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Ford motor co. reported its best US sales figures ever in March - up 14 percent from a year ago. Sales of 85,686 F-series pickups, the top-selling US vehicle for 17 years, were the highest last month for any car or truck in any month since June 1978. Total sales of pickups and sport utility vehicles, which have particularly high profit margins, were up 28 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

A close working agreement between two major automakers in Japan is well into the negotiation stage, a published report said. The business journal Nihon Keizai said Mazda and Mitsubishi already have agreed to a deal on the production of commercial vans and are discussing arrangements under which the latter would supply minicars for sale under the Mazda name, plus direct- injection engines. Neither company would comment on the report.

Foreign investors, frightened by the ongoing violence in Indonesia, are waiting for signs of political and economic stability before loosening their purse strings again, a government report suggests. It says approvals for new overseas investment in the southeast Asian nation fell 90 percent between January and March - from $5.1 billion to $560 million - compared to the same period in 1998.

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