Sears

(S) - Get Report

and

America Online

(AOL)

said they formed an alliance that involves marketing each other's goods and services. Under the agreement, AOL's products and services will be marketed to Sears' customers at its 858 stores nationwide. The venture also includes plans to market and sell high-speed broadband access as the market develops.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

said it will buy

Cordant Technologies

(CDD)

for $57 a share, or about $2.9 billion. The deal includes the assumption of $685 million in debt.

Digital Island

(ISLD)

and

Federated's

Fingerhut

said they entered an online alliance. Under the partnership Digital Island said it will provide e-commerce technology to Fingerhut.

Inktomi

(INKT)

said it was expanding its mobile wireless infrastructure, in part through six alliances with technology companies. Inktomi is taking an equity stake in

AirFlash

for its mobile phone Internet services. It also is allying with France's

Cap Gemini Sogeti

and

Portal Software

(PRSF)

in a move that will include billing for wireless content. Inktomi is also joining forces with

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

for its wireless hardware platform and

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

for Sun's wireless infrastructure set. Inktomi is also forging a link with

Spyglass

(SPYG) - Get Report

for content information and wireless Web firm

GWcom

.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

has bought an undisclosed stake in Malaysia's

Astro

television network as part of a deal the two companies said would help shape the development of new multimedia and interactive TV services for Asia.

Nortel Networks

(NT)

agreed to acquire

Xros

for $3.25 billion in Nortel stock. Nortel said the acquisition would be slightly dilutive to 2000 earnings-per-share, but would add to 2001 EPS. Nortel also said it would issue 27.5 million shares for the deal.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

(

Earnings estimates from First Call/Thomson Financial; earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

Ann Taylor

(ANN)

posted fourth-quarter earnings of 50 cents a share, in line with the 14-analyst estimate and a penny better than the year-ago results.

FactSet Research

(FDS) - Get Report

reported second-quarter earnings of 18 cents a share, a penny better than the three-analyst estimate and the year-ago 13 cents.

Host Marriott

(HMT)

posted fourth-quarter earnings of 54 cents a share, in line with the 14-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 49 cents.

Martha Stewart

(MSO)

posted fourth-quarter pro forma earnings of 5 cents a share, better than the five-analyst estimate of 1 cent and the the year-ago pro forma earnings of 3 cents.

Network Appliance

(NTAP) - Get Report

said it expects to post revenue of $500 million in the year to April 2000, with turnover doubling to $1 billion in the year to April 2001.

Polymer Group

(PGI)

said it expects first-quarter and full-year earnings to fall short of analyst estimates due to order delays, expenses for two new lines and other factors. Polymer sees earnings of 6 cents to 8 cents a share in the first quarter and full-year earnings of 90 cents to $1.10. The current three-analyst estimate for the first quarter is 19 cents a share, while the four-analyst estimate for 2000 is $1.19.

Offerings and stock actions

Adaptive Broadband

(ADAP) - Get Report

last night set a 2-for-1 stock split.

Concord Camera

(LENS)

said it approved a 2-for-1 stock split.

NYFIX

(NYFX)

set a 3-for-2 stock split.

Quanta Services

(PWR) - Get Report

TST Recommends

set a 3-for-2 stock split.

Sycamore Networks

(SCMR)

priced a 10.2 million-share offering at $150.25 a share.

Hambrecht & Quist

started coverage of

ASE Test

(ASTSF)

with a buy rating and a price target of 60.

J.P. Morgan

started coverage of

Avista

(AVA) - Get Report

with a buy rating.

Warburg Dillon Read

started coverage of

Bausch & Lomb

(BOL)

with a buy rating and a price target of 75.

Merrill Lynch

upgraded

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

to intermediate-term buy from accumulate. The firm maintained its long-term buy rating on the stock.

Credit Suisse First Boston

reinstated

Conexant Systems

(CNXT) - Get Report

with a strong buy rating and a 12-month target of 140.

CSFB raised its 2000 earnings estimates on

Credence Systems

(CMOS)

to $3.60 from $3.35. The 12-month price target was raised to 170 from 90.

Lehman Brothers

said it cut

Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea

(GAP)

to neutral from buy.

Goldman Sachs

started coverage of

Inforte

(INFT)

on its recommended list.

Goldman Sachs started coverage of

Lending Tree

(TREE) - Get Report

as market outperformer.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

started coverage of

Providian

(PVN)

with a strong buy rating amd a price target of 110.

CSFB raised

Radio One

(ROIA)

to strong buy from buy, and boosted its 12-month price target to 105 from 80.

Morgan Stanley started coverage of

Sabre Holdings

(TSG) - Get Report

at outperform with a price target of 56.

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

upgraded

Tribune

(TRB)

to strong buy from buy.

Miscellany

Consolidated Stores

(CNS) - Get Report

said it hired Credit Suisse First Boston to help it pursue strategic options.

Tyco International

(TYC)

said it established a venture capital unit called

Tyco Ventures

, which will invest in emerging companies and technologies to enhance its core business.

The Heard on the Street column in the

The Wall Street Journal

calls

Robertson Stephens

analyst Dan Niles the "new Michael Jordan among technology analysts." The story says Niles has developed a strong following among investors after a "year of prescient calls" about

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

and others.

For analysis of the market's preopen tone and trends, see the Wake-Up Call, published separately.