Markets

A strong performance by the blue-chips moved the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

within spitting distance of 10,000. All major proxies posted solid gains, paced by the technology and Internet sectors. The Dow gained 82.42 to a record 9958.77; the

S&P 500

rose 12.67 to a record 1307.26; the

Nasdaq Composite Index

soared 49.91 to 2431.44; the small-cap

Russell 2000

gained 2.46 to 400.84; and

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index skyrocketed 36.83 to close at 604.83.

European bourses finished mixed, 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

Networking equipment firm

Ciena

(CIEN) - Get Report

is paying about $1 billion in stock for

Lightera

and

Omnia

, two privately held optical communications companies.

TSC

reported on the deal this afternoon.

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.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

co-founder

Paul Allen

will be forking over about $750 million for a controlling interest in Web portal

Go2Net

(GNET)

. Allen plans to buy $300 million in convertible preferred stock and $450 million of common stock.

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

Credit Lyonnais

continues to inch toward privatization. The French government yesterday gave the green light to a privatization plan that would leave the state with just a 10% stake in the bank, 10% of which has already been floated to the public.

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

The

New Jersey Nets

have fired Coach

John Calipari

and named assistant Don Casey interim coach, according to

ESPN

. Calipari is the co-author of the 1996 self-motivational tome,

Refuse to Lose

-- a strategy he followed just three times this season.

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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