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Confusion reigned on international oil markets as futures prices slid below the $28-a-barrel level for some grades of crude, appearing to jeopardize a one-day-old order to OPEC members to prepare for a new production increase. The order, issued Monday by cartel president Ali Rodri-guez of Venezuela, was contingent on futures prices remaining at or above $28 between now and July 28. Adding to the uncertainty was Saudi Arabia, OPEC's most powerful member, which has vowed to pump 500,000 more barrels a day by itself, if necessary, to bring prices down to $25. But since making the pledge July 3, Saudi officials have said nothing further on the subject.

A $6.5 billion offer by Exodus Communications for Global Center, the Internet hosting service of Bermuda-based Global Crossing Ltd., has been rejected, the Los Angeles Times reported. Instead, Global Crossing will attempt to raise at least that amount through a public offering of shares in the money-losing venture, the Times said. Exodus, which is twice the size of GlobalCenter, is based in Santa Clara, Calif.

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The second major bankruptcy in less than a week in Japan was confirmed by Seiyo Corp., which filed for liquidation because of debts topping $4.7 billion. The real estate unit of Seibu Department Store Ltd. is burdened by investments in property made in the 1980s, before the Japanese economic bubble burst. Last Wednesday, Sogo Corp., also a department store operator, sought court protection against creditors. Its $17.3 billion debt is the second-largest in Japanese corporate history.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society