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ECONOMY SLOWS

The economy slowed drastically in the first three months of the year, but fears of a recession were eased by a rebound in factory orders in May. The nation's gross domestic product grew at a 2.7 percent annual rate in the first three months of 1995, the Commerce Department said Friday. That matched the slowest growth in 18 months. But orders to U.S. factories climbed 1.4 percent in May after three straight declines.

SUGAR COMPANY TO USE MACHINES, NOT WORKERS. A Florida sugar company has announced it no longer will hire Jamaican cane cutters, saying machines are cheaper than laborers, the Jamaican government said Friday. Labor Minister Portia Simpson said 1,043 Jamaicans will lose their seasonal jobs, nearly one-fifth of Jamaican laborers employed in the United States under a 50-year-old guest farm-workers program. The number of Jamaican farm workers employed in Florida has declined from 10,067 in 1988 to the 1,043 who were employed by the U.S. Sugar Corp.

DOLE CRITICIZES MICROSOFT INVESTIGATION. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole has criticized the Justice Department's antitrust division for "overzealous" conduct in its investigation of Microsoft Corp.'s proposed on-line service. Dole's comments, included in Wednesday's Congressional Record, were distributed to reporters late Friday by a public relations firm representing Microsoft. Microsoft said it is unsure what prompted Dole's comments, but appeared pleased by the support.

TWA FILES FOR REORGANIZATION. Trans World Airlines Inc., as expected, entered U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Friday for the second time in 3{ years, this time to complete a "prepackaged" restructuring plan that will scale back its $1.7-billion debt. The filing was made in St. Louis, TWA's home city, and the nation's seventh-largest airline hopes that this stay under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy laws will be completed by Sept. 1. TWA also said the filing is not expected to cause problems for TWA's operations, passengers or suppliers.

GTE PROMOTES EXECUTIVES. GTE Corp. consolidated the responsibilities of its top executives Friday, putting one person in charge of both wired and wireless telephones in the United States. Kent B. Foster, who had led GTE's telephone operations subsidiary since 1989 and been vice chairman in 1993, gained the additional title of president and will lead all domestic communication groups. Another vice chairman, Michael T. Masin, was named president of the company's international operations. Masin also will be responsible for business development, GTE's laboratories and other internal functions. The two men will report to Charles Lee, the company's chairman and chief executive officer. An executive who had been part of that leadership group, Nicholas Trivisonno, will leave the company.

BELLSOUTH TAKES CHARGE. BellSouth Corp. will change its accounting practices to prepare for the day when it faces more competition in local telephone service, a decision that will result in a $2.7-billion charge against second-quarter earnings. The charge, announced Friday, covers capital and assets the company is depreciating faster than it would if it maintained its books as a monopoly business.

PICKENS FACES CHALLENGE. Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who gained the reputation of a brash corporate raider with 1980s bids for huge companies like Gulf Corp. and Phillips Petroleum Co., has himself become a takeover target. Dennis R. Washington and Marvin Davis, two billionaire investors, have launched a challenge to Pickens' control of Mesa Inc., which has foundered under its own debt and stubbornly low natural gas prices.

MORRISON KNUDSEN REACHES DEAL. Just hours away from a bankruptcy-law filing, Morrison Knudsen Corp. said Friday that it had reached a preliminary agreement with its banks for financing to get it through most of 1995. The big engineering company's banks agreed to provide $30-million in new loans and to extend the maturity on another $99-million in loans until late in the year, Robert S. Miller, the company's chairman, said. The agreement still must be accepted by the company's more than two dozen lenders, and there are numerous details to be ironed out.

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