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US demand for machine tools fell in February, two industry groups reported. The American Machine Tool Distributors' Association and the Association for Manufacturing Technology estimated the demand at $341 million, down 2 percent from $348 million in January. Orders in the first two months of 1999 were estimated at $688.6 million, down 48 percent from the same period in 1998, the report said. Economists consider demand for machine tools a leading indicator of the pace of manufacturing.

A chain of 1,900 brake, exhaust, and tire-repair outlets across Europe will be bought by Ford Motor Co., the automaker announced in London. The $1.6 billion purchase of Kwik-Fit PLC is designed to bring Ford nearer to becoming what a senior executive called the world's leading company for cars, automotive products, and service. Kwik-Fit, which also sells insurance, will continue to operate as a separate company and will keep its headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Ford announcement said.

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