ECONOMY Business inventories rose 0.1 percent in April while sales fell 1.1 percent, the government said in the second report this week showing increasing consumer caution. Money market fund assets increased $988.6 million to $382.14 billion for the week ended Wednesday, the Investment Company Institute reported. Robert Mosbacher, commerce secretary, told the Senate Banking Committee that the U.S. trade gap could be cut to $75 billion in about 2 1/2 years.

COMPANIES AT&T inaugurated the first underwater fiber-optic cables linking the United States with the Caribbean and Latin America. Virginia Power said it will sell up to $400 million in first and refunding mortgage bonds periodically. Proceeds will be used for construction, maintenance, upgrading of equipment and other capital requirements. James River Corp. said it will build a $65 million recycling plant at its Halsey, Ore., mill.

REGULATION Hercules Inc.'s proposed sale of a chip-equipment subsidiary to Nippon Sanso of Japan is being investigated by the Bush administration out of concern that the deal will harm national security and violate antitrust laws. The sale of Semi-Gas Systems sparked concern because it is an important supplier for Sematech, the consortium formed to help U.S. semiconductor makers compete with the Japanese. The Resolution Trust Corp.'s authority to override state banking laws as it sells off failed thrifts, has been upheld by a judge in New Mexico. The SEC proposed changes in the mutual fund law allowing new types of mutual fund companies, liberalizing advertising regulations and dismantling rules that keep U.S. mutual funds from offering services overseas. The SEC charged Wolfgang Marcour of West Germany with insider trading in connection with trading in Apollo Computer stock. The SEC alleged that Marcour sold 500 shares based on inside information gained from his position as sales manager for Apollo's account with Siemens AG. Marcour agreed to forfeit $2,062.50 plus interest. Eaton Corp.'s Controls Division has reached a settlement with the Labor Department under which Eaton will provide $230,514 in compensation to 16 individuals allegedly denied employment at the firm's Wauwatosa, Wis., facility based on perceived handicaps. Digital Equipment agreed to pay $4,410 in fines stemming from safety violations uncovered after the Jan. 27 accidental death of a worker at the computer maker's Hudson, Mass., plant. The CFTC told the Chicago Board of Trade last August that it was "cutting it pretty slim" when it cut its margin levels to about 2 percent, according to Robert MacKay, former chief of staff of the commodities and futures regulatory agency. The issue became moot the next day when the board raised its margins in response to activity in the market.

INTERNATIONAL The Soviet Union said it will issue a ''glasnost'' collector coin in October. The Soviets called on the United States to lift its prohibition on the import of Soviet gold coins.

ACQUISITIONS Hughes Aircraft acquired Avicom International, a California-based subsidiary of Lockheed that specializes in aircraft communications systems. Analysts estimated the value of the deal at several million dollars.

ODD LOTS John A. Mulheren Jr. admitted under cross-examination that he had received confidential information about takeover stocks from convicted inside trader Ivan F. Boesky. But Mulheren, on trial for securities fraud, stuck to his claim that he had done nothing illegal.