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The US unemployment rate hit a 29-year low in March, the Labor Department reported. It fell to 4.2 percent from 4.4 percent in February - the lowest since a matching 4.2 percent in February 1970. Nonetheless, the number of workers on payrolls outside the farm sector grew last month by a slight 46,000, the weakest report since snowstorms caused a decline in payrolls in January 1996. Economists said the reports show the labor supply dwindling rapidly, which could slow the nation's economic growth.

With a presidential election less than a year away, the government of Taiwan ordered mutual-fund managers to invest no more money in overseas stocks until further notice. According to reports, the Securities and Futures Commission would place a hold on new applications for such investments, said to be worth $4.2 billion. At the same time, commission chief Lin Tsong-yung was to leave on a tour of Tokyo, New York, and London exchanges to promote new investment in Taiwan stocks. Analysts said the moves were aimed at allowing the ruling National Party to claim credit for a rising domestic stock market as it faces a tough election fight next March.

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