News In Brief

Us consumer prices held steady in June for the second straight month, calming inflation concerns that were generated when retail and wholesale prices jumped in April. Two flat consumer-price-index reports in a row from the Labor Department hadn't occurred since 1986, when the index fell for three consecutive months. The good showing in June reflected a 1.2 percent drop in energy costs.

Setting the stage for an expected battle next week over consolidation of Britain's communications industry, the third-largest of the companies involved confirmed equity-investment discussions with France Telecom. NTL Inc., with French financial muscle behind it, is seen as likely to attempt a $12.5 billion takeover of market leader Cable & Wireless Communications. The latter, in turn, has been exploring a merger with Britain's No. 2 cable company, Telewest, since May.

A new $10 billion legal assault against leading US cigar- ette producers was filed by Brazilians. Working with US-based lawyers, the state of Rio de Janeiro said it's seeking reimbursement from Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds for public funds spent to treat smokers who became ill.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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