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BUSINESS IN BRIEF

Mass. unemployment rate drops to 4.4% in March

The Massachusetts unemployment dropped to 4.4 percent in March, down 0.9 percent, the largest month-to-month drop of any state that month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the US Department of Labor. The jobless rate in Massachusetts had been in the 4.8- to 5.3-percent range since April 2004, the bureau said. The New England unemployment rate fell 0.5 percent to 4.2 percent in March, compared with a 4.4 percent national jobless rate, the bureau said. (Chris Reidy)

Babson College takes investment-research title
Babson College won the $10,000 top prize in an investment-research competition among student teams at four schools in the United States and China judged by a panel including Wall Street analysts and investors. A six-student team at the Wellesley college bested the three other schools in the final round of the CFA Institute's first Global Investment Challenge. The contest is modeled after the New York Society of Security Analysts' Investment Research Challenge, the CFA Institute of chartered financial analysts said. (Bloomberg)

Company to pay $570m for Cablevision stakes in FSN
Comcast Corp., the largest US provider of cable television, agreed to buy Cablevision Systems Corp.'s stakes in sports networks in California and New England for $570 million. Comcast will purchase 60 percent of FSN Bay Area and 50 percent of FSN New England, the companies said. The transaction will give Comcast full ownership of FSN New England, with rights to televise Boston Celtics basketball games, and joint ownership of FSN Bay Area, which has rights to four San Francisco teams, including the baseball Giants. (Bloomberg)

Reuters to buy ClearForest for text search capability
Reuters Group PLC, the world's largest publicly traded provider of financial data, agreed to buy ClearForest Ltd. to bolster its information search and text-analysis capabilities. The acquisition of Waltham-based ClearForest is expected to be completed in 30 days, Reuters said. Financial terms were not disclosed. (Bloomberg)

Fort Point residents hit party, event company
Jim Apteker, owner of party and events spaces in Boston and Newport, R.I., apologized to Fort Point Channel residents for a raucous Dec. 7, 2006, party at Artistry, a large former warehouse room recently leased by his firm, Longwood Events, in the neighborhood. About 180 people attended a two-hour-plus community meeting, organized by City Hall, to let artists and other residents of the Channel Center and nearby buildings tell Longwood Events how they feel about a plan by the firm, which also operates State Room downtown, to have a liquor license and hold weddings and private parties at Artistry. Most who spoke opposed the club, though some said if well run it might bring life to a struggling residential community. (Thomas C. Palmer Jr.)

THE NATION

New York Times building sold to Israeli company
The New York Times Building, headquarters of the newspaper since 1913, was bought by Africa Israel Investments Ltd., an Israeli company, for $525 million. Tishman Speyer Properties LP owns the 15-story building. The New York Times, the only tenant, is due to vacate the premises July 1, Africa Israel said. The newspaper publisher plans to move to a new 52-story tower on Eighth Avenue. Tishman Speyer bought the property from New York Times Co. in 2004 for $175 million. (Bloomberg)

Study assails Wal-Mart on workers, human rights
Wal-Mart's exploitation of weak US labor laws interferes with workers' rights to organize and violates the human rights of its employees, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, an independent nongovernment organization. HRW said Wal-Mart uses tactics -- some of which it says are illegal-- aimed at thwarting union organization and creating a climate of fear for its 1.3 million US workers. The study was based on interviews with 41 current and former Wal-Mart workers, managers, labor lawyers, and union organizers. HRW also said it analyzed cases that charged Wal-Mart with violating US labor and employment laws. "Wal-Mart provides an environment of open communications and gives our associates every opportunity to express their ideas, comments, and concerns," said a Wal-Mart spokesman. "It is because of our efforts to foster such an environment that our associates have repeatedly rejected unionization attempts." (AP)

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