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FEDERAL RESERVE APPROVES CITICORP-TRAVELERS MERGER

A megamerger between Citicorp and Travelers Group Inc. won approval today from the Federal Reserve Board. The combined company would offer consumers one-stop shopping for everything from credit cards and checking to insurance and investing.

The merger of the two New York-based companies, first announced in April, was approved by a 5-1 vote at a closed meeting of the Fed.

Citicorp is the parent company of Citibank, the world's largest issuer of credit cards with some 60 million in circulation.

Travelers is an insurance, brokerage and investment banking giant with operating companies bearing household names such as Solomon Smith Barney, Primerica Financial Services and Travelers Life & Annuity.

"The cross-marketing and customer-data-sharing arrangements proposed in this case are not likely . . . to result in any significantly adverse effects," Fed officials said in a statement.

The Justice Department also gave its blessing for the deal Wednesday.

"We conducted a thorough investigation. We have closed that investigation, and we have allowed the transaction to go through," said Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona.

Gasoline prices fall again

NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of gasoline is at its lowest level in 6 1/2 years, according to a survey conducted for the American Automobile Association.

The AAA, which surveys gas prices around the nation each month, said the average price of a gallon of self-serve regular unleaded gas this month was $1.057, down 1.8 cents from August and 23.1 cents from a year ago.

This month's average is the lowest since March 1992, when a gallon of self-serve regular unleaded averaged $1.049.

Bank profits rose 10.2%, FDIC says

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- U.S. commercial banks reported record profits of $16.1 billion in the second quarter, although the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. warned that the string of heady profits is poised to end.

Earnings of the nation's 8,984 commercial banks rose 10.2 percent from $14.6 billion in the same three months a year ago. The second quarter of 1998 marked the sixth consecutive quarter that bank earnings reached a record high.

AMD unveils fast, cheap laptop chip

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (Bloomberg) -- Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Tuesday unveiled a chip for laptop computers that is about a third the price of similar chips made by archrival Intel Corp.

The chip, called the AMD-K 6/3 00, will run at 300 megahertz, as fast as Intel's most advanced processor for laptops. It will sell for $229 in lots of 1,000. Intel's comparable 300MHz Pentium II 300 sells for $637.

Larry Borgman, an analyst at Josephthal & Co. in New York said Intel's chip has better graphics capabilities, however, and that he expects Intel soon to cut the price to $321.

Venator sells German stores

NEW YORK (AP) -- Venator Group Inc. officially shed the Woolworth name Tuesday with the sale of its German dimestores, the last step in the troubled retailer's three-year effort to boost sagging sales and profits.

Venator, which was formerly known as Woolworth Corp., will sell its 357 general merchandise stores in Germany for $552 million to a group of managers led by the British venture capital firm Electra Fleming Inc.

In recent years, Venator has closed or sold more than 1,700 stores. Just last week, it announced it would close 570 underperforming Kinney and Footquarters shoe stores.

Crown Cork & Seal to cut jobs

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Crown Cork & Seal Co. Inc. will cut 2,700 jobs worldwide in an effort to cut costs and counteract lower-than-expected estimated earnings for the third quarter.

The layoffs by North America's largest packing product maker amount to about 7 percent of the company's work force. They are expected to generate after-tax savings of nearly $64 million, according to the company.

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