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U.S. stocks closed lower, as blue-chips got especially hammered, with loss leader


(IBM) - Get Free Report

closing down 17 to 180 after it reported a drop in hardware sales. Meanwhile, the precocious Internet sector managed to eke out gains amid the broader market's decline.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

shed 143.41 to 9,120.67, and the

S&P 500

lost 9.97 to 1,225.19. The

Nasdaq Composite Index

dropped 5.84 to 2,338.88 and the small-cap

Russell 2000

dipped 1.61 to 422.44. Internet Sector

index hopped 7.37 to 490.01.

European bourses closed lower, as did Asian markets, as Japan's

Nikkei 225

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

Hang Seng

plummeted 310.05 to 9738.52.

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Bear Stearns


has offered to pay a $1 million fine to settle the

New York County District Attorney's

charges that its trade-clearing operations ignored signs of fraudulent activity by one of its introducing brokers,

A.R. Baron

, according to

The Wall Street Journal



said that it plans to pay $15 million to settle two class-action lawsuits alleging racial discrimination.

Discount retailer


is going out of business. The company, operating under Chapter 11 since 1995, said it will liquidate its 145 stores and fire its 20,000 employees.

Continental Airlines


said it would likely exercise its right to offer a competing bid for

America West Holdings



United Airlines



(UAL) - Get Free Report


Delta Air Lines

(DAL) - Get Free Report

makes a bid for AWA, according to

The Wall Street Journal




said it is in talks to acquire ailing Japanese automaker

Nissan Motor




(VO) - Get Free Report

handed out 500 pink slips to employees of

Universal Music Group

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



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(T) - Get Free Report

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


-- to


(ATHM) - Get Free Report

for $1 billion in @Home stock, according to

The Wall Street Journal


Hughes Electronics




will buy


assets for about $1.82 billion.



reported fourth-quarter earnings of 7 cents a share, above Wall Street expectations but lagging last year's earnings of 13 cents a share. Separately, the company announced the resignation of Fred Forsyth, president of professional products, and Ted Briscoe, president of personal storage.

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Having rejected a 2% pay increase offer by employers, German industrial union

IG Metall

said its 3.4 million members will begin striking next week.

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 No. 1 insurer in the U.K.

Danish toy maker


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.

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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.


Jules Lederer

, founder of

Budget Rent-A-Car


and former husband of

Ann Landers

, died yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 81.

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.