Housing construction in the first quarter fell 10 percent, in part because of a regulatory clampdown on risky real estate lending, according to the F.W. Dodge division of McGraw-Hill.

The dollar finished mixed in exceptionally quiet European trading, affected by the Memorial Day holiday in the United States and a bank holiday in Britain. Gold rose in Zurich but was not traded in London or Hong Kong, where markets also were closed for holidays.

Orders placed with U.S. machine tool manufacturers reached $289.45 million in April, 8.9 percent above the March total of $265.85 million, the Association for Manufacturing Technology said.

USAir and Alitalia signed an agreement aimed at giving their passengers easier access to each other's networks. USAir passengers destined for Eastern Europe or the eastern Mediterranean can fly Alitalia to Italy and make the appropriate connections in Rome or Milan.

Mexicana Airlines, a longtime customer of Boeing Co., has agreed to purchase as many as 50 jetliners from European competitor Airbus Industrie. The deal, including options, could be worth as much as $2 billion.

Drexel Burnham Lambert Group's main brokerage subsidiary was expected to file for bankruptcy today, sources told the New York newspaper Newsday. Drexel officials had said in February, when its parent organization filed for bankruptcy, that the entire company would be liquidated. A Drexel spokesman declined comment.

The EC's executive body proposed a measure that could allow EC companies to copy semiconductor designs of U.S. chip makers. The proposal would drop protection of chip designs from non-EC countries that do not legally protect designs made within the EC.