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A key indicator of US economic activity rose 0.3 percent, in July - the same pace as in the prior two months, the Conference Board reported. Its index of leading economic indicators has registered gains in nine of the last 10 months. "Eight of the 10 leading indicators posted increases, underscoring the continuing strength of the current economic expansion," an official of the business-sponsored research group said.

Assuming this week's vote ends up bringing independence to East Timor, the restive Indonesian province "will live off international aid" for years to come, economists said. It was among the hardest-hit areas of the far-flung archipelago by Indonesia's financial crisis of the past two years, and its gross national product - $200 a year per-capita - one of the world's lowest. East Timor's primary revenue-earner is Arabica coffee beans. Decades of administrative mismanagement, human-rights abuses, and guerrilla warfare have discouraged foreign investment that could have developed other industries, such as tourism. Results of the referendum are expected by next Tuesday.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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