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


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

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In a marriage of Northeast banking powerhouses,

Fleet Financial

(FLT) - Get Report

is buying



for $16 billion in stock. The deal will create

Fleet Boston

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

Chancellor Media


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.


(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


is acquiring fellow natural gas pipeliner



for about $6 billion in stock and assumed debt.

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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


today announced that a consortium of companies including Nortel,


(MSFT) - Get Report



(INTC) - Get Report




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

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General News

Let the cakewalk begin:


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


Sandy Berger

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


German utility


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

Cable & Wireless


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.

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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


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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