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American worker productivity grew at the fastest rate in seven years in the third quarter, while labor costs declined, the Labor Department said. Productivity, defined as the amount of output for each hour of work, rose at an annual rate of 4.9 percent - up from a previously estimated 4.2 percent. Unit labor costs, considered a key measure of wage pressures, declined at a 0.2 percent annual rate - up from a previously estimated 0.6 percent increase.

Bell Atlantic, Vodafone AirTouch, and GTE agreed to the largest sale of assets the US government ever demanded as a condition for approving a merger. The Justice Department said it had approved Bell Atlantic's wireless partnership with British-owned Vodafone and its merger with GTE after forcing the telephone companies to agree to sell wireless businesses in 96 markets in 15 states. Officials did not disclose the estimated value of the divestiture because the properties have not yet been sold.

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Only the president's signature remains necessary for a new law to take effect that will allow foreign carriers to sell insurance in India - a potential market of 1 billion people. Among other conditions of the measure OK'd by Parliament yesterday, however, such companies may operate only through Indian partners in which they are limited to a one-quarter interest. Indian governments nationalized the life insurance industry in 1956 and all other types of insurance in 1972.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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