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AT&T TRIES TO BLOCK BELL ATLANTIC IN COURT

AT&T went to court Tuesday in its battle to block Bell Atlantic from entering the New York long-distance market, after federal regulators failed to intervene.

AT&T along with Covad Communications, a leading player in the data services market, filed a joint motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging a decision by the Federal Communications Commission last week to let Bell Atlantic provide long-distance to its local New York state customers.

That landmark action marked the first time regulators had given a regional Bell company the go-ahead to provide long-distance within their region. Bell Atlantic said it would start offering the service Jan. 5 in New York state.

But AT&T is asking the court to stay the FCC action while it is appealed. AT&T contends that Bell Atlantic failed to clear several key federal regulatory hurdles required before it can enter the $8 billion-a-year long-distance market in New York.

Bell Atlantic said it does not expect the motion to change its plan to offer long-distance service beginning next week.

Leading index at record high
NEW YORK (AP) -- A key measure of the economy's future performance rose 0.3 percent in November, signaling the economic expansion will continue well into 2000 as the longest in U.S. history, the Conference Board said today.

The business-sponsored study group said the Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose to 108.3 from a revised 108.0 in October. November's reading was the highest in the 40 years the index has been calculated.

Six of the 10 indicators that make up the index advanced in November. The most significant increases in the index in November came from rising stock prices, manufacturer's new orders for consumer goods and materials, and an increased money supply. The index is a barometer for economic activity in the next three to six months.

The Conference Board also reported that the coincident indicators, which measure current economic performance, rose 0.2 percent in November and point to an increase in the gross domestic product in the current quarter. The index increased 0.6 percent in October.

KeyCorp sells credit card operation
CLEVELAND (AP) -- KeyCorp has reached a deal with Dallas-based Associates First Capital Corp. for joint management of KeyCorp's credit cards.

Under the terms of the agreement announced Tuesday, The Associates also will acquire KeyCorp's credit card portfolio worth about $1.3 billion through nearly 600,000 active VISA and MasterCard accounts.

As part of the agreement, The Associates will assume control of the KeyCorp credit card offices in Toledo and it expects to retain all of more than 300 employees there.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of January 2000, subject to regulatory approval. Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, KeyCorp expects a gain of about $330 million on the deal.

Steel firm halts melt shop operation
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Birmingham Steel Corp. plans to suspend operations indefinitely at a Memphis, Tenn., melt shop facility, which has lost about $100 million since operations began there more than two years ago.

The suspension, which affects 250 employees, is effective Jan. 1. Birmingham Steel did not indicate how long operations would be stopped.

The facility produced steel billets for Birmingham Steel's rolling mills in Cleveland.

In other business news
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. more than doubled its stake in Nucor Corp. in the third quarter of 1998 to 4.1 million shares, according to a regulatory filing. In the previous quarter, Berkshire had reported holding almost 1.9 million shares in the second-largest U.S. steelmaker, which is based in Charlotte, N.C. The addition of Nucor shares was reported in a filing submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission more than a year ago and kept confidential until now.

Jostens Inc., the leading maker of school yearbooks and class rings, said Tuesday it will be acquired in a $950 million deal by a company controlled by Investcorp, a global investment group. Under the agreement with Investcorp, Jostens shareholders will receive $25.25 per share in cash.

American Airlines Cargo announced Tuesday it is raising its rates to offset skyrocketing fuel prices. Officials said a surcharge will go into effect Feb. 1.

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