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US Housing starts rose 0.4 percent in August, the Commerce Department reported. Construction of new homes and apartments climbed to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.68 million units. Many analysts had expected a 2 percent decline in housing starts because of higher mortgage rates, which in August climbed briefly above 8 percent after starting the year below 7 percent.

Another multibillion-dollar takeover fight - the second in less than a year - appeared likely in Italy, this time in the banking and insurance sectors. Reports said financial markets expected Sanpaoli, a Turin-based bank, would bid $14.6 billion for INA (Instituto Nazionale dalle Asicurazioni), the nation's second-largest carrier, as soon as tomorrow. INA, not to be confused with the US insurance company that uses the same initials, also is a key shareholder in two large banks. It became the target of a $12.7 billion hostile bid last week by Italy's largest carrier, Generali of Trieste. A Generali-INA merger would create Europe's third-largest insurer. Earlier this year in the telecommunications industry, Olivetti won a protracted $58 billion takeover battle for Telecom Italia.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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