Markets

This ain't no

Dow 10K party. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

sagged today along with most other major proxies, largely under the weight of loss leaders

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

. The Dow lost 21.09 to 9876.35; the

S&P 500

shed 3.09 to 1294.59; the

Nasdaq Composite Index

fell 30.70 to 2381.55; the small-cap

Russell 2000

dropped 2.70 to 398.38; and

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index sank 16.08 to close at an even 568.00.

European markets closed mixed. Germany's

DAX

soared more than 5% after German Finance Minister

Oskar Lafontaine

resigned last evening. Yesterday afternoon,

TSC's

Peter Eavis

weighed in on the departure of Oskar, whom Chancellor

Gerhard Schroeder

today replaced with Hesse State Governor

Hans Eichel

.

Asian markets were mixed, as Japan's

Nikkei

lost 13.28 to 15,488.86. But Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

surged 138.95 to 10,801.76 on the heels of yesterday's rally on Wall Street.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

A&W Restaurants

said it will buy

Long John Silver's Restaurants

as soon as the chain emerges from Chapter 11.

Bankers Trust

(BT)

is shelling out $63.5 million in fines to settle charges that employees moved millions of dollars from unclaimed customer accounts into its own accounts and falsified records to cover up the theft.

The state of California has taken control over the ailing

MedPartners Provider Network

, placing the health plan in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Los Angeles Times

reported that regulators took action to ensure that patients of the company, a subsidiary of Birmingham, Ala., practice management firm

MedPartners

(MDM)

, wouldn't lose care.

Shares of

Rite Aid

(RAD) - Get Report

plummeted nearly 40% after the company reported fourth-quarter earnings of 30 cents a share -- a whopping 22 cents under the

First Call

consensus. The spectacle made

TSC

columnist

James Cramer

wax nostalgic for

Cendant

(CD)

.

For more news on companies and stocks, click

here.

Tech

Fleet Financial Group

(FLT) - Get Report

is considering spinning off

Suretrade

, the online discount brokerage it acquired when it bought

Quick & Reilly

last year.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

said it plans to announce details of its reorganization into four major groups in the "near future."

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

General News

U.S. Secretary of State

Madeleine Albright

today accepted the NATO admission papers of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, formalizing their entry into the organization.

Representatives from Iran, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela today agreed to cut their oil production by more than 2 million barrels a day.

The

House Banking Committee

yesterday passed a compromise bill to overhaul the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which erected sharp barriers between the banking, insurance and securities industries. The bill would let subsidiaries of banks regulated by the

Treasury

move into any financial activity except insurance and real estate development, but require banks with assets of more than $10 billion to expand through the holding company structure that

Fed

Chairman

Alan Greenspan

supports.

International

Days after ending talks with

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

,

Nissan Motor

(NSANY)

will likely announce a broad agreement with France's

Renault

as soon as next week, according to the

Kyodo News

service.

Societe Generale

and

Paribas

each rejected a $38 billion hostile bid for both banks made by

Banque Nationale de Paris

and said that they will merge as planned.

The Australian state of Victoria will sell gas distribution and retail companies

Multinet

and

Ikon Energy

to U.S. utility holding company

UtiliCorp United

(UCU)

and Australian financial services group

AMP

(AMP) - Get Report

for about $1.26 billion.

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

Elsewhere

Not all college basketball players leave school early for the fame and fortune of an

NBA

career. Former

University of Kansas

basketball player Billy "B.J." Williams got six months after pleading guilty to exposing himself to neighbors. Williams stayed four years at Kansas, graduating in 1997 with a bachelor's degree.

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