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The US trade deficit ballooned to a new record high, $25.2 billion, in July, the Commerce Department reported. The deficit grew by 2.4 percent, surpassing the June imbalance of $24.6 billion. Deficits with Japan, China, and Western Europe all set monthly records. The trade imbalance has climbed to new highs for seven straight months.

Negotiations for a $70 billion, combined mobile-phone network were successful, Bell Atlantic and Britain's Vodafone AirTouch Plc. announced. The companies said they would be able to serve 90 percent of the US population with a common digital technology, offering a stiff new challenge to AT&T and Sprint. If regulators and Vodafone's shareholders approve, the venture will be 55 percent owned by Bell Atlantic. The two confirmed Sept. 6 that they were discussing a partnership.

In a cost-cutting move, the giant marketing group Unilever announced plans to eliminate 1,200 of the almost 1,600 brands in its portfolio. The British/Dutch company said it also wants to boost sales growth, which has averaged a sluggish 2.3 percent a year for the past decade. Among Unilever's best-known products are Elizabeth Arden cosmetics, Vaseline, Birds Eye frozen foods, Promise margarine, Sure deodorant, and Pepsodent toothpaste.

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