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US construction spending rose in November for the sixth consecutive month, propelled by strong gains in housing and government projects, the Commerce Department reported. Spending advanced 0.9 percent from the month before to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $677.8 billion. It was the largest increase since July - and the first time since 1993 that the volatile industry had posted six consecutive gains.

Sales of new Japanese cars, trucks, and buses fell 23.5 percent in December compared to the same month last year to 299,846 vehicles, the Japan Automobile Dealers' Association said. The figures reportedly mark the 21st consecutive month of decline. Sales for all of last year sank 15.2 percent from 1997 - to 4.34 million vehicles.

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The first trading in the euro was described as "thin" on Asian markets, as private investors reacted cautiously to its introduction. But an early boost was expected from China and the Philippines, both of which were considered likely to transfer some foreign currency reserves into euros.

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