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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / April 19, 1999



US Industrial output barely rose in March, and a booming homebuilding industry showed signs of leveling off, according to two reports that implied inflation continues to pose no more than a scant threat to the nation's long-running economic expansion. The Federal Reserve reported a 0.1 percent gain in March output, after a 0.3 percent February increase. And the Commerce Department said total starts on single-family homes and apartments fell 1.3 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.766 million units, after a 1.6 percent drop in February.

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The first effects of the NATO assault on Yugoslavia and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from Kosovo were reported by neighboring Balkan economies - most of which already were fragile. Bulgarian officials said their country was losing $1.5 million a day in exports, since its trade routes to Western Europe have been cut by the hostilities. The comparable loss for Romania: $175 million to date. Albania, which has borne the brunt of refugee traffic, told an international bankers' conference in London its gross domestic product for the year would fall from a target of 8 percent growth to as low as 2 percent and that coping with the Kosovo refugees who have crossed the border so far would require at least $800 million in new assistance.