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US business inventories rose 0.4 percent in September to $1.12 trillion - the biggest increase since a 0.5 percent jump in March, the Commerce Department reported. At the same time, however, sales decreased 0.2 percent in September, following a 1.2 percent gain the month before. The only other time sales have fallen this year was in January, when they declined 0.2 percent.

What could be the largest hostile-takeover battle in corporate history appeared to be shaping up as Germany's Mannesmann conglomerate rejected a $106 billion offer from Vodafone AirTouch, the British mobile-phone giant. Mannesmann called the bid "wholly inadequate." But with Vodafone expected to release a robust half-year earnings report today, analysts said the company could afford to - and might well - more than double its offer to about $235 billion. At stake for Vodafone is leadership in the European mobile-phone market. But its offer did not include rival Orange Plc., which Mannesmann agreed to buy last month for $32 billion. British law forbids a single company from holding more than one mobile-phone license.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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