US workers' productivity rose sharply in the third quarter, and growth in labor costs slowed significantly, the Labor Department reported. Output per hour outside the farm sector rose at an annual rate of 4.2 percent in the July-to-September quarter - the largest productivity jump since a 4.4 percent gain in the first quarter of last year. Unit labor costs were kept in check, gaining just 0.6 percent, the lowest rate since the fourth quarter of 1998. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said retail sales held steady in October, remaining unchanged at a seasonally adjusted $252.5 billion.
Vodafone AirTouch, British Telecommunications, and Bell Atlantic of the US have made separate proposals to acquire Germany's Mannesmann , Britain's Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph said. The flurry of offers for the German telecommunications and engineering group were apparently triggered by Mannesmann's planned $33 billion acquisition of British mobile-phone company Orange PLC, thwarting the ambition of Britain's Vodafone to become Europe's leading mobile-phone group. The Times said Vodafone was prepared to offer almost $121.4 billion, which would set a new record for a takeover price.
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