Originally created 08/15/97

Business briefs



Consumer prices remain controlled

WASHINGTON - Consumer prices remained under control in July as the economy continued moderate expansion, a batch of reports showed Thursday.

"The data continues to paint a picture of an economy that is performing exceptionally well," said economist Chris Varvares of Macroeconomic Advisers in St. Louis. "Inflation is still very tame, with no sign of acceleration."

Financial markets tended to concur.

The inflation-sensitive bond market, which suffered four straight losses before climbing Wednesday, rose again Thursday. Yields on 30-year Treasury bonds, which move in the opposite direction of prices, fell to 6.55 percent from 6.62 percent late Wednesday.

The stock market continued its roller-coaster course of recent days. The Dow Jones average of industrial stocks climbed almost 70 points in the first minutes of trading, was down 60 points at midday and then bounced back in the final minutes to close up 13.71 at 7,942.03.

The Labor Department's Consumer Price Index rose a modest 0.2 percent in July, slightly more than the 0.1 percent recorded during the previous four months and the biggest advance since a 0.3 percent gain in February.

The Federal Reserve reported separately that the increase in industrial production slowed to a 0.2 percent rate in July after rising 0.3 percent a month earlier.

It said the pace was affected by a drop in motor vehicle production as automakers shut down for several weeks for their annual new-model retooling.

Regulator approved merger

WASHINGTON - Federal regulators approved the merger of Bell Atlantic and Nynex on Thursday, creating a local telephone colossus with 39 million phone lines from Maine to Virginia.

Approval by the Federal Communications Commission had been a foregone conclusion since the two regional Bell companies pledged July 19 to make it easier for rivals to compete in local phone markets.

The merger, valued at $23 billion when it was announced in April 1996, would create the second-biggest phone company behind AT&T Corp. The new company, to be called Bell Atlantic, will serve 13 states and the District of Columbia.