The polls are now closed. In near-unanimity,

TSC

readers responding to our survey

today chose

America Online

(AOL)

as the most likely candidate to replace

Mercantile Stores

(MST)

in the

S&P 500

. Unfortunately, none of our readers (apparently) are on the

Standard & Poor's Index Committee

, which instead chose

Kohl's

(KSS) - Get Report

.

For the record, Mercantile completed its announced merger with

Dillard's

(DDS) - Get Report

today, creating a space in the index. Upon naming Kohl's as the replacement, S&P simultaneously announced that

Westpoint Stevens

(WPSN)

will replace the department store chain in the

S&P MidCap 400

. After the bell, Dillard's announced second-quarter earnings of 45 cents per share, 3 cents ahead of the 15-analyst

First Call

outlook and a nickel above the year-ago figure.

Two readers correctly picked the winner in our contest, but confessed upon a (not-so-) grueling cross examination they had seen the Kohl's news on either

CNBC

or the newswires before responding. Shame, shame, shame. But we'll spare you the public ignominy of mentioning names since you both confessed. An honorable mention goes to

TSC

columnist

James Cramer

, who correctly predicted it would be a retailer but diluted his Kohl's bet with the simultaneous suggestion of

Best Buy

(BBY) - Get Report

. One presumes that's why he's a hedge-fund manager. Besides, he's probably got a drawer full of

TSC

T-shirts already.

Thanks to all who replied.

--

Aaron L. Task

In other postclose news (earnings estimates from First Call):

Earnings reports and previews

Nordstrom

(NOBE)

posted second-quarter earnings of 47 cents per share, 5 cents higher than the 17-analyst view and above the year-ago 38 cents. The retailer said its quarter same-store sales, however, were down 0.2%. The stock reportedly was up to 34 from a close of 32 3/16 in after-hours trading.

CompUSA

(CPU)

announced a fourth-quarter loss of 19 cents per share, a penny below the 14-analyst prediction and below the year-ago profit of 24 cents. The computer retailer, which cited the release of

Windows 98

and product transition delays for the loss, said it remains cautious about business conditions for fiscal 1999. CompUSA said it expects to see flat comparable-store sales for its first quarter and gross margins for that quarter below the year-ago period but higher than in the fourth quarter. The consensus called for first-quarter earnings of 14 cents per share versus the year-ago 25 cents, and full-year 1999 earnings of 95 cents.

News Corp.

(NWS) - Get Report

said it expects to record second-quarter earnings between 29 cents and 34 cents per share -- below the 14-analyst outlook for 40 cents and near the year-ago 34 cents.

Thermo Electron

(TMO) - Get Report

reported second-quarter earnings of 37 cents per share, 7 cents ahead of the six-analyst forecast and in line with the year-ago figure. The company also said it proposed reducing its public units to 15 from 23, that it plans to divest units with $100 million in revenue and that it does not see any short-term benefits from restructuring.

7th Level

(SEVL)

posted a second-quarter loss of 33 cents per share versus the year-earlier loss of 52 cents. First Call did not have estimates for the company.

In other earnings news:

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Tenet Healthcare

(THC) - Get Report

filed with the

U.S. Bankruptcy Court

in Pittsburgh to acquire eight hospitals from bankrupt

Allegheny Health Education & Research Foundation

for $465 million.

Western Staff Services

(WSTF)

said it plans to sell its medical services unit for an undisclosed amount. No buyer was named. The stock rose 1/4 to 14 1/4 in after-hours trading.

Telemundo

(TLMD)

said it completed its merger with

Telemundo Holdings

, a limited partnership partly owned by

Sony

(SNE) - Get Report

and debuts Thursday.

Sunbeam

(SOC)

agreed to give warrants for 23 million Sunbeam shares to

MacAndrews & Forbes

, the former owner of Sunbeam acquisition

Coleman

. The move is designed to stave off possible lawsuits and to gain MacAndrews' assistance in managing Sunbeam. The warrants have an exercise price of $7 per share; Sunbeam closed today at 6 7/8, up 1/4. Sunbeam has been in turmoil since ousting its former chairman, "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap, in June amid a

Securities and Exchange Commission

investigation.

Collagen

(CGEN) - Get Report

shareholders approved the spinoff of

Cohesion Technologies

(CSON:Nasdaq), expected to begin trading tomorrow on a when-issued basis under the symbol CSONV. Collagen will change its name to

Collagen Aesthetics

, continuing to trade under the symbol CGEN. Collagen makes collagen implants and other aesthetic products; Cohesion is in the surgical hemostasis and sealant business.

Atchison Casting

(FDY)

set a buyback of up to 1.2 million shares.

National Health Investors

agreed to buy two million convertible preferred shares from

LTC Properties

at $19.25 each. The shares will be convertible into two million common shares.

American Real Estate Investment

(REA)

raised its quarterly dividend 20% to 26.5 cents per share.

Paula Financial

(PFCO)

approved a stock repurchase plan to buy back 500,000 shares.

Comings and goings

Cardinal Health

(CAH) - Get Report

said David Bearman resigned as executive vice president and CFO. Bearman left the company to take the same position with

NCR

(NCR) - Get Report

. He replaces John Giering, who is retiring from NCR. Richard Miller, vice president and controller of Cardinal, was named acting CFO until a replacement for Bearman is found.

Universal Electronics

(UEIC) - Get Report

named President Camille Jayne to the additional post of chief executive.

Miscellany

The

International Association of Machinists

asked federal mediators to release it into a 30-day strike countdown in its dispute with

Northwest Airlines

(NWAC)

. Union members have already rejected tentative contracts with the airline. Separate talks between Northwest and the

Air Line Pilots Association

are officially at an impasse.

Mobil

(MOB)

said

Exxon

(XON) - Get Report

was awarded $171 million in damages in a patent dispute between the companies on metallocene catalysts systems. Mobil plans to appeal.

AMR

(AMR)

unit

American Airlines

must pay $1.3 million to the parents of a man killed in a jet crash in Colombia that claimed 158 other lives, a federal district court jury ruled.

Tricon Global Restaurants'

(YUM) - Get Report

Pizza Hut

unit filed suit against

Papa John's

(PZZA) - Get Report

, challenging its smaller rival's claim of "better ingredients, better pizza."

Golden Books Family Entertainment

(GBFE)

was named in a shareholder lawsuit alleging securities violations that artificially inflated the company's stock price. The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of all purchasers between May 13, 1997, and Aug. 4, 1998.

ITC Learning

(ITCC)

said

Mentor Networks

, a privately held supplier in which ITC owns an 8% stake, is in receivership.

PP&L Resources

(PPL) - Get Report

settled its dispute with the

Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission

over its stranded-cost claims.

Markets Editor John J. Edwards III contributed to this story

.