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Picking up where it left off late last week, the government of Japan was selling billions of dollars in yen yesterday to help prop up the country's fragile economic recovery. The move drove the yen to 122.30 against the US dollar as trading in Tokyo neared a close. Observers said they believed the Bank of Japan may have abandoned its presumed strategy of pegging the yen at 120 to the US dollar or even keeping it below 125. The stronger the yen, the more expensive exports become, and Japan's overall trade surplus fell in May for the second month in a row - the first time that has happened since January 1997.

A combined $11 billion takeover offer by the US industrial-gas company Air Products of Van Nuys, Calif., and Air Liquide of France was rejected by Britain's BOC Group Plc. And a merger deal between BOC and another US company, Praxair of Danbury, Conn., also is believed to have collapsed. The latter would have resulted in the world's largest producer of such gases, among them carbon dioxide, which provides the fizz in bottled beverages. BOC said no other merger or takeover discussions were under way.

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