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In its biggest monthly drop since January, consumer confidence fell for a third straight month in September amid rising fears among Americans that global economic and political turmoil will slow the U.S. economy in coming months.

The Conference Board reported today that its index of consumer confidence fell 7.1 points to 126 in September from a revised 133.1 reached in August. The index is down 12.2 points from its 29-year high in June.

Consumer sentiment is important because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the nation's overall economic activity.

Smith Corona posts huge loss

CORTLAND (AP) -- Smith Corona Corp. has announced it will cut almost half its workforce and relocate its headquarters after losing $6.6 million last year.

Smith Corona, once America's major typewriter manufacturer, will cut 120 of 225 jobs and relocate the remaining workers to a new headquarters elsewhere in Central New York, possibly Syracuse, the company announced Monday. The Cortland plant employed 5,300 workers at its peak in the 1970s.

Smith Corona reported Monday that for the final three months of fiscal 1998 it lost $4.4 million, of $1.51 per diluted share, on sales of $12 million. Smith Corona's income totaled $4.9 million, or $1.89 per share, on sales of $16.9 million in the final quarter a year ago, but that total was bolstered by a $6.5 million one-time gain due to benefits restructuring.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, net income dropped $6.6 million to $58.9 million, or $2.36 per diluted share. A year earlier, Smith Corona's net income was $7.3 million, or $2.96 a share, on sales of $77.3 million.

Gillette plans to cut 4,700 jobs

BOSTON (AP) -- Gillette Co. will lay off as many as 4,700 employees as part of a worldwide reorganization plan.

The layoffs announced Monday account for 11 percent of the company's 43,000-employee work force. Gillette also plans to close 14 factories, 12 warehouses and 30 office facilities worldwide.

The reorganization means lower-than-expected earnings for the third quarter. The company will take a one-time after-tax charge of about $350 million, or 30 cents a share, for the quarter.

T-bill yields fall to 4-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Interest rates on short-term Treasury securities fell in Monday's auction to the lowest level in more than four years.

The Treasury Department sold $8 billion in three-month bills at an average discount rate of 4.430 percent, down from 4.635 percent last week.

An additional $8 billion was sold in six-month bills at an average rate of 4.455 percent, down from 4.615 percent.

The new discount rates understate the actual return to investors -- 4.543 percent for three-month bills with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,888.00, and 4.620 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,774.80.

NiMo extends power plant bidding

SYRACUSE (Bloomberg) -- Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. gave a two-month extension to companies submitting private-auction bids for 76 of its power plants.

NiMo plans to sell 72 hydroelectric and four fossil-fuel power plants as the state shifts to a deregulated electricity market by 1999. The plants have a combined book value of about $1.1 billion and produce a total of 3,556 megawatts, enough to power more than 3 million homes.

Many utilities that sold power plants in the Northeast have received two to three times their book value, which has scared off some potential buyers. New York regulators have urged utilities to sell their power plants in an effort to encourage greater competition in the electricity market.

In other business news

DuPont Co. plans to raise some $8 billion by the end of the year with an initial public offering of Conoco Inc. DuPont announced Monday it plans to put up one-quarter of Conoco's shares in an initial public offering before Dec. 31.

In an ambitious drive to expand mainstream photography to the Internet, Kodak and chip giant Intel on Monday rolled out a new compact disk that makes it relatively easy for people to view, touch up and e-mail their images from desktop machines.

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