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Members of U S West Inc.'s largest union ended their 15-day strike and began returning to work today after reaching a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract.

The Communication Workers of America left messages on hot lines and on the Internet late Sunday that the roughly 34,000 strikers in 13 states should put away their picket signs.

The tentative agreement between the country's sixth-largest telephone company and the CWA phases in limits on overtime, scraps a revamped health plan and makes pay-for-performance voluntary.

U S West spokesman Jerry Brown said the proposal includes a cap on mandatory overtime of 16 hours a week on Jan. 1, 1999, which would fall to eight hours a week on Jan. 1, 2001.

The deal also calls for a 10.9 percent salary increase and a 21 percent improvement to the pension plan over three years.

The agreement, which includes a $500 ratification bonus, still has to pass muster with union members, who will vote on it after Labor Day.

Economists expect rate cut
JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve policymakers are now more likely to reduce U.S. interest rates than to raise them, analysts say, as they cope with the potential damage to the U.S. economy caused by last week's tumult in financial markets.

While the Federal Open Market Committee isn't likely to cut interest rates immediately, they may do so later this year to prevent the U.S. economy from slowing too much, according to economists and central bankers who attended the Kansas City Fed's annual symposium. Financial markets are already reflecting that expectation.

"Given that market interest rates have come down so much, the market is making a judgment that the Fed's going to ease," said St. Louis Fed Bank President William Poole. Poole didn't suggest he's advocating a rate cut now, but he said he's abandoned his push to get the FOMC to raise U.S. borrowing costs.

Lear workers ratify contract
LORDSTOWN, Ohio (AP) -- Workers have overwhelmingly ratified a new contract with a company that supplies seats for several General Motors cars.

The three-year contract with Lear Corp. was approved by 87 percent of the members of United Auto Workers Local 1112 who voted Sunday, said Warren Davis, director of UAW Region 2.

The union has 325 members who work at the plant near Youngstown where seats are made for Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunfires.

Volvo develops anti-smog radiator
DETROIT (Los Angeles Times) -- The Invasion of the Smog Eaters is about to debut.

No, it's not the latest sci-fi flick from Hollywood. It's the introduction of a low-cost automotive catalyst system that, when applied to a vehicle's radiator, destroys ozone with which it comes in contact.

Volvo this spring will become the first automaker to use the catalyst system, introducing it on the top-line 1999 S80 sedan. The Swedish automaker plans to install smog-eating radiators in other models in the near future.

It is an unexpected revival for a technology given up for dead just two years ago. Ford Motor Co. rejected the smog-eating radiator in 1996 because the environmental effects appeared minuscule in road tests.

This week in business . . .
These are the major business and economic events scheduled for this week.

Tuesday -- Commerce Department releases construction spending for July. National Association of Purchasing Management releases business survey for August. Conference Board releases leading indicators for July. Chrysler Corp. reports August auto sales.

Wednesday -- Commerce Department releases factory orders for July.

Thursday -- Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims. Labor Department releases revised productivity for the second quarter. Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates. -- General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. reports August auto sales. The nation's largest retailers announce their sales figures for August.

Friday -- --Labor Department releases unemployment for August. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan speaks at the University of California, Berkeley, on "Is there a New Economy?"

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