Business & Finance

Another move to lower interest rates appears likely when Federal Reserve policymakers gather tomorrow in Washington, economic analysts said. They predicted the only question would be whether the Fed's Open Market Committee decides on a 0.25 percent or a 0.50 percent cut in the rate that banks charge each other to borrow money. Interest rates already are at four-decade lows, but analysts said efforts at a broad-based and sustained economic recovery are threatening to stall once again.

Beleaguered Vivendi Universal promised full cooperation in two more investigations, both in the US. But the Paris-based multimedia conglomerate provided no details except to confirm that the US attorney for the Southern District of New York is looking into a criminal matter and would coordinate its activities with an informal inquiry being conducted by the Miami office of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The new probes were divulged a week after French prosecutors opened an investigation into Vivendi's accounting practices. The company's financial disclosures also are being scrutinized by the Paris stock exchange's watchdog agency.

Two weeks of nonstop negotiations could produce an announcement by Friday that NBC-TV will buy the Bravo cable channel from Cablevision Systems Corp., The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times reported. Both publications put the likely purchase price at $1.25 billion in cash and stock. Analysts suggested that Cablevision could put the proceeds of such a sale toward the launch of a satellite TV operation to compete with DirectTV and EchoStar. Bravo can be accessed by about 60 million US households.

In a drive to cut costs by $1.6 billion over the next four years, Japanese steel giant JFE Holdings Inc. will lay off 4,000 workers and suspend operations on 10 production lines, the Tokyo business journal Nihon Keizai reported. JFE, formed in September from the merger of Kawasaki Steel and NKK Corp., sells largely to the automaking, construction, and shipbuilding industries.

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