseas lenders. Despite expectations that those investors would be given priority in liquidating GITIC's assets, an official said equal treatment would be given to domestic creditors. GITIC is one of 240 government-owned trusts, many of which are deep in debt.

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