Markets

That's not a rally --

that's

a rally. Stocks followed up Thursday's strong performance in grand fashion, as blue-chips soared to record heights, giddied by the

Labor Department's

employment report. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

surged 268.68 to a record 9736.08; the

S&P 500

jumped 28.83 to 1275.47; the

Nasdaq Composite Index

shot up 44.22 to 2337.11;

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

rose 10.95 to 534.34; and the small-cap

Russell 2000

eked out a 3.99 gain to close at 398.01.

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

Nikkei

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

Hang Seng

shot up 328.36 to 10,241.12.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

Missouri utilities

UtiliCorp

(UCU)

and

St. Joseph Light & Power

(SAJ)

are combining in a $190 million deal.

Wal-Mart

(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.

For more news on companies and stocks, click

here.

Tech

Close on the heels of its purchase of

FrontierVision Partners

, cable giant

Adelphia Communications

(ADLAC)

agreed to acquire

Century Communications

(CTYA)

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

CompUSA

(CPU)

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

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

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

CompareNet

, which the company will integrate with its

Microsoft Network

portal.

Proceed to Defcon 3. Dutch electronics company

Philips Electronics

(PHG) - Get Report

filed a lawsuit to keep U.S. semiconductor manufacturer

VLSI Technology

(VLSI)

from taking a poison pill to ward off Philips' hostile tender offer.

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

General News

The

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.

International

Japan's

Cabinet

said it is throwing its weight behind a plan to create 770,000 jobs through corporate incentives and industry deregulation.

The Benelux are coming: Dutch banking group

ABN-Amro

(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

.

Sony

(SNE) - Get Report

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

PlayStation's

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

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

Elsewhere

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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