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General Electric and Citigroup on US Catholic blacklist

General Electric and Citigroup - two of the most widely held stocks in the US - are among several hundred companies excluded from two new US stock indices designed to reflect the views of the Catholic Church.

The portfolios are the first to take an index approach seeking to conform to the 1991 socially responsible investment guidelines of the national conference of Catholic bishops and United States Catholic conference.

"We have an active social policy and a passive investment philosophy," said Jeffrey Petersen, president of Carlisle Social Investments that developed the indices.

Aimed at Catholic institutions such as colleges, hospitals, religious orders and dioceses, the indices apply social criteria to a core list of 2950 stocks. It also takes aim at wealthy individuals.

The Carlisle indices exclude 212 firms for failing to meet criteria on issues including abortion, contraception, affordable housing, gender and racial discrimination and military spending.

The Carlisle Catholic United States market index opened with 1404 stocks.

GEC, headed by Jack Welch, is the largest United States company based on market capitalisation. It was excluded because of environmental and military issues, according to Fr Seamus Finn, who acts as religious consultant for the indices. He cited the controversy over GEC discharging substances containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River decades ago. GEC said that the country's environmental protection agency had determined that the river was safe for recreational activity and as a source of drinking water.

Four companies - Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, American Home Products and Pharmacia - were excluded because of products used for contraception or to induce abortion.

Companies screened out because of discrimination issues were Citigroup, Coca-Cola, SBC Communications and Bank of America.