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Construction of new american homes perked up in May after three months of declines, the Commerce Department said in a report indicating the housing market has retained much of its vigor. Total housing starts rose 6.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.676 million units after a revised decline of 9.7 percent in April. Also, the Federal Reserve said the output of mines, factories, and utilities rose 0.2 percent in May, after a revised 0.4 percent jump in April.

The lengthy stalemate over who will lead the World Trade Organization into the next century appeared likely to turn even messier if negotiations under way in Geneva made no progress. A special mediator reported that neither of the current candidates, former New Zealand Prime Minister Michael Moore and Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand, had enough backing from member nations to win the post. Neither would withdraw, and both accused other WTO members of blocking them so a third candidate could be put forward. The job has been vacant since Renato Ruggiero of Italy retired April 30.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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