Markets

Stocks were modestly higher at midmorning, with technology and Internet issues pacing the market.

European bourses were mixed at midafternoon, while Asian markets closed higher. Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

gained 35.10 to 10,836.86 as the government reported that unemployment in that country has hit a record 6%. Japan's

Nikkei

soared 290.74 to 15,779.60 amid continued optimism that the Japanese economy is turning the corner toward recovery.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

In a marriage of Northeast banking powerhouses,

Fleet Financial

(FLT) - Get Report

is buying

BankBoston

(BKB)

for $16 billion in stock. The deal will create

Fleet Boston

, the eighth-largest U.S. bank in terms of assets.

Chancellor Media

(AMFM)

has put the kibosh on merger talks with

Lin Television

, saying that it will instead focus on its radio and advertising operations. Chancellor also announced the resignation of CEO Jeffrey Marcus, who will be replaced by Thomas O. Hicks, currently the company's chairman.

DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

said it will buy out the 80% stake in seed company

Pioneer Hi-Bred International

(PHB) - Get Report

that it doesn't already hold. DuPont will pay about $7.7 billion in cash and stock.

Putting on weight to defend itself against takeover bids,

El Paso Energy

(EPG)

is acquiring fellow natural gas pipeliner

Sonat

(SNT)

for about $6 billion in stock and assumed debt.

For more news on companies and stocks, click

here.

Tech

The

Federal Communications Commission

today released details on its long-awaited audit of the Baby Bells, showing they are missing or overstating about $5 billion worth of equipment. The audit, whose accounting procedures the Bells dispute, could lead the FCC to force telephone rates lower.

Nortel Networks

(NT)

today announced that a consortium of companies including Nortel,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

will work together to develop a new platform to run large corporations' voice and data networks.

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

General News

Let the cakewalk begin:

House

Minority Leader

Dick Gephardt

(D, Mo.) today endorsed Vice President

Al Gore

for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000.

Peace talks between Serbs and ethnic Albanian rebels have reopened in Paris, sponsored by the six-nation Contact Group: the U.S., Russia, France, the U.K., Italy and Germany.

National Security Council

director

Sandy Berger

said today that Kosovo Albanians are ready to sign a deal.

International

German utility

Veba

unloaded its 10.2% stake in U.K. telecom holding company

Cable & Wireless

(CWP)

for about $2.93 billion, a discount of at least 11.5% based on Friday's closing price.

The German government reported that manufacturers' orders in that country rose 1.8% in January, the first jump in six months.

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

Elsewhere

Oooh, more pay-per-view! The

International Boxing Federation

, the

World Boxing Council

and the

World Boxing Association

have ordered a rematch of Sunday's fight between

Evander Holyfield

and

Lennox Lewis

, who fought to a draw despite the fact that Holyfield landed 228 fewer punches than Lewis. The rematch must take place within six months.

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