Grupo Mexico raised its bid for Asarco, potentially spoiling Phelps Dodge's deal to combine three of the nation's biggest copper producers. Asarco agreed Tuesday to be acquired by Phelps Dodge for about $1.1 billion in cash and stock, rejecting an earlier bid from Grupo Mexico. Phelps Dodge had previously struck a deal to buy Cyprus Amax Minerals Co. for $1.8 billion, making the three-way deal worth $2.9 billion. Grupo Mexico yesterday offered $29.50 per share in cash, or $1.17 billion, for Asarco, besting the Phelps Dodge offer by more than 3 percent.

Nonunion employees in "closed shops" can be required to help pay for union organizing activities, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in a 4 to 1 vote. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said it will challenge the ruling.

General Electric, the second-largest U.S. company, said third-quarter profit rose 16 percent, to $2.65 billion. Revenue at GE, which trails only Microsoft in market value, rose 13 percent, to $27.2 billion. Analysts expected an increase of 10 percent to 12 percent.

State Farm suspended use of generic parts for auto body repairs, three days after a jury awarded $456 million to the insurer's policyholders in a class-action lawsuit over the use of such parts.

Retail sales rose modestly in September as the robust U.S. economy continued to encourage shoppers to spend despite volatility in the stock market, stormy weather and rising interest rates.

The number of workers filing for state unemployment benefits rose last week, boosted by disruptions related to Hurricane Floyd, the Labor Department said. Claims rose to 312,000, from 302,000 the previous week.

Americans' borrowing raced ahead in August, to $10.8 billion more than during the month before. It was the largest monthly increase in seven months.

Financier Martin R. Frankel has been charged with fraud and money laundering in a 36-count indictment, federal prosecutors announced. Frankel, 44, under arrest in Germany, is accused of absconding with more than $200 million in insurance company assets he was supposed to be investing. Hugh Keefe, who withdrew as Frankel's U.S. lawyer last week after federal authorities froze all of the fugitive's assets, said the indictment will make it easier to extradite Frankel.

John D. Hawke Jr. won Senate confirmation as comptroller of the currency, the chief regulator of nationally chartered banks. President Clinton initially nominated Hawke, a former Treasury Department official, in July 1998, but his confirmation was blocked for months by Democrats led by Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, who argued that Hawke hadn't been a strong enough consumer advocate in his previous job.

United Parcel Service, citing theft concerns, plans to stop shipping handguns via its ground service, instead forcing customers to use the more expensive air service.

The traditional Big Three automakers forecast a 1 percent decline in North American vehicle production in the fourth quarter, with a 4 percent drop in car output offsetting an expected 2 percent rise in trucks. General Motors, Ford and the Chrysler brands of DaimlerChrysler expect production to drop slightly, to 3.352 million units, from 3.373 million in the 1998 fourth quarter.

Republic National Bank of New York has cut its correspondent banking relationship with 100 Russian banks, a source familiar with the bank said. Those banks represented 44 percent of the 225 banks in Russia or former Soviet bloc countries for which Republic provides such services. Republic decided the 100 accounts were no longer profitable enough given the cost of increased scrutiny that Russian banks require in the wake of the federal probe into possible money laundering through the Bank of New York, the source said.

Several depositors of Russia's Inkombank sued the Bank of New York, alleging that it assisted the Russian bank's principals in embezzling $1.5 billion in assets. Inkombank, which collapsed in October 1998, was one of Bank of New York's most profitable customers. Bank of New York has suspended Natasha Gurfinkel Kagalovsky, the executive who helped Inkombank in the United States, in connection with a federal investigation into possible money laundering through Bank of New York accounts. The suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, seeks $500 million in damages.

Thirteen American Airlines passengers traumatized by 28 seconds of turbulence during a 1995 flight were awarded $2.22 million by a jury in New York. Plaintiffs in the emotional- distress case included Nancy Spielberg, the sister of filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Bell Atlantic will take a 19 percent stake in Metromedia Fiber Network as part of a $2 billion deal that will give the giant U.S. local telephone operator access to a key nationwide fiber-optic data network. Under the deal, Bell Atlantic will pay Metromedia $500 million for the use of its network--in 50 major U.S. metropolitan markets and several cities abroad--for 20 years. Bell Atlantic will also take a 9.9 percent stake in New York-based Metromedia for $700 million in newly issued shares at $28 per share.

Costco Wholesale, the biggest U.S. chain of warehouse-club stores, said fiscal fourth-quarter profit rose 22 percent, to $183.2 million.


The United States and Japan signed an agreement to increase their cooperation in investigating corporate mergers and price fixing that affect both countries. Signing the agreement in her Justice Department conference room, Attorney General Janet Reno said it "recognizes the increasing interrelations between . . . the world's two largest national economies."


A maker of shower cleaner is voluntarily recalling 230,000 bottles of Scrub Free Daily Shower Cleaner and Scrub Free Daily Shower Spray because of possible bacterial contamination. Benckiser Consumer Products of Greenwich, Conn., said the cleaners may contain bacteria that could cause respiratory or similar infections in some people. The recalled products are white or clear plastic 32-ounce spray bottles and 64-ounce refill bottles sold from May 1999 through Oct. 4, 1999. Customers can call the company at 1-800-286-9055 for a free replacement coupon.


US Airways Group, the sixth-largest U.S. carrier, plans to add about 8 percent to 10 percent more seats and flights next year as it takes delivery of planes and recovers from computer and other problems. The Arlington-based airline said in a monthly letter to investors filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that most of the growth will come on routes to Europe. By the end of next year, the US Airways fleet will include 418 planes, up from 392 at the end of this year.