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BUSINESS TODAY

REPORTS SHOW STRONG ECONOMY: Strong demand for airplanes and electronic equipment helped to catapult orders to U.S. factories by 3.3 percent in December and contributed to making 1999 the strongest year manufacturers have seen in four years, the Commerce Department said. Separately, the Bank of Tokyo's retail sales index rose 5.4 percent in January, above the 4 percent gain that was expected. For the February-January fiscal year, the index rose 6.5 percent, the highest level since 1984. Also, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week fell by 5,000 to 274,000, the Labor Department said. All three reports, economists said, not only justify the Federal Reserve's decision Wednesday to raise interest rates but provide ammunition for additional rate increases in the future.

SENATE APPROVES GREENSPAN: Alan Greenspan overwhelmingly won Senate confirmation for a fourth term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. The Senate voted 89-4 to approve President Clinton's nomination of Greenspan, 73, for a four-year term that will run until June 2004. After the Senate vote, Clinton praised Greenspan for his "truly remarkable contribution in helping lead our nation to the longest economic expansion in our history."

NON-MANUFACTURING ACTIVITY SLOWS: U.S. non-manufacturing activity slowed in January as businesses reported a decline in inventories and order backlogs and an increase in the number of companies reporting price increases. The National Association of Purchasing Management's non-manufacturing index fell to 52.5 last month, after holding steady at 55.5 in December. Analysts expected the index to increase to 56.6 in January.

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