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US consumer prices rose less than expected in January, the Labor Department said. Its consumer price index rose just 0.1 percent last month, both overall and in the closely watched core index, which strips out volatile food and energy costs. That was below the 0.2 percent forecast by economists. The report was seen as largely removing inflation concerns raised by an unexpectedly big increase in the January producer price index.

A $58 billion hostile takeover bid hung in the balance as Italian communications giant Olivetti appealed to the national pride of its target, the former state-owned telephone monopoly, Telecom Italia. The latter's response was to call the Olivetti bid, one of the largest in European history, "full of holes" and to promise litigation blocking the deal. A senior Olivetti executive argued that Telecom Italia's stockholder base was weak, leaving the company vulnerable to foreign takeover at a time when many of Italy's other industries were "monopolized" by foreigners. "Our fundamental objective is to guarantee that at least the telecommunications industry remains in Italian hands," Olivetti chairman Antonio Tesoni said.

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