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US consumer confidence rose for a fourth straight month. The Conference Board said its confidence index rose 3.2 points - to 132.1 - in February from a revised 128.9 in January.

A major change in the way it buys steel was announced by General Motors, which said it will spend almost $12 billion over the next four years in a move to lock in better cost-control. Orders for 18 million metric tons had been placed with 40 producers, most of them American, GM said. Until now, the world's largest automaker has bought under one- or two-year contracts. GM also said it was exploring 10-year contracts with certain suppliers.

The bold, $58 billion hostile takeover bid by Olivetti for a company five times its size was shot down by regulators in Italy. The offer for Telecom Italia, the former state-owned telephone system, was ruled invalid because of unresolved legal issues and unfinished financial transactions involving Olivetti subsidiaries. But the market-watchdog agency Consob said the proposal could be reconsidered if Olivetti provided additional details, such as the date by which the takeover would be completed. Analysts said the ruling gave Telecom Italia, which opposes the takeover, time to try to solidify its stockholder base.

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