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Us consumer prices held steady in June for the second straight month, calming inflation concerns that were generated when retail and wholesale prices jumped in April. Two flat consumer-price-index reports in a row from the Labor Department hadn't occurred since 1986, when the index fell for three consecutive months. The good showing in June reflected a 1.2 percent drop in energy costs.

Setting the stage for an expected battle next week over consolidation of Britain's communications industry, the third-largest of the companies involved confirmed equity-investment discussions with France Telecom. NTL Inc., with French financial muscle behind it, is seen as likely to attempt a $12.5 billion takeover of market leader Cable & Wireless Communications. The latter, in turn, has been exploring a merger with Britain's No. 2 cable company, Telewest, since May.

A new $10 billion legal assault against leading US cigar- ette producers was filed by Brazilians. Working with US-based lawyers, the state of Rio de Janeiro said it's seeking reimbursement from Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds for public funds spent to treat smokers who became ill.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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