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SIERRA RESEARCH ACQUIRES SIMULATION-TECHNOLOGY FIRM

Sierra Research in Cheektowaga has acquired a Canadian maker of simulation technology for an undisclosed sum, the company announced Monday.

Excalibur Systems of Kanata, Ont., produces radio wave generators used to simulate enemy radar systems.

Sierra's systems frequently incorporate equipment from Excalibur that simulates "hostile" air defense systems in training exercises, the company said.

Acquiring the subcontractor will lead to greater marketing opportunities for both companies, according to Sierra.

A unit of Integrated Defense Technologies, Sierra makes electronic warfare training systems for the U.S. military.

Integrated Defense Technologies consists of Sierra; Zeta Corp. in San Jose, Calif., and PEI Electronics in Huntsville, Ala.

Construction spending up 2%
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Construction spending surged 2 percent in December to an all-time level, pushing the amount of money spent on building single-family homes to a monthly record.

The Commerce Department reported today that spending rose to a record seasonally adjusted annual rate of $730.3 billion. That followed a revised 2 percent increase in November -- slightly less than the government originally estimated -- helped out by better-than-usual weather.

For the year, construction spending rose 6 percent, following an increase of 7.6 percent in 1998.

FCC studies lower phone fee plan
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Consumer groups say they have come up with a plan to reduce phone bills for everyone, particularly those callers who have not benefited greatly from declining long-distance rates.

A proposal by Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the National Retail Federation, AARP and others would cut $4 billion a year from home and business telephone bills, the groups said.

The proposal, submitted to the Federal Communications Commission, responds to a plan offered to the FCC by the phone industry to reduce the "access" fees that local phone companies charge long-distance carriers to connect calls.

Yields increase on Treasury bills
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Treasury Department sold $7.5 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 5.560 percent Monday, up from 5.385 percent last week.

An additional $6.5 billion was sold in six-month bills at a rate of 5.705 percent, up from 5.520 percent.

The new discount rates understate the actual return to investors -- 5.731 percent for three-month bills with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,859.50, and 5.972 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,711.60.

Separately, the Federal Reserve said Monday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, the most popular index for making changes in adjustable rate mortgages, rose to 6.17 percent last week from 6.13 percent the previous week.

In other business news
The battle for control for National Westminster Bank PLC continued Monday as first Royal Bank of Scotland PLC, then Bank of Scotland, produced new bids for the English bank. The Royal Bank valued its new offer of cash and stock announced Monday at $40.5 billion, up from its earlier bid of about $35.8 billion. Bank of Scotland responded later Monday with its own bid of $41.9 billion, up from $39.2 billion. It was not immediately clear whether there would be any further bids forthcoming.

The National Association of Recording Merchandisers, a music retailing group, sued Sony Corp. of America Monday, alleging it forces music stores to sell compact discs containing promotional materials for competing, Sony-owned stores. The lawsuit accuses Sony Corp. and its subsidiary, Sony Music Entertainment, of copyright misuse, illegal price discrimination, unfair competition and false advertising.

Psion PLC, Europe's leading hand-held computer maker, said Monday it has teamed up with Motorola Inc. to develop wireless devices that will allow users to connect to the Internet. Motorola, a leading maker of cellular phones, and Psion are designing the devices to work with cellular networks in Europe, North America and Asia. They aim to have products ready starting in the first half of 2001.

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