Markets

Stocks were mixed in early action, with the

Nasdaq Composite Index

rallying strongly out of the gate while blue-chips traded modestly lower.

Major European bourses were lower at midday, and Asian markets came back to earth after following Friday's rallies with red-hot morning sessions. After breaking the 15,000 point barrier early, Japan's

Nikkei

exhaled to close down 114.95 to 14,779.05. Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

finished up a sober 22.87 to 10,263.99, having peaked at 10,500.86 in the a.m. hours.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

Specialty chemical maker

Albemarle

(ALB) - Get Report

agreed to buy U.K. phosphate king

Albright & Wilson

for about $655 million in cash.

Allied Waste Industries

(AW)

announced that it will buy fellow waste management firm

Browning-Ferris Industries

(BFI)

for about $9.1 billion in cash and debt assumption.

TheStreet.com's

Gregg Wirth

reported last week on the

strange call buying in Browning-Ferris.

Consumer and business finance firm

CIT Group

(CIT) - Get Report

agreed to buy Canadian lender

Newcourt Credit

(NCT)

for about $4.2 billion in stock.

Goldman Sachs'

221 partners today are expected to approve plans to sell about 10% of the company in an early summer IPO.

John Peterman

has been bounced by last-minute buyer

Paul Harris Stores

(PAUH)

from his position as chairman of the eponymous catalog retailer he founded more than 10 years ago. Peterman expressed shock, saying Paul Harris CFO Thomas McCain told him Saturday that it would take two to three months before the company decided on his fate.

For more news on companies and stocks, click

here.

General News

Defense Secretary

William Cohen

said the

Pentagon

is ready to offer friendly Persian Gulf states real-time intelligence on Iraqi and Iranian missile launches.

The Northern Ireland peace accord moved forward today with the signing of four key treaties by the British and Irish governments. The treaties formalize institutions binding lawmakers of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.

International

The Benelux banks keep spreading out. U.S. credit insurance firm

American Bankers Insurance Group

is being acquired by Belgian-Dutch financial services company

Fortis

for about $2.6 billion.

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

Tech

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

can breathe easy: The

Federal Trade Commission

reached a settlement with the chip behemoth, just a day before it was set to launch an antitrust suit against the company.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

is expected to announce a $15 million investment, or a 15% stake, in

Reciprical

, a developer of technology for delivering music and other media over the Internet, according to

The Wall Street Journal

.

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

Elsewhere

Two giants gone: One day after the passing of director

Stanley Kubrick

, the Yankee Clipper,

Joe DiMaggio

, died today at the age of 84 after a long struggle with lung cancer.

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