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Orders for costly us manufactured goods slumped sharply in April, driven down by a decline in demand for transportation equipment, the Commerce Department reported. The value of orders for new durable goods fell 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted $194.38 billion - after a 2.7 percent jump in March. Wall Street economists had forecast a 0.3 percent gain. Nonetheless, excluding transportation products, orders increased last month by 0.9 percent - following a 2 percent rise in March - suggesting that a modest recovery in manufacturing remained intact.

A broad alliance that could lead eventually to joint ventures or a merger was announced by two leading household-appliance makers. Electrolux of Sweden and Japan's Toshiba said they'll work together on technology development, procurement, and environmental issues. Although there currently is little standardization in refrigerators, washing machines, and other large home appliances, both companies aspire to be major global suppliers. But neither has much of a presence in the other's home market.

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