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TRADE DEFICIT SHRINKS SLIGHTLY The US merchandise trade deficit shrank slightly to $10.5 billion in October despite the biggest trade gap with Japan in nearly seven years, the Commerce Department said yesterday. A 3.2 percent increase in exports to a record $40.1 billion outweighed a 2.1 percent rise in imports to $50.6 billion, also a record. For the first 10 months of the year, the trade gap is running at an annual rate of $117.8 billion. That puts the United States on track for its worst trade performance since 1988. In other US economic news, the aerospace industry reports it will reach record net profits this year, despite the largest one-year drop in sales. Industry representative Don Fuqua attributed the profits to cost-cutting, which has required 131,000 layoffs this year. He predicted sales drops in 1994, which will cause layoffs of almost 50,000 workers. The drop in orders is attributed to declines in both military and civilian orders. German interest rates

Germany's policymaking central bank left its main interest rates unchanged yesterday. In addition, the Bundesbank set a 1994 money-supply target stricter than economists had expected. The move is intended to hold down inflation. Other European governments have sought lower German interest rates, which they think will spur economic growth. Mining strike ends

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US coal miners returned to work yesterday in seven states after a bitter, seven-month strike. On Tuesday, the United Mine Workers union ratified a five-year contract with companies in the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. That ended a strike that had idled 17,500 miners in coal producing regions. Violence symposium opens

A national symposium on workplace violence opened yesterday in Washington. The rising tide of violence in America has made homicide the nation's third leading cause of death on the job, Postmaster General Marvin Runyon said. The meeting is designed to explore the warning signals of potential violence and to help determine how to prevent problems, he said. Cambodian talks to begin

Cambodia's premier, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, said yesterday he has accepted a request by the Khmer Rouge guerrilla group for peace talks. He said Khmer Rouge President Khieu Samphan requested the meeting in a letter. The communist Khmer Rouge killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians when it ruled the country in the 1970s and has since its 1978 ouster fought the replacement government. United Airlines buyout

United Airlines' unions say they have struck a $5 billion deal that would make United the biggest employee-owned company in the nation. Under a tentative agreement reached Wednesday, the employees would get a controlling stake in the airline in exchange for six years of wage and benefit concessions, union officials said. Expensive statuette

Vivien Leigh's best actress Oscar from ``Gone with the Wind'' sold for more than $500,000 at Sotheby's auction house Wednesday. Reports cite either $510,000 and $562,000 as the final bid. The auction house declined to identify the buyer, who paid more than five times the estimated price. It was the fourth Oscar ever to be sold. Fiji's president

Fiji President Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau died Wednesday at a US hospital. He became Fiji's first president after two military coups in 1987 resulted in the declaration of a republic and ouster of Queen Elizabeth II as head of state for the island nation. Before the coups he had been the queen's representative. Kakuei Tanaka

Kakuei Tanaka, a flamboyant politician and prime minister of Japan who was forced to resign in disgrace in 1974, died yesterday. An outspoken, self-made man, Tanaka is generally regarded as having been one of the most powerful figures in Japan's post-World War II era.

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