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PERSONAL INCOME, SPENDING RISE MODESTLY IN MONTH

Americans' personal income ticked up in November, but their spending rose a bit faster.

The Commerce Department reported today that personal income, which includes wages, interest and government benefits, rose by 0.4 percent last month -- the slowest pace since August. Still, the performance was better than the 0.2 percent gain many analysts had forecasted.

In October, personal income had surged by 1.3 percent, the best showing in five years as federal subsidy payments to farmers and union signing bonuses in some manufacturing industries boosted income. Those factors contributed to income growth in November as well.

Spending, meanwhile, rose by 0.5 percent in November, on target with many analysts' expectations. That followed a strong 0.7 percent rise in October.

Durables orders jump in month

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods rose 1.2 percent in November, the first gain since August, the Commerce Department said today. The increase, which was in line with many analysts' forecasts, reflected a big 8.7 percent jump in orders for electronic and electrical equipment.

Orders for transportation equipment, weighted down by slackening demand for airplanes and aircraft parts, fell 2.1 percent. Excluding that volatile category, orders rose a strong 2.2 percent in November, also the first increase since August.

Nextel plans hostile bid for NextWave

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mobile phone company Nextel Communications is planning a hostile $8.3 billion takeover bid for NextWave Telecom, the bankrupt owner of valuable federal licenses to use parts of the wireless spectrum.

The plan, disclosed in a government filing, follows last week's announcement that a group of investors -- including an affiliate of AT&T -- had agreed to provide $1.6 billion in cash to help NextWave emerge from bankruptcy court and build a wireless network and mobile calling business.

NextWave, based in Hawthorne, won its wireless licenses in a federal auction in 1996, but then couldn't raise enough money to pay for them and build its own network.

Christmas bonus fading, study says

CHICAGO (AP) -- If all you want for Christmas is your company bonus, make another wish. A new study finds that the holiday practice is fading faster than the red on your Santa Claus socks.

Twelve percent of companies surveyed nationwide by Hewitt Associates have dropped the bonuses recently. Nearly two-thirds don't give employees so much as a lump of coal for their stockings, according to the survey released Wednesday.

The reason many cited: It's not smart business, providing little incentive for employees to do better work. But hold those humbug thoughts. Companies are shelling out more bonuses overall than ever, according to Hewitt -- they just give them out at different times, linking them to performance rather than the calendar.

Scudder Kemper fined $250,000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Scudder Kemper Investments Inc. has agreed to pay $250,000 to settle federal regulators' charges that it failed to adequately supervise trading of high-risk financial products that resulted in losses to investors of more than $16 million.

The investment firm, which neither admitted to nor denied the allegations, also agreed to be censured, and to reimburse investors for the losses, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Wednesday.

Bank profits up 29 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Profits of the nation's commercial banks jumped 29 percent in the third quarter to a record $19.4 billion, boosted by increased income and a decline in expenses related to mergers, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported. The gains were clouded, however, by rising levels of non-current business and consumer loans, FDIC Chairwoman Donna Tanoue said Wednesday.

Microsoft's CFO to leave

SEATTLE (AP) -- Greg Maffei, chief financial officer of Microsoft Corp., is quitting to become chief executive of Worldwide Fiber, a Vancouver, B.C.-based company that builds and runs high-speed fiber-optic networks. Maffei, 39, will be replaced by former corporate controller John Connors, 40, on Jan. 7, the software company announced Wednesday.

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