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BUSINESS TODAY

WEEKLY JOBLESS CLAIMS DROP: The number of U.S. workers filing for state unemployment benefits fell 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 276,000 for the week ended May 13, the Labor Department said. So far this year, initial claims have averaged 277,000 a week, down from last year's average of 298,000. The less-volatile four-week moving average for new claims rose last week to 289,750 from 285,250.

RATE WORRIES HURT NASDAQ: The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 106.25 to 3,538.71, as investors failed to find direction in a market facing rising interest rates and a dearth of significant economic news. Analysts said that while investors haven't truly turned against technology stocks, there's little interest in buying into the volatile sector while interest rates are rising. Cisco Systems, Oracle and Microsoft led the index lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had been up as much as 95 points during the day, rose 7.54 to close at 10,777.28.

SPRINT-WORLDCOM DEAL OPPOSED: Federal antitrust enforcers have recommended blocking WorldCom Inc.'s $115-billion buyout of Sprint Corp. because it would violate antitrust laws, the Wall Street Journal reported. The recommendation was forwarded to the Justice Department's antitrust chief, Joel Klein, following a six-month investigation. Klein is not bound by the recommendation and could approve the deal if the companies agree to divestitures to protect competition. The deal would combine the second- and third-largest long-distance carriers, creating a telecommunications giant with revenue of more than $50-billion. It would be one of the world's largest companies with operations in 65 countries. Sprint shares fell $1.75, or 3 percent, to $56.25.

EUROPEAN WEB RETAILER FAILS: British online retailer of trendy sports clothing Boo.com has collapsed just six months after its launch, becoming the first major European Internet business to close down. Boo.com Group Ltd. made a last-ditch effort to raise additional funding, but late Wednesday night shareholders voted to call in consultants KPMG to liquidate the company's assets. Boo.com was said to be worth about $400-million at the peak of the Internet market frenzy last year, but a combination of high setup costs and an inability to attract enough customers led to its demise. French entrepreneur Bernard Arnault and Italy's Benetton family were among the shareholders.

AT&T STARTS WIRELESS WEB SERVICE: AT&T has launched a mobile Web service for its wireless consumers that is the first to allow unlimited use and is the first plan that is free for every subscriber. The introduction of AT&T Digital PocketNet comes nearly eight months after Sprint PCS blazed the trail into mobile Internet access with its Wireless Web service, followed by every major cell phone company except AT&T.

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