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NATIONAL BRIEFING

The plunge is partly attributable to the extra day in February 2008, which was a leap year. That accounted for as much as 6 percent of the falloff, Black said.

LABOR

AT&T Union Authorizes Strike

Union workers at AT&T are giving their leaders the authority to call a strike as part of negotiations for a new contract covering 112,500 employees. Several contracts covering workers at the phone company's landline division are due to expire April 4. AT&T is trying to make the employees pay more for their health care, among other concessions. Communications Workers of America said 88 percent of members covered by the contracts voted in favor of a possible strike.

AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp said the strike authorization is "expected and routine at this stage in the negotiations."

EARNINGS

Walgreen reported that its second-quarter profit fell 7 percent because of restructuring costs as cash-strapped shoppers cut discretionary purchases. The drugstore chain said it earned $640 million in the period ended Feb. 28, compared with $686 million a year ago. The figures include restructuring expenses of $93 million. Sales grew 7 percent, to $16.48 billion.

TREASURY BILLS

T-bill rates fell. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday fell to 0.225 percent from 0.25 percent last week. Rates on six-month bills fell to 0.39 percent from 0.445 percent. The annualized return to investors is 0.228 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,994.31, and 0.396 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,980.28. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, fell to 0.64 percent last week from 0.70 percent two weeks ago.

Compiled from Associated Press and Bloomberg News reports.


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