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Sales of new us homes rose a 0.1 percent in July, reaching their second-highest recorded level despite rising mortgage rates. The Commerce Department said sales of new single-family homes increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 980,000 units last month - up from a June sales pace of 979,000. July's performance was said to be much better than many analysts expected. Sales were up in all sections of the country except the West. The sales level was the highest since 985,000 new homes were sold in November 1998.

Royal Dutch/Shell, one of the world's largest oil companies, announced it is getting out of the coal business. Shell put its international mining assets up for sale, a move that analysts estimated would fetch at least $1 billion. The company turned its coal operations into a stand-alone business in mid-1997 and was expected to declare a profit of up to $50 million this year. But a spokesman said coal was not a strategic fit for Shell's other interests. Rival oil companies ARCO, Exxon, and British Petroleum also have sold or are planning to sell their coal businesses.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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