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LEADING INDICATORS DECLINE 0.3%

NEW YORK (AP) -- The economy was weakening even before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, a new Conference Board survey showed today.

The New York-based Conference Board said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell 0.3 percent in August to 109.6, following a revised 0.4 percent increase in July.

The index was based on data collected before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The index is usually closely watched because it indicates where the overall U.S. economy is headed in the next three to six months. It stood at 100 in 1996, its base year.

The board said seven of 10 components of the leading index decreased in August: average weekly manufacturing hours, index of consumer expectations, stock prices, vendor performance, interest rate spread, average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance and building permits.

Money supply was the only component that rose, while manufacturers' new orders for non-defense capital goods and manufacturers' new orders for consumer goods and materials held steady for the month.

Delphi sells stake in 2 ventures

TROY, Mich. (Bloomberg) -- Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. is selling stakes in two auto-parts joint ventures in China to focus on businesses with higher growth rates, such as electronics.

Sale terms weren't disclosed, spokeswoman Jennifer Timkey said. Combined, the ventures have annual sales of about $14.2 million.

Delphi, which operates a plant in Lockport, N.Y., plans to sell the stake in Tianjin Delphi Suspension Systems Co. to Kangtai International Trade Co., a German affiliate of WanYuan Group (China). Delphi owned 55 percent of the joint venture. Delphi is selling its stake in Saginaw Steering Xiaoshan Steering Gear Co. to the venture's partner, Zhejiang Wanda Steering Gear Ltd. of Xiaoshan, China. Delphi had owned 60 percent of that joint venture.

Dell to hold meeting via phone

AUSTIN (AP) -- Dell Computer Corp., the leading maker of personal computers, said its semiannual meeting with financial analysts will be held by phone instead of hosting a meeting in Austin.

Dell said many of the invited analysts and reporters had expressed safety concerns about flying to the Oct. 4 meeting in Austin.

VeriSign to acquire Illuminet

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Bloomberg) -- VeriSign Inc., a provider of Internet security services, agreed to buy Illuminet Holdings for $1.2 billion in stock to gain a signaling network used by phone companies to manage calls.

VeriSign will exchange 0.93 of a share for each Illuminet share, the company said in a statement. The transaction values each share of Olympia, Wash.-based Illuminet at $35.62, or 1.8 percent more than Friday's closing price.

Illuminet's network lets companies provide services such as call forwarding and conferencing. With the merger, VeriSign will be able to speed delivery of its Web payment services.

This week in business

Major business and economic events scheduled for this week.

Tuesday -- The National Association of Realtors will issue its report on existing home sales for August, and the Conference Board will release results of its monthly survey on consumer confidence.

Thursday -- The Labor Department will release figures on weekly jobless claims, and the Commerce Department will issue reports on durable goods orders and new home sales for August.

Friday -- The Commerce Department will issue its report on gross domestic product for the second quarter.

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