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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

DURABLE GOODS ORDERS RISE AFTER TWO-MONTH DROP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- After falling for two months, orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket durable goods rose 0.7 percent in June, the Commerce Department reported today.

The gain in orders for durable goods, items expected to last three or more years, followed declines of 0.9 percent in May and 2.7 percent in April. The drop in May had originally been reported as an even sharper 1.8 percent fall. Orders last rose in March, when they surged ahead by 5.9 percent.

The 0.7 percent June increase was slightly lower than what analysts had been expecting. Still, it gave hope that the fledgling rebound in the nation's manufacturing sector was not in danger of stalling.

KMART STOCK CLIMBS 14%

DETROIT (AP) -- Kmart Holding Corp.'s stock soared 14 percent Tuesday on the heels of a Deutsche Bank report that said the discount retailer's real estate holdings could be worth up to $150 per share.

The report also speculated that Kmart might take advantage of the high value of its real estate holdings and gradually sell off more of its stores during the next five to 10 years.

Kmart's stock jumped $9.16 to close at $73.24 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Analysts for the investment bank examined the real estate holdings of 37 retailers and found that eight of them, including Kmart, had real estate value significant enough to generate a per-share net asset value higher than their stock price.

The other companies include ShopKo Stores, Dillard's Inc., Saks Inc., Sears Roebuck and Co., Winn-Dixie Stores, Federated Department Stores and Toys "R" Us.

Analysts estimated the Troy-based discount retailer's net asset value at as high as $152.95 per share.

FIRMS FINED FOR OVERCHARGING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Four Wall Street firms are paying $5 million each in fines and restitution to investors they allegedly overcharged for corporate bonds under settlements with securities regulators announced today.

The National Association of Securities Dealers, the brokerage industry's self-policing organization, announced the civil penalties against Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Miller Tabak Roberts Securities.

The four firms neither admitted to nor denied the allegations in their settlements with the NASD on trading in high-yield corporate bonds, which call for them to pay a total of around $18.5 million in fines and some $1.4 million in restitution.

STATE FARM CUTTING 500 JOBS

FREDERICK, MD. (AP) -- State Farm Insurance said Tuesday it will cut at least 500 jobs in the Middle Atlantic region over the next 2 1/2 years by consolidating operations and closing claims offices.

State Farm, the nation's largest insurer, said it will eliminate 400 to 500 of the 1,000 jobs at its Frederick operations center. Two hundred to 300 of those positions will be moved to Charlottesville, Va., to consolidate underwriting functions, the company said.

The Bloomington, Ill.-based company also said it will close half of its 50 field claim offices in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, the District of Columbia, North Carolina and West Virginia, eliminating another 400 to 500 jobs. Those offices now employ about 1,600 people, spokesman Matthew Greer said.

U.S. ENDS PROBE OF SOME CARS

DETROIT (AP) -- The federal government said Tuesday it was closing a safety investigation into the Toyota Camry, Camry Solara and Lexus ES300 but would continue to monitor the vehicles because of allegations they can surge ahead without warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating in March after receiving reports of 30 crashes due to a possible defect. At least one pedestrian was injured in one of the crashes. The investigation looked at vehicles from the 2002 and 2003 model years.

NHTSA had many of the complainants' vehicles analyzed and found nothing abnormal with the electronic throttle control or the control pedals.

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