Markets

U.S. stocks were higher at midafternoon, as the tech sector started picking up steam behind bellwether

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

, lately up 8 3/16 to 108 3/16.

European bourses closed higher.

Asian markets closed mixed as Japan's

Nikkei 225

dumped 34.07 to close at 14,465.18, while Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

rose 92.65 to 9599.55.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

Aetna

(AET)

posted fourth-quarter earnings of 98 cents a share, 2 cents over analysts' expectations, citing strong growth in its managed care operations.

Industrial component maker

Eaton

(ETN) - Get Report

said that it will buy

Aeroquip-Vickers

(ANV)

for about $1.7 billion.

Daily newspaper publisher

Gannett

(GCI) - Get Report

reported fourth-quarter earnings of 92 cents a share, beating Street estimates by a penny.

New England Electric System

(NES) - Get Report

will pay $634 million for Boston-based

Eastern Utilities Associates

(EVA) - Get Report

. New England Electric itself is being acquired by the U.K.'s

National Grid PLC

.

Specialty chemical firm

Rohm & Haas

(ROH)

has agreed to buy

Morton International

(MII)

for $4.9 billion.

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columnist

James J. Cramer

thinks the chemical stocks are dying to please the Street.

Warner-Lambert

(WLA)

Chairman and CEO Melvin Goodes will retire May 1, to be replaced by President and COO Lodewijk de Vink.

For more news on companies and stocks, click

here.

Tech

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

this week is expected to announce that it will eliminate as many as 600 jobs at its plant in Cork, Ireland, according to

The Sunday Business Post

.

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

intensified its presence in the local phone service market by signing a deal that will allow it to provide phone service over

Time Warner's

(TWX)

cable systems in 33 states. Separately,

British Telecommunications

(BTY)

CEO Peter Bonfield told

The Sunday Times

that BT and AT&T are mulling over a possible alliance between their mobile phone operations.

Software company

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

announced a 3-for-2 stock split, to be paid Feb. 26.

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

International

Barclay's

(BCS) - Get Report

said today that it will restructure its retail banking operations, including reducing the number of divisions from 20 to two and making unspecified job cuts.

The Gauls have joined the European banking consolidation movement in a big way. France's

Societe Generale

has agreed to buy

Paribas

for about $18.2 billion, the resulting entity to rival

Deutsche Bank

for the position of Europe's second-largest bank in terms of assets.

French insurer

AXA-UAP

(AXA)

announced that it will buy the U.K.'s

Guardian Royal Exchange

for about $5.6 billion. This morning

TSC

reported on the new European mergers.

Nomura Securities

, Japan's No. 1 brokerage firm, said it is mulling over selling its successful and highly valued

Kokusai Securities

unit.

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

General News

Like so many Internet companies, Americans continue to maintain a high burn rate.

Commerce Department

figures show that U.S. workers' personal income rose by 0.5% in December, the highest clip in 10 months. Personal spending, on the other hand, rose by 0.8%, the largest increase in seven months.

President Clinton

today sent

Congress

a $1.7 trillion budget for the year 2000.

The impeachment trial proceeds today as

House

managers question

Monica Lewinsky

.

Elsewhere

John Elway

and the

Denver Broncos

squashed the

Atlanta Falcons

34-19 in last night's soporific

Super Bowl

, with Elway earning most valuable player honors.

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

really

dumb question? Even better. Send it to

MonEmailbag@thestreet.com, and

TSC

columnist

Herb Greenberg

and I will do our best to answer. 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.