Stocks were trading sharply higher across the board at midday, prompted by the

Labor Department's

relatively benign

employment report. Tech issues and blue-chips were hanging near their intraday highs.

Major European bourses posted big gains, and Asian markets went through the roof on the heels of yesterday's rally on Wall Street. Japan's


skyrocketed 710.55 to 14,894.00, and Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

shot up 328.36 to 10,241.12.

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Missouri utilities




St. Joseph Light & Power


are combining in a $190 million deal.


(WMT) - Get Report

announced a 2-for-1 stock split and a 29% dividend hike for shareholders of record on March 19, and said that it will expand its stock buyback program.

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Close on the heels of its purchase of

FrontierVision Partners

, cable giant

Adelphia Communications


agreed to acquire

Century Communications


in a $5.2 billion deal, including $1.6 billion in debt assumption.



warned investors that it expects to incur losses in its next two quarters because of slack PC sales.


(MSFT) - Get Report

is goosing its e-commerce business with the acquisition of comparison-shopping service


, which the company will integrate with its

Microsoft Network


Going to Defcon 2 in its bid to take control of U.S. semiconductor manufacturer

VLSI Technology


, Dutch electronics company

Philips Electronics

(PHG) - Get Report

made a tender offer to VLSI shareholders of $17 a share, valuing the company at about $777 million.

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General News


Labor Department

reported that February payrolls increased by 275,000, while the unemployment rate inched up 0.1 percentage point to 4.4%.

President Clinton

is holding a White House meeting with Italian Premier

Massimo D'Alema

the day after a U.S. military jury acquitted Capt. Richard Ashby of involuntary manslaughter in the Feb. 3, 1998, accident in which his jet tore through a gondola cable in Italy, killing 20.


The Benelux are coming: Dutch banking group


(AAN) - Get Report

acquired an 8.75% stake in

Banca di Roma

one day after Belgium's

KBC Bancassurance Holding

bought 7.7% of

Credit Commercial de France



(SNE) - Get Report

is, to say the least, confident of its next-generation


prospects. The company said that it is earmarking about $1 billion for the production of chips for the machine.

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Greaseman in the house? Shock jock Doug "Greaseman" Tracht, fired from his job at Washington-area WARW radio for a brutal reference to the dragging death of James Byrd Jr., wants to visit the Byrd family home in Jasper, Texas, to make a personal apology. "I'm here to reclaim my reputation back," said the Greaseman, to whose unpleasant offer the Byrd family has yet to respond.

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