A market rumor sent shares of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. tumbling Friday, exposing the weakening ability of financial services companies to ward off ill-timed news.

The rumor alleged that Lehman's banks, a consortium of 20 domestic and overseas lenders, had cut off the New York brokerage's lines of credit and that the firm was teetering near bankruptcy. Lehman, which has arranged $3 billion in credit lines this year, had sales of $16.4 billion in 1997.

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