News In Brief

Pay and benefits for US workers rose during 1999's first quarter, but at the slowest pace on record, the Labor Department announced. It said they increased by 0.4 percent - half the amount projected by economists - after a 0.7 percent rise in the final quarter of last year.

Republicans in the US Senate announced a compromise with key Democrats on legislation that would limit lawsuits against businesses as a result of Y2K computer problems. The accord was reached after Republicans added protections for consumers and dropped a controversial provision that would have protected individual corporate officers and directors. The bill, drafted by Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R) of Arizona, would delay the filing of lawsuits during a 30-to-90-day "cooling off" period and make it harder for consumers to sue at all because of Y2K-related computer problems.

The International Monetary Fund said it had reached an agreement to lend Russia $4.5 billion over 18 months, but technical details remained to be sorted out and Russia still had to approve tough new banking laws. Sources said the IMF loan would be part of a $7.5 billion package, including money promised by the World Bank and other lenders. When debt-rescheduling is factored in, the package would total as much as $24 billion - slightly less than was planned for a bailout that collapsed last August.

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