Monday, May 10, 1999

Markets split at the close; Department 56 set to buy back three million shares; AOL's finance page hooks up with five U.S. banks.
Author:
Publish date:

Markets

Break-even, that cruel nag, had the blue-chips on a pretty short leash today. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

twice tried to stray from her side -- first up, then down. But twice it was corrected, paring its gains and losses, and finally closing in shallow negative territory. The Dow lost 24.34 to 11,007.25, and the

S&P 500

shed 4.7 to 1340.30.

The action -- such as it was, with volume moderate at best -- was in technology, which was free to roam somewhat wider pastures than the range-bound industrials. Along with the small-caps, tech and Net issues rallied along with the bond market; the

Nasdaq Composite Index

gained 22.77 to 2526.39; the

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index added 21.18 to 635.33; and the

Russell 2000

shot up 5.74 to 441.85.

Major European indices finished mixed: Germany's

Dax

lost 1.7% and London's

FTSE

finished fractionally lower, while the Paris

CAC

surged late to gain 1.3% for the day. In Asia, news of a bid deal by

HSBC

(see below) lifted Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

165.77, or 1.3%, to 13,163.20. Tokyo's

Nikkei

added 30.49 to 16,977.01.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

Chevron

(CHV)

is rumored to be in talks to acquire rival

Texaco

(TX) - Get Report

, though any agreement isn't likely be reached for months, according to a wide array of reports. Neither company has commented on the rumors.

Collectibles seller

Department 56's

(DFS) - Get Report

board authorized a buyback of three million shares.

HSBC is buying

Edmond Safra's

Republic New York

(RNB)

and European affiliate

Safra Republic Holdings

for about $10.3 billion in cash.

Carpet tile producer

Interface

(IFSIA)

is not a takeover target, Chairman and CEO Ray Anderson said today. Anderson said that President Charles Eitel's recent public musings over the company's breakup value -- what the company what be worth if all its operations were valued independently -- were taken out of context.

International telecom provider

Teleglobe

(TGO)

set plans to spend $5 billion over the next five years to beef up its network for voice, video and data transmission.

An Alabama jury ordered

Whirlpool

(WHR) - Get Report

to pay a total of about $581 million to three people who claim they were misled about the financing terms of a

Whirlpool Financial National Bank

credit card they used to buy a $2,000 satellite dish. The award, which Whirlpool will appeal, includes $975,000 in compensatory damages and $580 million in punitive damages. Whirlpool sold the financing subsidiary to

TransAmerica

(TA) - Get Report

last year.

Shares of biotech

Zonagen

(ZONA)

got hammered after the company announced that it and partner

Schering-Plough

(SGP)

will forego a June

FDA

advisory panel review of long-delayed erectile dysfunction drug

Vasomax

, a move that will result in a nonapprovable letter from the panel.

TSC

has chronicled

the drug's dubious data in

several stories. Zonagen closed down 9 5/16, or 46.71%, to 10 11/16.

For more news on companies and stocks, click

here.

Tech

America Online

(AOL)

signed a deal that will have its personal finance channel carrying the online banking services of five large U.S. banks:

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

,

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

flagship

Citibank

,

Union Bank of California

(UNBC)

and

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Report

. AOL did not release details of the agreement.

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

unit

NBC

is merging several of its Internet properties with community site

Xoom.com

(XMCM)

and Internet service

Snap.com

, a joint venture of NBC and

CNet

(CNET) - Get Report

. The resulting entity will be called

NBC Internet

.

Another 5% telecom stake for

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

. Days after its 5% investment in

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

, Softee set plans to spend $600 million for 5% of wireless phone company

Nextel

(NXTL)

. The two companies will work to provide Nextel customers Internet access via their phones.

USA Networks

(USAI) - Get Report

is expected to trash its bid to buy Web portal

Lycos

(LCOS)

in the face of extreme opposition from shareholders, according to

The Wall Street Journal

, which cited people familiar with the deal.

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

General News

The fallout from

NATO's

mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia grew as China ended talks with the U.S. on human rights and arms control. In Beijing, demonstrators pelted the U.S. Embassy with stones for a third straight day.

Belgrade's quest to end NATO's air strikes takes to the

World Court

today in the first of two days of hearings; Belgrade has charged the alliance with violating international law and conducting a genocidal campaign. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia said it would partially withdraw its military and police forces from Kosovar, citing the completion of its fight against ethnic Albanian rebels in the province. Secretary of State

Madeleine Albright

was not impressed, calling the move a "half-measure."

International

There's one less suitor for

Korea Life Insurance

today. U.S. mutual company

Metropolitan Life Insurance

has dropped out of the bidding, leaving France's

Axa

(AXA)

and Korea's

LG Group

as the front-runners for Korea Life, the third-largest Korean life insurer, with about 18% of the national market.

Consolidation in the Norwegian oil industry may be in the offing:

Norsk Hydro

(NHY)

has made an unsolicited takeover offer for smaller competitor

Saga Petroleum

(SPM)

for about $2.2 billion in stock. The Norwegian government owns 51% of Norsk Hydro.

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

Elsewhere

Actress

Dana Plato

, better known to many as Kimberly Drummond on the NBC sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes," died Saturday after mixing the painkiller Loritab with Valium. She was 34.

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

really

dumb question? Even better. Send it to

MonEmailbag@thestreet.com, and I'll do my best to answer every Saturday. 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.

Click

here to read the last MonEmailbag.