Originally created 03/03/00

Business briefs: Blue-chip buyers push Dow Jones up



NEW YORK -- Stocks were mixed in a volatile session Thursday as investors took profits from a recent rise in technology stocks but continued buying blue chips that were battered last week.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 26.99 at 10,164.92, while the Nasdaq composite index ended down 29.56 at 4,754.52.

The Dow's gains were led by AT&T, which rose 6 3/8 to 54 1/4 after Goldman Sachs reminded investors that the company remains on its list of recommended stocks. SBC Communications and BellSouth, which are believed to be discussing a combination of their wireless businesses, also rose. SBC, a Dow stock, was up 2' to 44' and BellSouth rose 1 7/8 to 44 7/8 .

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 4-to-3 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume totaled 1.29 billion shares.

Clinton boosts stock-option plan

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration recommended a change in a 62-year-old labor law Thursday to clear obstacles for companies that want to offer increasingly popular stock options to low-level workers.

Most often, stock options have been offered to high-level executives as a personal incentive to make a company profitable. The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act includes provisions meant to prevent employers from scheming to keep overtime pay rates low by devising creative ways to compensate workers outside of their regular wages.

Without the change, said Michael Kerr, Labor Department wage and hour administrator, the design of some stock option plans would force companies to pay higher overtime rates to hourly-wage workers -- who, unlike salaried professionals, are entitled to time-and-a-half pay when they work more than a 40-hour week.

Retailers: February sales strong

NEW YORK -- Volatility in the stock market, rising interest rates and a jump in oil prices failed to slow down shoppers in February, with the nation's biggest retailers Thursday reporting strong sales for the month.

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi retail sales index, which tracks sales at about 80 chains, rose 5.6 percent in February, above the 4 percent to 4.5 percent gain that was expected.

Book club finalizes merger

NEW YORK -- Doubleday Direct, owner of the Literary Guild and other book clubs, has finalized its partnership with the Book-of-the-Month Club, a deal that unites America's two biggest book clubs with more than 8 million customers.

The merger, which was formally completed Wednesday, was forged amid pressure from discount bookselling chains like Barnes & Noble and online retailers such as Amazon.com.