Markets

Stocks were sharply higher across the board at midday. Tech issues were posting strong gains, while the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

buzzed around the 9900 mark.

European bourses closed higher. News of German Finance Minster

Oskar Lafontaine's

surprise resignation sent the euro soaring against the dollar and the yen in late European trading.

Asian markets were mixed, as Japan's

Nikkei

rose a modest 22.14 to 15,502.14 and Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

dumped 86.20 to 10,662.81.

For more markets action and news, click

here.

Companies

Du Pont

(DD) - Get Report

will soon be beefing up its drug business. The company's CEO, Charles Holliday, said the company wants to bring its pharmaceutical segment to "critical mass through strategic alliances," and will create a tracking stock following that segment.

A

Federal Trade Commission

official yesterday told the

House Commerce Energy and Power Subcommittee

that

Exxon

(XON) - Get Report

and

Mobil

(MOB)

will face close scrutiny from the commission regarding the possibility that their merger will adversely affect competition in California, the Gulf Coast region and the Northeast.

For more news on companies and stocks, click

here.

Tech

Charles Schwab

(SCH)

is settling with about 300 investors who say they suffered significant losses when they were unable to cancel online market orders for

theglobe.com's

(TGLO)

IPO.

CMGI

(CMGI)

CEO

David Wetherell

said his company may present an alternative partner for

Lycos

(LCOS)

"within several days." CMGI hired

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

to look for companies interested in merging with Lycos to thwart the Web portal's acquisition by

USA Networks

(USAI) - Get Report

. Wetherell has said that a CMGI bid for Lycos is a distinct possibility.

TheStreet.com

looked at support for Wetherell among other Lycos shareholders in a

story last night.

For more tech news and commentary, click

here.

General News

Defense Secretary

William Cohen

announced that the U.S. will offer $3.2 billion worth of high-tech weaponry for sale to Egypt, including 24 F-16 fighter jets, 200 M1-A1 tanks and one Patriot missile battery.

The

Census Bureau

released figures showing that retail sales increased 0.9% for the month of February, down one-tenth of a percentage point from the revised January pace.

Fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels and Serbian forces broke out again near the Macedonian border after a U.S. envoy held an unproductive meeting with Yugoslav President

Slobodan Milosevic

.

International

French telecom group

Alcatel

(ALA)

said it plans to cut 12,000 jobs in the next two years. Most of those cuts will come from the company's U.S. operations.

U.K. insurer

Prudential Corp. PLC

is buying mutual fund firm

M&G Group

for about $3.1 billion in cash.

Telecom Italia

(TI)

made a $30 billion offer to buy its cellular unit,

Telecom Italia Mobile

, in an effort to ward off or sweeten

Olivetti's

$58 billion hostile takeover offer by dramatically increasing its value. Olivetti had asked

Consob

, Italy's stock market regulator, to intervene in the plan, which Olivetti claims would be illegal as long as its tender offer for Telecom Italia is on the table.

For more international news and commentary, click

here.

Elsewhere

Rapper

Russell Jones

-- a.k.a. ODB, for "Ol' Dirty Bastard" -- has been jailed on charges of wearing body armor, which is illegal for violent felons in the California. During the bail hearing, Deputy District Attorney Mary Ganahl requested that Judge Kevin Brown take into consideration Jones' status as head of a "street gang" named

Wu-Tang Clan.

A group protesting

Chevron's

(CHV)

business activities in Nigeria rained pies upon CEO

Kenneth Derr

as he arrived for a speech at a Bay-area high school. Derr wiped the pie off his face and gave his speech.

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