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New-home starts in the US dipped 2.3 percent last month, to the lowest level since April, the Commerce Department reported. Analysts said rising mortgage rates were dampening demand for new homes and apartments. Builders started new homes in November at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.60 million units.

An announcement is expected as soon as today on the status of "very hot" negotiations in London on a merger between the life-sciences division of Monsanto Co. and the Swedish-American pharmaceutical giant Pharmacia & Upjohn, according to a published report. The companies declined to comment on specifics of the report in the Stockholm business daily Dagens Industri, but similar infor- mation appeared in Friday's Wall Street Journal. A merger would result in a company with annual revenues of $15.5 billion. St. Louis-based Monsanto has been for sale for more than a year. But while rival drugmakers are believed to be interested in acquiring its Searle pharmaceutical unit, few appear to want its pesticide- and agricultural-chemicals businesses. Monsanto has held fruitless talks with American Home Products, Du Pont, and Novartis of Sweden since early 1998.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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