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BUSINESS TODAY

GTE TO BUY BACK SHARES: GTE Corp. said it will buy back up to 26-million shares to offset shares issued under employee benefit and dividend reinvestment programs. GTE's board authorized the repurchase of the stock on the open market until Bell Atlantic, the largest local phone company, completes its purchase of GTE, expected by the beginning of next year. GTE is the Tampa Bay area's largest telephone company.

BEAR STEARNS FINED $38.5-MILLION: Bear Stearns & Cos. agreed to pay $38.5-million in a settlement with federal regulators and New York City prosecutors, closing a two-year investigation of its relationship with a small brokerage that defrauded investors. Bear Stearns neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing. Of the settlement, Bear Stearns will pay $30-million to establish a fund to compensate defrauded investors. Customers say they lost $75-million with New York-based A.R. Baron. The Securities and Exchange Commission said Bear Stearns ignored repeated signs that A.R. Baron, which is now defunct, was cheating customers. The SEC also filed fraud charges against Richard Harriton, president of subsidiary Bear Stearns Securities Corp. Harriton resigned and said he would fight the charges.

JOBLESS CLAIMS RISE: The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits inched up last week after hitting their lowest level in two years the week before. The Labor Department said 279,000 Americans filed new claims for jobless benefits for the week ending July 31, up by 4,000 from the previous week. Economists consider any claims level below 300,000 an indication of an extremely tight labor market.

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