Business and City Summary

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The Independent Online
US housing starts drop

New housing starts in the US showed an unexpected dip of 7.2 per cent in January, the lowest level in six months, according to figures released by the Commerce Department.

January marked the first time in four months that there has not been some growth in the number of new homes being built, and showed the largest fall since a shocking 16.9 per cent plunge in April last year.

Oil slips

Brent oil for April delivery shed 41c to dollars 17.74 after Kuwait warned it would break an Opec agreement to restrict production 'at the first sign others are not respecting their commitments'.

Regulators act

Financial regulators have shut down Wessex Asset Management, a small Winchester- based firm that pioneered unit trust mortgages, and Connaught Swift, a sister firm that offered financial advice. Dealing in units of the Wessex UK Growth Trust has been suspended.

Dan-Air approval

The European Commission said it had approved British Airways' takeover of Dan-Air after an inquiry demanded by Belgium under the community's merger control regulation.

Boost for Boots

Boots Pharmaceuticals said Manoplax, its drug for the treatment of congestive heart failure, would be launched in the US on 29 March.

De La Rue post

De La Rue, the banknote and payment systems group, named the Earl of Limerick as its new chairman following the death of Peter Orchard last month.

Hammerson sale

Hammerson Property has sold Lonsdale Chambers in Chancery Lane, London, to overseas investors for pounds 21m.

Rhone-Poulenc

Rhone-Poulenc said net profit after priority payments rose to Fr1.516bn in 1992 from Fr1.227bn a year earlier. Operating income was Fr6.779bn, up 8.1 per cent.

Travel firm shuts

Riva Travel, of New Bond Street, London, has stopped trading and the Civil Aviation Authority has called in its bond. The company, trading as Riva Holidays, Riva Seats, Riva Beachlife and Riva, specialised in package holidays to the Mediterranean and Florida.

TWA hopeful

TWA said it expects to emerge from bankruptcy this spring, after the airline and creditors filed a proposed reorganisation plan with the US bankruptcy court that will eliminate about dollars 4bn in claims against it.

World Markets

New York: Ahead of President Clinton's address shares were hesitant. By the close the Dow Jones Average was up 2.70 points at 3,312.19.

Tokyo: Late index-linked buying lifted the Nikkei Average 93.31 to 17,009.63.

Hong Kong: The Hang Seng index firmed 21.84 to 6,087.46 on continuing hopes of a resolution to the Sino-British dispute.

Sydney: The All Ordinaries index eased 10.8 to 1,601.3 after the sell-off in New York.

Johannesburg: Gold shares rocketed on strong overseas buying, boosting the index 42 points to 1,050.

Milan: Demand for Fiat shares bolstered blue chips. The MIB index recouped sharp earlier losses to end off 0.45 per cent at 1,100.

Frankfurt: Nervous profit-taking nudged the DAX index 10.96 lower at 1,653.26.

Paris: Strong gains in the bond market powered the CAC-40 index 26.80 points ahead to 1,904.97.

London: Report, page 29.

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