Markets

The

S&P 500

futures closed the morning session down 8.60, about 18.60 below fair value, indicating a sharply negative open.

European bourses generally were lower at midday.

Asian markets closed lower, as Japan's

Nikkei 225

lost 91.02 to close at 14,154.40, while Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

plummeted 310.05 to 9,738.52.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

said it is in talks to acquire ailing Japanese automaker

Nissan Motor

(NSANY)

.

Seagram

(VO) - Get Report

handed out 500 pink slips to employees of

Universal Music Group

, as part of a cost reduction program following Seagram's purchase of

PolyGram

.

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here.

Tech

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

is considering selling its Internet-access operations -- including Internet service provider

WorldNet

-- to

@Home

(ATHM) - Get Report

for $1 billion in @Home stock, according to

The Wall Street Journal

.

Hughes Electronics

(GMH)

subsidiary

DirecTV

will buy

Primestar's

assets for about $1.82 billion.

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

International

Government figures show that the U.K.'s GDP expanded 0.2% in the fourth-quarter of 1998, the slowest pace since 1992.

Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group

said it's in talks to acquire rival

Guardian Royal Exchange

in a deal that would form the #1 insurer in the U.K.

Danish toy maker

Lego

said it will let go up to 10% of its 10,000 person workforce to cut costs in the face of an increasingly competitive electronic game market.

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

General News

Lawyers for Jewish groups and Swiss banks have hammered out the details for a settlement of $1.25 billion in compensation for wartime losses.

Raul Salinas de Gortari

, brother of ex-Mexican President

Carlos Salinas de Gortari

, has been convicted of the murder of rival

Ruiz Massieu

.

About 400 people, including Communist Party leader

Gennady Zyuganov

, yesterday commemorated the 75th anniversary of

Vladimir Lenin's

death by decorating his Red Square mausoleum with wreaths and carnations.

Elsewhere

A 71-year-old Hungarian woman was rescued by Budapest police after being locked in her pantry for a month. The woman reportedly survived on tomato juice and canned fruits.