Just a week after raising fares, the nation's major airlines began offering steep discounts for summer vacationers. Major airlines quickly matched the sale by United Airlines, the nation's No. 1 carrier, on leisure domestic and international tickets. Under the promotion, consumers would see the best savings on tickets purchased in advance for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. In some cases, those traveling in parties of three could pay less for all their tickets combined than one full-fare ticket cost earlier this year after prices jumped 11 percent.

Shares of Infoseek, the No. 4 Internet directory, rose after Walt Disney Co. said it's in talks to buy the 57 percent of the company that it doesn't already own. Shares closed at $48.62 1/2, up $5.62 1/2.

Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities plan to start an electronic auction market for stocks, potentially heightening pressure on established markets such as the New York Stock Exchange. The three brokerages said they formed a company called Primex Trading that would offer anonymous electronic trades starting at the end of the second quarter of 2000. The service will be available to individual and institutional investors, through brokers.

American workers' productivity increased at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the first three months of the year, helping to keep wage inflation under control, the government said. Higher productivity means that employers can afford to pay workers more without raising the price of their products. That keeps inflation under control. The 3.5 percent increase in the annual rate of productivity growth for the January-March period represented a slight downward revision from the Labor Department's initial estimate a month ago that productivity had risen 4 percent in the first three months of the year.

Sara Lee, the Chicago-based food, clothing and packaged-goods company, agreed to acquire coffee roaster Chock Full o'Nuts in a stock swap valued at $238 million. The deal ended Sara Lee's hostile cash offer for outstanding Chock Full o'Nuts shares.

Coffee prices fell more than 4 percent to a three-week low as forecasts for warmer weather in Brazil eased concern that an early freeze would slash output from the world's biggest grower.

Credit card companies are aggressively trying to get college students hooked on credit, with sometimes disastrous results, the Consumer Federation of America says. The group released a study by a Georgetown University sociologist showing that some students are forced to cut back on their courses or spend more time working to pay off their credit card debts. The study found that about 70 percent of students at four-year colleges have at least one credit card and that revolving debt on these cards averages more than $2,000.

Boeing, faced with recent space launch failures, said it has formed an independent panel of experts to examine the processes involved in its rocket programs. The panel will review Boeing's Delta, Sea Launch and Inertial Upper Stage programs. The team is expected to report its findings by fall.

Compaq has too much PC inventory, analyst Ashok Kumar of U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray said, and will have to write down the value of those machines. Compaq is forecast to report second-quarter earnings of 22 cents per share; Kumar said he expects a 3 cents per share profit.

Nextel Communications said it plans to sell $500 million of convertible debt in a private placement. Pricing and other financial details were not available. Money-losing Nextel needs cash to develop new services and pay for U.S. and overseas network expansion.

Loeb Industries, a Wisconsin metal dealer, sued Tokyo-based Sumitomo Corp., claiming it formed a cartel with other companies to inflate copper prices worldwide. The class-action lawsuit also names New York-based Global Minerals and Metals, a copper merchant firm that entered into a series of contracts with Sumitomo from 1994 to 1996. A message left with an attorney for Loeb was not immediately returned, the Associated Press reported. Peter Haveles, an attorney for Global Minerals and Metals, said the allegations made against the company have "no merit."


European Union regulators will delay their initial ruling on Exxon's planned $88.7 billion takeover of Mobil by as much as two weeks as they decide whether to let the U.K. authorities review the terms of the purchase. The deadline for an initial EU ruling, originally today, "is extended because we have a referral request from the British authorities," said Olivier Guersent, an EU competition official. EU officials have said they're likely to start an in-depth probe of the purchase when they make their initial ruling, pushing a final decision back to mid-October. They began their review April 30.

British Steel, Europe's fourth-biggest steelmaker, said it would cut 2,000 jobs in administration to achieve cost cuts promised in the $2.39 billion purchase of Dutch steelmaker Royal Hoogovens. The cuts represent 3 percent of the two companies' 66,000 employees.

Cable & Wireless won a bidding war for a major Japanese telecommunications company after two leading shareholders said they would sell their shares to the London-based firm. Cable & Wireless's acquisition of shares in Tokyo-based International Digital Communications will make it the first foreign company to own a controlling stake in a Japanese telecommunications firm.


Dominion Resources, the Richmond-based parent company of Virginia Power, and Consolidated Natural Gas said that they have completed the regulatory filings necessary to their proposed merger. The utility companies said they anticipate state and federal regulatory approval in the fall.

Lockheed Martin Postal Systems won a $153.8 million contract for computer software and hardware that the U.S. Postal Service said will help its processing equipment read up to 80 percent of handwritten addresses by 2001. The company is based in Owego, N.Y., but most of its operations are in the Washington area.

Lockheed Martin also announced that it will close a Pomona, Calif., training and simulation facility and move the facility's operations, including five training programs operated for the Defense Department, to Orlando. Bethesda-based Lockheed said it will decide how many of the 290 California employees will be offered jobs in Florida by July 30.

US Airways became the second airline in a week to warn that second-quarter profit will fall below analyst forecasts because of higher costs and lower- than-expected demand. Arlington-based US Airways said profit will be about $1.80 to $1.85 per share, less than the $2.15 average analyst forecast in a First Call Corp. survey.

U.S.A. Floral Products, a Washington-based company that has become the world's largest floral products distributor by integrating small companies, said it will cut its North American work force by 150 employees, saving more than $4 million.