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BIZ BITS

PRICES HAVE GONE UP for so long, people think they'll never come down. Does that sound familiar? It applied to the stock market five years ago, and Fortune says it now applies to housing. It's an old debate, with advocates on both sides; Fortune suggests housing is a bubble about to pop. "The gap between home prices and fundamentals like job growth and incomes is greater than ever." The median U.S. home price has risen 47 percent since 1995, adjusted for inflation. "As we all know," Fortune says, "markets driven skyward by irrational exuberance must eventually come back to earth."

COMPANIES THINKING of outsourcing jobs to low-wage foreign countries should look beyond labor costs, strategy + business reports. The quarterly says the cost of road, rail and air transportation "frequently offsets the savings from producing in developing countries."

SPACE TOURISM is years away, but Space Adventures already has collected about $2-million in deposits from people eager to take off, Fortune Small Business says. The company is headed by Jim Benson, who developed the SpaceShip One aircraft that took the first private-sector pilot into space in June. "The wealth in space is so astounding, there should be a stampede to get it," Benson tells FSB, referring to mining ores on the moon and on asteroids. If it sounds far-fetched, the magazine notes that four other entrepreneurs have formed space companies, including Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

AN OLD THEORY holds that hemlines rise along with stocks. Not in these anxious times, BusinessWeek.com says. With high oil prices, skyrocketing health care costs, a sluggish job market and the threat of terrorism hanging over the market, that old wisdom isn't holding up. While hemlines may be rising among the teenage set, at retailers such as Ann Taylor and Talbots, the styles of skirts are decidedly longer _ just above or below the knees.

Ready for a raise? Smart Money says the job market is rebounding after three tough years, and now might be a good time to ask for one. Experts predict corporate profits will jump 22 percent this year, which means companies have more cash on hand than they've had since the 1950s. The magazine outlines proven strategies for getting a raise, including: document your performance; know your worth to the employer; don't take no for an answer.

_ Compiled from Times wires and Web sites.

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