News In Brief

The US labor department said productivity shot up at an annual rate of 4 percent in the first three months of the year. The gain in output per hour of work followed a 4.3 percent rise during the fourth quarter of 1998, earlier reported as a 4.6 percent gain. Productivity - considered a key gauge of future prosperity - climbed 2.2 percent in the US last year.

A proposed $13.4 billion takeover of the state oil company of Argentina, YPF, moved a step closer to completion when directors endorsed the acquisition offer by the Spanish multinational energy giant, Repsol. YPF shares have gained 19 percent in value since Repsol announced its bid April 29. Repsol already holds controlling interest in a YPF rival, Astra, which owns a refinery and 800 gas stations. It has said it wants to merge the two companies but would be willing to divest assets equal to those in Astra's inventory in order not to dominate the Argentine market.

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