News In Brief

US consumer prices climbed 0.4 per cent in September, the Labor Department said. The increase reflected higher prices for tobacco, fuel, and clothing. Both the core and the overall consumer-price increases matched forecasts of economists in a Reuters survey. The overall rise was the biggest since a 0.7 percent gain in April.

Housing starts in the US declined 3.2 percent in August to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.618 million units, the Commerce Department announced. Analysts said the report indicated that rising interest rates may have helped to cool the market. Economists had expected builders to start 1.64 million units in September.

The rapidly consolidating telecommunications industry tightened further in Europe as state-owned Telenor of Norway and Telia of Sweden announced a merger valued at $47 billion. The yet-to-be renamed company will be based in Stockholm, although its international business will be directed from Oslo. The combined firms have subsidiaries or investments in other mobile-phone companies in Eastern and Central Europe and Asia.

Nortel Networks Corp., one of the leading manufacturers of telecommunications hardware, will acquire Clarify Inc. for $2.1 billion in stock, the companies announced in Toronto. San Jose, Calif.-based Clarify is a major provider of software for customer-service electronics.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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