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The Independent Online
The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped into the record books yesterday, closing above 7,000 points for the first time amid low interest rates and non-inflationary economic growth. The Dow ended up 61.19 points, or 0.88 per cent, at a record 7,022.82, beating the high set on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor's composite and NYSE Composite indexes also set new highs.

American Airlines, in the process of forming an alliance with British Airways, yesterday called for binding arbitration to avert a strike planned for this weekend by its pilots over pay. Robert Crandall, American's chairman, told a US Congressional subcommittee that he had rejected an eleventh- hour compromise proposal from the pilots' union. The dispute is over American's plans to use lower-paid pilots from a different union on its American Eagle regional airline. "We have two choices. We can either cave in or take a strike," Mr Crandall said. American Airlines yesterday cancelled 129 international flights scheduled to take off today, leaving just 14 flights to London. Return flights tomorrow have also been cancelled.

Retail sales in the US rebounded last month after a December performance that was much weaker than originally estimated. Sales rose by 0.6 per cent in January, or 0.4 per cent excluding cars. But the increase for December was revised down by half to a modest 0.3 per cent. These figures hinted at a slightly weaker pace of economic growth, but the weekly figures for new jobless claims pointed in the opposite direction. They fell to 309,000 last week, the lowest number since July when job creation was powering ahead, from 324,000 the week before. More significant figures, for industrial production and capacity use, are due today.

The Government's Paymaster agency is being sold to EDS/Hogg Robinson for pounds 22.7m. The agency provides pensions and banking-type services to the public sector. It has annual turnover in excess of pounds 25m, administers 1.6 million public sector pensions, operates accounts with the Bank of England of 1,400 government departments, agencies and other public-sector organisations, and has comprehensive in-house information technology systems.

West European car registrations fell 2.9 per cent in January to 1,130,000, according to the Association des Constructeurs Europeens d'Automobiles. Registrations in the 15 EU countries fell 2.5 per cent to 1,099,200, while those in Norway and Switzerland were down 16.3 per cent to 30,800. The sharpest falls were a 33.7 per cent drop in French registrations to 122,300, a 26.3 per cent decline in Switzerland to 19,600, and a 9.7 per cent decrease to 23,400 in Austria. There were sharp rises in Sweden of 28.4 per cent to 14,400, in Spain of 22.1 per cent to 68,600 and in Ireland of 20.7 per cent to 20,400.

Telewest Communications has appointed Stephen Davidson chief executive. He has been acting chief executive since August. The company has also appointed Charles Burdick as finance director.

BAA said its seven UK airports handled a total of 6.7 million passengers in January, an increase of 5.2 per cent on the same month last year. The company said the increase would have been 6 per cent but for the effect of fog disruption at London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, which reduced the number of passengers by about 30,000. All large markets saw growth in the month, with North Atlantic services growing by 12.2 per cent and other long haul routes up by 7.9 per cent.

Candover Investments, the venture capital company, said the heady level of mergers and acquisitions in the UK could continue in the next five years. A survey of 50 of the UK's biggest companies showed 44 per cent planned to make an acquisition in the next year.

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