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EXISTING HOME SALES DOWN IN AUGUST, UP FOR YEAR

Rising mortgage rates dampened Americans' demand for existing homes and pushed sales down in August, but sales still are headed toward another record year.

Sales of existing single-family homes decreased by 2.8 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.25 million units, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. It was the second monthly decline after sales hit an all-time high of annualized high of 5.63 million in June.

Despite August's decrease, association officials said they expect existing homes sales to post another record year in 1999. Last year's record was 4.97 million units.

The national median sales price for existing homes rose 5.3 percent in August over the corresponding month a year ago to a record $137,700, the association said. The median is the point at which half the homes sell for less and half sell for more.

Sales in the West took the biggest hit, falling 12.1 percent in August to an annual rate of 1.31 million units. Sales also were down in the South, by 1 percent to an annual rate of 2.05 million units last month.

Sales were flat in the Midwest, unchanged at an annual rate of 1.18 million units. But sales were up in the Northeast by 7.6 percent in August to an annual rate of 710,000 units.

Syracuse plant to add 300 jobs

SYRACUSE (AP) -- New Venture Gear will spend $200 million to expand its auto transmission and transfer case plant here, creating 300 new manufacturing jobs, officials announced Friday.

The expansion plans will add 100,000 square feet to the existing 1.6 million square-foot facility and will bring its employment to more than 4,000 workers. The expansion will be undertaken next year.

New Venture Gear is an international automotive company owned by DaimlerChrysler and General Motors. It makes transmission and transfer cases for four-wheel drive vehicles.

Teamsters may strike Overnite

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The Teamsters union is preparing to strike non-union Overnite Transportation, one of the nation's largest trucking companies, at a time when the industry is getting ready for the holiday shopping season.

Contract talks broke off last week and the company has no offer pending.

Teamsters spokesman David Cameron would not be pinned down Friday on when a strike would begin, saying only it would be "sooner rather than later. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the walkout could begin as early as Sunday.

The Teamsters have already held two limited strikes against Overnite in the past year, but Cameron said that if there is a third strike, it will be more extensive, with pickets at all 166 Overnite terminals. The union also is planning to engage in what it calls "ambulatory picketing" -- following Overnite trucks and establishing pickets at their customers' stores.

Forty-five percent of the 8,500 Overnite employees eligible for union membership are now represented by the Teamsters, Cameron said.

Rite Aid to cut another 330 jobs

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Rite Aid Corp. cut 330 jobs on Friday, about half of them near its Pennsylvania headquarters.

The layoffs, which involve administrative and field staff positions, come just a day after the company revealed plans to close a distribution center in Utah and eliminate 500 jobs.

The cuts won't affect staffing levels at Rite Aid stores, where the company hopes to place some of the employees losing their jobs, said spokeswoman Karen Rugen.

Buffalo stock index declines again

Buffalo stocks fell for a fourth week, led by General Motors Corp., Moog Inc. and Rite Aid Corp.

The Buffalo Bloomberg Stock Index fell 8.57, or 4.5 percent, to 183.37 this week. Forty-eight stocks slipped in the employee-weighted list of 55 companies with operations in the region, while four rose and three were unchanged.

General Motors lost 3 to 62 1/1 6. The world's largest automaker fell every day this week.

Aerospace parts maker Moog dropped 2 7/1 6 to 28 5/8 , falling four of five days.

Rite Aid declined 6 1 3/1 6 to 11 after the third-largest U.S. drugstore chain was accused by Florida's attorney general of overcharging customers.

Among the risers, Integrated Waste Services, which provides demolition and dismantling services, gained 0.0525 to 1/1 6.

The Buffalo index set a 52-week closing high of 214.74 on July 6, and a 52-week low of 162.47 on Oct. 8.

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