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Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. has decided to sell an unregulated energy marketing company it formed six years ago.

Niagara Mohawk Energy, a 100-person company that buys and sells wholesale electricity and natural gas and serves large corporate customers in five states, should attract the interest of major energy companies looking to expand into deregulating markets in the Northeast, said Philip VanHorne, president and chief operating officer of the company's largest division, Niagara Mohawk Energy Marketing.

At the same time, the sale meshes with plans by Niagara Mohawk and its intended merger partner, National Grid USA, to remain focused on the regulated business of energy transmission and delivery.

Niagara Mohawk Energy operates independently of Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., the regulated utility that serves customers in Upstate New York, VanHorne said.

Consumer prices up 0.6%

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Consumer prices shot up a worrisome 0.6 percent in December, the biggest increase in 10 months, as homeowners saw their natural gas bills jump by a record amount, the Labor Department reported.

The January rise in the closely watched Consumer Price Index was the largest since a 0.6 percent increase in March 2000. Last month's figure reflected a record 17.4 percent increase in the price of natural gas, a development that has sent residential gas bills over the $300 mark in many parts of the country.

Trade deficit at all-time high

WASHINGTON (AP) -- America's trade deficit with the rest of the world shot up to an all-time high of $369.7 billion last year. In a sign of things to come, China overtook perennial front-runner Japan as the country with the largest trade gap with the United States.

The Commerce Department said the deficit for all of 2000 was 39.5 percent higher than the previous record-holder, a deficit of $265 billion in 1999. The increase occurred even though the deficit for December narrowed a slight 0.4 percent to $33 billion, the third straight monthly decline.

Motorola buys Blue Wave

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (Bloomberg) -- Motorola Inc., the No. 2 maker of cellular phones, agreed to buy Blue Wave Systems for as much as $165 million in stock to gain software that speeds the development of digital-signal processing.

Blue Wave shareholders will receive .3947 Motorola common share for each share owned if the 20-day average price of a Motorola share is $25.38 or less, Motorola said in a press release. That would be less than the value of Blue Wave shares based on Tuesday's closing prices.

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