News In Brief

The US economy finished 1998 with an burst of growth, but it wasn't enough to prevent the decade's first annual drop in corporate profits. The gross domestic product (GDP) surged at a seasonally adjusted 6 percent annual rate during the last three months of the year, the Commerce Department said. That was down from an earlier estimate of 6.1 percent. The increase in GDP was a robust 3.9 percent for all of 1998. But the department's first estimate of after-tax corporate profits showed a 1 percent decline in the fourth quarter, marking the third such drop of the year. For all of 1998, profits slipped an estimated 2.2 percent.

On the heels of $883 million in losses last year, the giant Japanese electronics group Mitsubishi announced it would lay off about 10 percent of its work force - 14,500 employees - over the next three years. Mitsubishi, which makes a range of products from semiconductors to refrigerators to nuclear power plants, said that more than half of the cuts would be made in Japan. Rivals NEC Corp. and Sony recently announced layoffs on a similar scale.

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