European and Latin American leaders meeting at a 50-nation summit in Rio de Janeiro agreed to launch talks aimed at creating a free-trade pact between the European Union and Mercosur, two of the world's biggest trade blocs. But the negotiations won't begin in earnest for a couple of years; the two sides didn't set a deadline for completing the deal.

Coca-Cola's most popular brands will be reintroduced in Belgium this week, but it will take a few weeks for full-scale distribution to resume, the company said. Coca-Cola is trying to recover from its worst-ever product scare after a contamination crisis forced the recall of millions of cans and bottles of its drinks across Europe.

Former penny-stock tycoon Robert E. Brennan avoided a trial by agreeing to pay $100 million and accepting a lifetime ban from the securities industry in New Jersey, according to court papers. Brennan denied wrongdoing but accepted a finding that he used "substantial influence" at two brokerages to make "unreasonably excessive profits" in low-cost stocks in which he held an undisclosed interest.

United Airlines named Rono Dutta president as part of a major management restructuring scheduled for next month, when Gerald Greenwald retires as chairman of the Chicago-based airline. James E. Goodwin, United's current president, had earlier been named to succeed Greenwald. Dutta is currently senior vice president for planning. United is the nation's largest employee-owned corporation.

A coalition of major record labels and electronics manufacturers announced new specifications for digital music players that they claim will eventually prevent people from illegally downloading copyrighted music over the Internet. On a yet-to-be- determined date, new music released by the major record producers will be digitally encrypted to prevent piracy, the Secure Digital Music Initiative said. At that point, only devices that can recognize the coding will play the music.

Wisconsin Energy, owner of Wisconsin's biggest power firm, agreed to buy Wicor for $1.5 billion in cash, stock and assumed debt, giving it control of the state's largest natural-gas utility. Holders of Wicor will get $31.50 a share in cash or Wisconsin Energy stock, a 19 percent premium on Friday's close.

Risk-averse investors pulled an estimated $2 billion out of stock mutual funds last week, according to Trim Investment Research. The stock market's bumpy performance prompted investors to move out of U.S. equity funds perceived as a higher risk. But the bulk of the outflows, $1.3 billion, came from funds that invest in international equities.

Louisiana-Pacific, the world's largest producer of oriented strand board, a plywood substitute, agreed to buy Canadian rival Le Groupe Forex for about $458 million in cash and debt. The move will allow Portland, Ore.-based Louisiana-Pacific to expand to eastern North America.

Dell Computer, the biggest direct seller of personal computers, signed an exclusive three-year agreement to supply personal computers to Boeing, the world's largest aerospace company. Boeing has about 175,000 desktop and notebook PCs worldwide.

T-bill rates rose. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday rose to 4.750 percent, from 4.610 percent the previous week. Rates on six-month bills rose to 4.960 percent from 4.850 percent. The actual return to investors is 4.889 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,879.90, and 5.173 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,749.20. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for changing adjustable-rate mortgages, rose to 5.14 percent last week from 5.03 percent the previous week.

Gasoline prices were up about half a cent a gallon in the past two weeks, according to the Lundberg Survey of 10,000 gas stations nationwide. The national weighted average, including all grades and taxes, was $1.1960 on Friday, up 0.58 of a cent per gallon from the June 13 survey. Most of the increases were in the Midwest.

Former Sunbeam executives Albert Dunlap and Russell Kersh were awarded $1.4 million by a Delaware judge to cover legal fees. Chancellor William Chandler of the Delaware Chancery Court rejected Sunbeam's argument that it was only required to pay Dunlap and Kersh an actual "judgment, fine or settlement." The two men were fired in June 1998 following disappointing financial results.


Walgreen's third-quarter profit surged 26 percent, to $159.3 million, or 16 cents a share, beating analysts' expectations by a penny. The company credited strong sales in prescription drugs and its vitamin and photo-finishing businesses.

Philip Morris expects to fall slightly short of earnings expectations for the year but is aiming to resume double-digit earnings growth in 2000. In its first meeting with securities analysts in nearly three years, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, Kraft cheese and Miller beer said it expects to earn $3.30 a share before charges this year, up 4 percent from $3.17 last year.


Ford said it is recalling 703,000 1996 to 1998 Ford Contours and Mercury Mystiques because of vehicle-lighting concerns that may affect taillight or instrument-panel operations. In some of the affected vehicles, electrical terminals may be damaged by overheating, the automaker said, and circuits for instrument-panel lighting, parking lights and taillamps could fail. There have been no reports of accidents or injuries attributed to the problem, Ford said. Owners of affected vehicles will be notified by mail to arrange with their dealer to have the lighting problem fixed at no charge.


The U.S. dollar gained moderately against the Colombian peso after the government announced it would trim public spending and moved to devalue the currency. Colombia is in its worst economic crisis in 70 years, with unemployment at 19.5 percent and many economists projecting no growth in the gross domestic product in 1999.

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