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Steel imports declined in November for the fourth consecutive month, the Commerce Department reported.

The 9 percent decrease -- to 2.5 million metric tons, a level 29 percent lower than a year ago -- followed drops of 0.9 percent in October, 5 percent in August and 10 percent in September. Several analysts said the trends are cause for optimism. But some said the American market has not recovered completely from last year's import surge.

Last year's the Asian economic crisis led to an unusually high amount of foreign-made steel entering the U.S. market. This prompted the Clinton administration to file anti-dumping law suits against 30 countries, including Japan Imports of cold-rolled, semifinished and wire rod steel decreased from their October levels. But imports of hot-rolled, cut-to-length plate, and heavy structurals steel increased from the previous month.

During the first 11 months of 1999, steel imports declined 16 percent from 1998 levels.

Imports of steel mill products from Japan, Korea and Russia declined during this period while products from Brazil increased. Imports of hot-rolled steel decreased from Brazil, Japan and Russia and increased from Korea.

Snyder Communications eyes options
NEW YORK (AP) -- Marketing company Snyder Communications Inc. said Thursday it has hired Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown to advise on strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value.

Snyder Communications shares soared 20 percent, or $3.18 3/4 , on the news, settling at $19 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of the company have hovered below $15 per share since October, well off their 52-week high of $41 reached in early February.

Snyder Communications, based in Bethesda, Md., earned $22.8 million last year on revenue of $815 million and has 9,400 employees.

Daniel Snyder, chairman and chief executive of Snyder Communications and also the owner of the Washington Redskins NFL team.

Weis Markets may be put on market
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Weis Markets has agreed to consider selling the billion-dollar grocery chain in a concession to dissident family members who threatened to replace the board of directors otherwise.

Two groups of Weis family members, each controlling 41 percent of the company's stock, had been battling for control over the future of the Sunbury-based chain. But the board's latest step is a sign that Weis Markets might soon be put in play for a sale or merger, some analysts said.

"It's significant that in the situation of who's pulling the rope a little harder, the dissident shareholders got what they wanted," said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food Trade News.

"I think you will see an active interest from other companies because Weis is a strong player and the balance sheet is unparalleled in the industry," he said.

Air Canada finalizes acquisition deal
MONTREAL (AP) -- Air Canada finalized an agreement with AMR Corp. on Thursday, that will allow the Montreal-based carrier to take control of rival Canadian Airlines and gain near monopoly status in Canada's airline industry.

Canada's largest airline said it had received more than 50 percent of Canadian's shares as a $63 million, or $1.37 a share, bid for its rival expired late Thursday afternoon.

In a development key to the takeover, Air Canada also said it has completed its deal with AMR Corp., parent of American Airlines, to buy AMR's 25 percent stake in Canadian for $40.8 million.

Montreal-based Air Canada plans to run Canadian Airlines as a subsidiary.

Buffalo stock index rises in week

Buffalo stocks rose this week, led by General Motors Corp., Royal Ahold NV and Cummins Engine Co.

The Buffalo Bloomberg Stock Index rose 3.11, or 1.7 percent, to 186.74 in the holiday-shortened week. The employee-weighted list of 55 companies with operations in the region set a 52-week closing high of 214.74 on July 6 and a low of 178.11 on Oct. 15.

General Motors rose 1 1 3/1 6 to 72 1 3/1 6 this week. The company said Thursday that its campaign to expand its use of the Internet will boost profits faster than its other business strategies.

Royal Ahold, which owns Tops Markets, rose 2 1/4 to 28 1/8 .

Cummins Engine rose 5 to 47.

Thirty stocks rose, 22 fell and three were unchanged.

Among the decliners, Moog Inc. fell 1 1/2 to 21 1 1/1 6, and Hartmarx Corp. fell 3/8 to 3 1/2 .

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