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Mazda Motor Co. will idle its assembly plants tomorrow and every other Friday in November "to prevent excessive inventory" because of slow sales in the US, a spokesman said. The automaker, which is one-third owned by Ford, relies more heavily on the American market than any of its Japanese competitors. Mazda exports 60 percent of its production, most of it to the US. The company's 9,100 assembly-line workers will be paid for their time off.

Alcatel, the telecommunications equipment giant, added to fast-growing unemployment problems in France by announcing a major new round of layoffs. The Paris-based company said it will cut 10,000 jobs on top of the 23,000 announced earlier. Company executives also warned of a $4.5 billion net loss for the fiscal year. France, which as recently as May was experiencing an 18-year-low jobless rate of 8.7 percent, has seen the rate rise for five straight months to September's just-announced 9.1 percent.

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CVS Corp., the No. 2 US drugstore chain and largest retailer of prescriptions, said it will close 200 of its 4,135 stores, resulting in an unspecified number of layoffs. The Woonsocket, R.I.-based company also will close one of 10 distribution centers and one of its two ProCare mail-order facilities.

Fidelity Investments, the Boston-based mutual fund giant, laid off 760 employees, or just over 2 percent of its workforce.


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