A stronger-than-expected Employment Cost Index report proved painful for financial stocks, which spent a good part of this week trying to climb. American Express (AXP) - Get Report was sliding 2 13/16 to 160 1/8, while J.P. Morgan (JPM) - Get Report was off 3 11/16 to 121 15/16, both weighing heavily on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Mannesmann

(MNNSY)

is in early talks about taking a minority stake in

AOL Europe

, the Friday edition of the

Financial Times

reported. AOL Europe is half owned by

America Online

(AOL)

and half by German media group

Bertelsmann

. While an equity stake in AOL Europe would not block

Vodafone AirTouch's

(VOD) - Get Report

offer, it would help Mannesmann's arguments that it could become dominant in the European Internet market, the

Times

said. Shares of AOL were sliding 1 7/8 while Vodafone was off 9/16 to 55 3/8.

The government has decided to postpone a decision on whether to block

BP Amoco's

(BPA)

$30 billion takeover of

Atlantic Richfield

(ARC) - Get Report

after the companies made a new offer to divest further assets,

The New York Times

reported, citing people involved in the discussions. BP Amoco inched up 3/16 to 54 5/16 while Atlantic Richfield added 2 3/8 to 78 3/4.

The

Times

reported that the

Federal Trade Commission

had been poised to approve a staff recommendation to seek a court order to block the merger at a hearing of the FTC commissioners Friday morning. However, after a new plan was pushed forth by BP Amoco's CEO in a talk with the FTC chairman, the agency agreed to hold off the meeting until Monday to spend some time looking at the proposal, the

Times

reported.

Merger partners

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

and

GTE

(GTE) - Get Report

said after yesterday's close that it has offered, as expected, to spin off most of GTE's Internet business to gain regulatory approval for their deal. Bell fell 3/8 to 57 7/8 while GTE lost 5/16 to 68 5/16.

Separately, Bell Atlantic said it won a contract worth up to $1.4 billion from the

Government Services Administration

, to provide telecommunication services to U.S. federal government agencies in the Washington area.

CBS'

(CBS) - Get Report

talks to buy

Chris-Craft Industries

(CCN)

, a TV station group, are intensifying again,

The Wall Street Journal

reported, citing people familiar with the matter. CBS dropped 3 5/16, or 5.3%, to 58 5/8, while Chris Craft slipped 5/16 to 74 11/16. The newspaper reported that the deal could be valued at as much as $3.5 billion. The newspaper reported that CBS, which has agreed to be bought out by

Viacom

(VIA) - Get Report

, is pursuing the deal on behalf of both the companies. Shares of Viacom slipped 2 7/8 to 56 3/4.

The CBS-Chris-Craft talks were also highlighted in an item in the Inside Wall Street column in

Business Week

, the column penned by Gene Marcial. Marcial wrote that CBS is getting close to a deal with Chris-Craft. The column cites Mario Gabelli, whose firm owns about 15% of Chris-Craft shares, as figuring Chris-Craft's stock would be worth at least $3.3 billion in a takeover, or $80 a share. Chris-Craft closed yesterday at 75.

Leapnet

(LEAP)

slipped 5/8 to 6 1/8 after it said it has agreed to acquire

SPR

(SPRI)

. SPR climbed 3/16 to 5 15/16.

Ziff-Davis

(ZD)

, parent of

ZDNet

(ZDZ)

, said it plans to ditch ZDNet's tracking-stock status and make it a stand-alone independent Internet company. Shares of Ziff-Davis inched up 1/8 to 18 15/16 while ZDNet was falling 13/16 to 29 1/4.

The tracking-stock structure will be scuttled by merging Ziff-Davis into a newly formed subsidiary, so that all current holders of Ziff-Davis and ZDNet stock will hold their investments through a single class of ordinary common stock. The surviving company will be renamed ZDNet Inc., and Ziff-Davis expects to complete the merger in the second quarter.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

(

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

)

Eastman Chemical

(EMN) - Get Report

lost 3 3/8, or 7.9%, to 39 7/16 after it posted fourth-quarter earnings of 20 cents a share, far short of the 11-analyst estimate of 37 cents, but up from the year-ago 14 cents.

Ericsson

(ERICY)

popped 5 7/8, or 9%, to 71 1/2 after it posted net income in the fourth quarter of a little more than $730 million, up from the year-ago total of nearly $550 million. The company said it expects sales to rise by more than 20% in 2000 and substantial growth in earnings.

Gillette

(G) - Get Report

lost 1 1/8 to 38 5/8 after it posted, after yesterday's close, fourth-quarter earnings of 32 cents a share, in line with the lowered 13-analyst

First Call/Thomson Financial

estimate, but down from the year-ago 39 cents. Fourth-quarter sales were $3.03 billion, down 4% from $3.17 billion in the year-ago period. Gillette said that excluding unfavorable foreign exchange rates, sales were "virtually unchanged" compared with the year-ago period.

Lockheed Martin

(LMT) - Get Report

lost 1/8 to 19 5/16 after it posted fourth-quarter earnings excluding items of 59 cents a share, in line with the 14-analyst estimate, but down from the year-ago earnings of 75 cents a share, which excludes items. In addition, Lockheed's board approved management's recommendation to cut the dividend to a quarterly payment of 11 cents a share from 22 cents, payable March 31, to shareholders of record on March 6.

TheStreet.com/NYTimes.com

joint newsroom wrote about Lockheed's restructuring plans in a story

yesterday.

WPS Resources

(WPS) - Get Report

slipped 3/16 to 25 13/16 after it posted fourth-quarter earnings of 48 cents, missing the five-analyst estimate of 51 cents, but up from the year-ago 24 cents.

In other earnings news:

Offerings and stock actions

Allegiance Telecom

(ALGX)

dropped 4 7/8 to 106 1/8 after it priced a 10 million-share offering at $105 a share.

Anadigics

(ANAD)

jumped 5 3/8, or 7%, to 82 1/2 after it said it set a 3-for-2 stock split. The company posted fourth-quarter earnings of 22 cents a share, beating the seven analyst estimate of 16 cents and up from the year-ago loss of 26 cents.

Westwood One

(WON)

climbed 7/8 to 65 7/16 after it set a 2-for-1 stock split.

Analyst actions

PaineWebber

started coverage of

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

with a neutral rating and set a price target of 74. Shares of Amazon.com were stumbling 6 9/16, or 9.8%, to 60 7/16.

Banc of America

cut its rating on

Associates First Capital

(AFS)

to market performer from buy. Shares of Associates First Capital were skidding 2 1/4, or 10%, to 20 1/18.

Credit Suisse First Boston

raised its first-quarter loss estimate on

Autoweb

(AWEB)

to 49 cents a share from 37 cents. Shares of Autoweb were sliding 3/16 to 10 5/16.

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

upped its rating on

Bowater

(BOW)

to strong buy from buy. Shares of Bowater were hopping 3 3/8, or 6.6%, to 54 3/8.

US Bancorp Piper Jaffray

upped its rating on

Cerner

(CERN) - Get Report

to strong buy from buy. Shares of Cerner were lifting 2 15/16, or 15.4%, to 22 1/4.

Lehman Brothers

upped its price target on

Comverse Technology

(CMVT)

to 175 from 150. Shares of Comverse Technology were gaining 7 5/8, or 5.4%, to 144.

PaineWebber

rolled out coverage of

Fogdog

(FOGD)

with a buy rating and a price target of 20. Shares of Fogdog were bouncing 15/16, or 9.2%, to 11 1/16.

Bear Stearns

raised its fiscal 2000 loss estimate for

Digital River

(DRIV) - Get Report

to $1.44 a share from 66 cents. Shares of Digital River slipped 1 7/8, or 5.8%, to 30 7/16.

CSFB raised its rating on

Documentum

(DCTM)

to a buy rating and set a price target of 75.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

raised its rating on the stock to outperform from neutral. Shares of Documentum were tacking on 10 1/4, or 17.8%, to 67 5/8.

CSFB upped its fiscal 2000 EPS estimate on

Electroglas

(EGLS)

to $2.20 a share from $1.15. Shares of Electroglas were climbing 1 3/4, or 5.8%, to 32 1/8.

ING Barings

upped its rating on

Guidant

(GDT)

to strong buy from buy. Shares of Guidant were moving up 4 7/16, or 9.5%, to 50 3/4.

CSFB upped its price target on

Informatica

(INFA)

to 147 from 72. Shares of Informatica were losing 12 3/4, or 12.2%, to 91 1/4.

CSFB raised its fiscal 2000 loss estimate on

InterTrust Technologies

(ITRU)

to $1.08 a share from 89 cents and its fiscal 2000 loss estimate to 47 cents a share from 26 cents. Shares of InterTrust Technologies were tacking on 2 1/4 to 174 13/16.

Robertson Stephens

raised its fiscal 2000 EPS estimates on

Silicon Image

(SIMG)

to 10 cents a share and its fiscal 2001 estimates to 34 cents a share from 23 cents. Shares of Silicon Image were bouncing 8 1/4, or 10.3%, to 88.

Goldman Sachs

raised its rating on

Telecom Italia

(TI)

to market outperform from market performer. Shares of Telecom Italia were edging up 7/8 to 164.

Merrill Lynch

upped its fiscal 2000 estimates on

Transwitch

(TXCC)

to 54 cents a share from 51 cents and set a 2001 EPS estimate of 85 cents a share. Merrill also upped its long-term rating on the stock to buy from accumulate. Shares of Transwitch were mounting 6 3/8, or 13.7%, to 54 1/2.

CSFB upped its fiscal 2000 EPS estimates on

Veritas Software

(VRTS) - Get Report

to 74 cents a share from 65 cents.

Goldman Sachs

added the stock to its recommended list, up from its market outperform rating. Shares of Veritas Software were climbing 2 1/16 to 159 1/4.

Goldman raised its loss estimates on

Webvan

(WBVN)

to 72 cents a share from 47 cents. Shares of Webvan were adding 1 13/16, or 13.3%, to 15 1/2.

Miscellany

In addition to the CBS/Chris-Craft item in the Inside Wall Street column in

Business Week

, the column offered up a bullish piece on Veritas Software. The column cites Jay Nakahara, technology research chief for

Invesco

, who says that despite Veritas' stock surge, he thinks the stock is still underpriced. According to the column, Nakahara expects Veritas to earn $200 million, or 75 cents a share in 2000, compared to Wall Street's expectation of $193 million, or 65 cents, and he sees the stock hitting 200 this year.

Elsewhere, the column offers up a positive story on

Mail.com

(MAIL)

. Shares of Mail.com were climbing 13/16, or 5.2%, to 16 5/16.