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US wholesale prices recorded their biggest drop in more than a year in February, the Labor Department said. The producer price index fell 0.4 percent last month after a 0.5 percent rise in January. The February decline was the steepest since a decrease of 0.6 percent in January 1998. It triggered speculation that the Dow Jones Industrial Average was about to break the 10000 mark - and it helped ease concerns that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates.

The bank that failed in its goal to become the largest in Europe officially was put up for privatization by the French government. The latter said it would keep a 10-percent share in Credit Lyonnais and would set up a group of "stable" shareholders with interests of 1 to 10 percent each. The remainder of the bank's shares will be sold through the stock market, with a view to keeping majority control in French hands. A combination of too-rapid expansion, bad loans, and slumping real-estate values in the 1980s led to a massive state bailout. Credit Lyonnais's losses have been estimated at $18 billion.

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