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With their proposed megamerger under attack on two fronts, WorldCom and Sprint announced they no longer were seeking approval by European regulators. The companies acted to preempt a move by the European Union's executive commission to block the deal, although the latter insisted it had yet to be notified formally of the withdrawal. The commission executed its block, a spokesman said, to keep WorldCom/Sprint from dictating prices and conditions to both customers and competitors in Europe. On Wednesday, the Justice Department sought a permanent injunction to block the merger in the US as well.

Orders to US factories for big-ticket manufactured goods surged 6 percent to $218.89 billion last month, the Commerce Department reported. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders for durable goods went up 6.6 percent, the largest increase since January 1985. The overall jump - twice as big as many analysts were expecting - largely reflected a 26 percent increase in orders for electronics and electrical equipment.

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Mazda "may" close 40 percent of its dealerships in the US, its president was quoted as saying. The Japanese affiliate of Ford Motor Co. did not deny a Tokyo business journal's report that eliminating unprofitable outlets in a revitalization drive would cut its network from 929 to between 550 and 600 over the next three years. Compared to an industrywide average growth in sales of 7.6 percent for the year ending May 30, Mazda's was 1.1 percent.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society