Markets

It wasn't hard to take comfort in the

market's performance at midday. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

had blown through the 10,700 level and looked like it was moving for the next centennial, and though Internet and other tech stocks were sharply lower, breadth on the

Nasdaq

was still respectable. But stocks spent the afternoon dropping faster than a

Jack Morris

forkball, and investors were forced to take comfort in the continued strength in cyclicals and the positive breadth on the

NYSE

.

Major proxies looked ugly at the end of the day: The Dow fell 53.36 to 10440.53; the

Nasdaq Composite Index

plummeted 138.19, its second-biggest point drop ever, to 2345.85; the

S&P 500

sank 29.48 to 1289.52; the

Russell 2000

shed 9.14 to 412.44; and

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index dumped a 108.18 to 560.84.

The Nasdaq has set plans to launch a late trading session between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. by this summer, according to

CNBC

.

Major European indices finished sharply higher, while Asian markets were mixed overnight. Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

jumped 282.12 to 12,772.42, and Japan's

Nikkei

fell 177.37 to 16,674.21.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

BellSouth

(BLS)

, the fourth-largest U.S. telecom, is buying 10% of

Qwest Communications

(QWST)

for about $3.5 billion in cash. BellSouth plans to expand its service to business customers with Qwest's high-speed data and long-distance network.

More impressive numbers from the financial services sector:

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

today posted first-quarter earnings of $1.04 a share excluding charges, well above the 87-cents-a-share

First Call

consensus. Including charges, Citigroup earned $1.01 a share.

Columbia Energy Group

(CG) - Get Report

is bidding $6.68 billion for

Consolidated Natural Gas

(CNG)

, even though CNG has already accepted a takeover offer from

Dominion Resources

(D) - Get Report

. Columbia Energy had offered to buy CNG in late February, two days before the company announced the Dominion deal.

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

and

Toyota

(TOYOY)

today announced a five-year deal to jointly develop battery, fuel cell and hybrid electric automobiles.

For more news on companies and stocks, click

here.

Tech

Compaq's

(CPQ)

Eckhard Pfeiffer

stepped down from his post as the company's CEO; CFO

Earl Mason

also resigned.

TSC

reported yesterday on the ousters.

Lucent Technologies

(LU)

today set plans to sell about $300 million worth of switching equipment, software and services to

U S West

(USW)

.

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

General News

NATO's

air campaign against Yugoslavia continues amid reports that the alliance has located 43 mass grave sites in Kosovo. Meanwhile, Secretary of State

Madeleine Albright

said the U.S. is seeking NATO support to choke off the shipment of oil to Yugoslavia, possibly by employing a naval blockade.

International

South Korean

chaebol

Daewoo Group

today said it plans to sell the shipbuilding business of

Daewoo Heavy Industries

for about $4.12 billion.

Japanese steel maker

Nisshin Steel

today set plans to cut 1,200 jobs, or a little more than 20% of its staff, over the next two years.

Telecom Italia

(TI)

and

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

yesterday confirmed that they are in merger talks.

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

In the Papers

The Chicago Tribune

previews the battle royale unfolding today at Chicago's McCormick Place conference center, where the Spring Comdex trade show is running concurrently with the two-day

Linux

Global Summit. Linux inventor

Linus Torvalds

delivered the summit's keynote address about 90 minutes after

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

Bill Gates

gave Comdex attendees an early peek at

Windows 2000

this morning.

This week's edition of

Business Week

features a multipiece expose on illegal options spread-widening at the

American Stock Exchange

.

Elsewhere

Brad Hauter

yesterday began a 4,500 journey around the country on a Yard-Man Tractor lawnmower. In his attempt to break the Guinness record of 3,500 mowed-miles, Hauter also will likely set a new benchmark for the biggest post-Guinness-record letdown.

This had to be a disorienting weekend for former

University of Texas

fullback

Ricky Williams

. Still reeling from being passed over by the first four teams picking in this Saturday's NFL draft, Williams was taken fifth by the

New Orleans Saints

and ambushed on the dais by the unsettling spectacle of new coach

Mike Ditka

in a dreadlock wig.

Have a dumb question relating to finance? Great. Have a

really

dumb question? Even better. Send it to

MonEmailbag@thestreet.com, and I'll do my best to answer every Saturday. Include your full name, and please, no questions seeking personal financial advice or regarding personal brokerage disputes. And this reminder: Because of the volume of mail, personal replies can't be guaranteed.

Click

here to read last Saturday's MonEmailbag.