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New home sales jumped 6.1 percent in June to the highest level since March, spurred by favorable mortgage rates and solid job and income growth. All regions except the Northeast contributed to the gain.

The Commerce Department said today that sales of single-family homes totaled a seasonally adjusted 819,000 annual rate, up from a sharply revised 772,000 a month earlier. May sales originally were estimated at an 825,000 rate.

The median price of a new home was $142,900, up from $140,000 in both May 1997 and June 1996.

Nomura hit in payoff scandal
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's biggest brokerage and a top bank at the center of a racketeering scandal were slapped today with the harshest penalties ever meted out by the country's financial regulators.

The punishments will shut down key divisions of Nomura Securities Co. and Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank Ltd. until the end of the year, the Finance Ministry announced. Nomura and Dai-Ichi Kangyo are accused of paying off a reputed corporate racketeer -- Ryuichi Koike -- to keep him from revealing company secrets and scandals or disrupting shareholders' meetings.

Nomura will be forced to stop the lucrative business of trading stocks on its own account until the end of the year. The brokerage will not be allowed to underwrite government bonds for the period. Nomura's headquarters also will be closed for a month and the company will be banned from all stock transactions for a week.

Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank will be barred from making any new loans to businesses for five months, the ministry said. The bank is banned from underwriting government bonds and will be barred starting next month from setting up new branches or businesses anywhere in the world for a year.

ATM firms to fight any surcharge ban
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fighting legislation that would ban surcharges for automated teller machines, three big ATM networks said Tuesday it would bring unwarranted government intrusion and restrict consumers' choices.

Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, who has proposed the surcharge ban, said banks' practice of making double charges on ATM transactions hurts consumers and "threatens the survival of smaller banks and credit unions."

Representatives of small banks testifying at a hearing agreed, saying many customers are driven to switch their accounts to a bigger bank rather than pay surcharges for using its ATM.

In other business news
McDonald's Corp., heading back to the advertising agency that gave customers a break, announced Tuesday that DDB Needham Chicago will head its 1998 national advertising and marketing efforts, sharply curtailing a 16-year relationship with Leo Burnett Co.

Burger King said Tuesday it planned to end its operations in France because of poor profits. Burger King France said it would work out a plan to sell its 16 restaurants and franchises, which are mainly in Paris, by the end of 1997.

Compaq Computer Corp., reacting to concerns of its major distributors, said it won't try to bar them from doing business with rivals Dell Computer Corp. and Gateway 2000 Inc. Compaq had weighed the tack as part of a new strategy to work closely with its resellers to cut prices.

U.S. Sugar Corp. of Florida and United Sugars Corp. of Minnesota said Tuesday they will combine marketing operations, creating one of the nation's biggest marketers of refined sugar.

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