Foreign investors spent a record $282.9 billion investing in U.S. businesses in 1999, up 31% from the previous year (only $215.3 billion was invested), the Commerce Dept. recently reported. The rise reflected the boom in mergers and acquisitions as well as the continuing strength of the U.S. economy, the Commerce Dept. added. However, there was a sharp fall in investment in manufacturing from the previous year, primarily because in 1998 there was exceptionally large investment in the petroleum, coal production, and motor-vehicle manufacturing sectors, Commerce said. But all is not lost. In 1999 manufacturing investment was substantial in computers and electronics, particularly semiconductors and other electronic components and communications equipment. By country, the British invested the most, with 1999 outlays totaling $110.1 billion, up from $84.9 billion the previous year. French investment also saw a sharp increase to $24.6 billion from $14.5 in 1998. European investors accounted for more than 70%, or $205.2 billion, of the total investment. Investment by Latin American and other Western Hemisphere countries, mainly Bermuda, took 12% or $34.0 billion of the total investment. Asian and Pacific countries, mainly Japan, took only 4%, or $11.5 billion. Japanese investment totaled $8.0 billion.