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Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Monday, March 27, 2000

Higher rates fail to stem home buying

WASHINGTON -- Rising mortgage rates failed to dampen Americans' interest in buying existing homes and sales rebounded by a modest 6.7 percent in February.

Sales of existing homes rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.75 million units last month after having fallen a sharper than previously reported 13.4 percent in January, the National Association of Realtors said today. Americans have been feeling better off and in a buying mood because of plentiful jobs, rising incomes, tame inflation and stock market gains. Economists expect home sales to slow this year but still remain at healthy levels.

Qantas mulls stake in Air New Zealand

SYDNEY, Australia -- Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia's largest carrier, is in talks about buying Brierley Investments Ltd.'s 47.1 percent stake in Air New Zealand Ltd.

The discussions disclosed today put Qantas in apparent competition with Singapore Airlines for at least part of Brierley's stake.

Qantas chief executive James Strong said a partnership between Air New Zealand and Qantas would create a major airline group in Asia "with the size and capital base to compete aggressively in a rapidly changing international market." But antitrust and competition regulators in Australia and New Zealand said they would investigate any proposed deal between Qantas and Air New Zealand because Air New Zealand is currently negotiating to buy Qantas' main competitor in Australia, Ansett Holdings Ltd. Brierley is also the owner of Molokai Ranch.

Nikkei stock index at 2-year high

TOKYO -- Tokyo's key stock index rose to a 2-year high today on a spate of corporate alliances, including an agreement to give Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG a controlling interest in Mitsubishi Motors Corp. The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average gained 322.95 points, or 1.61 percent, to finish at 20,281.03. That was its highest close since July 24, 1997, when it ended at 20,286.23.

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