E-Trade, the second-biggest Internet brokerage, said it will offer after-hours stock trading through Reuters Group's Instinet, which runs the largest electronic trading network. The agreement would let individual investors use Instinet, which is currently available almost exclusively to institutional investors, who trade about 20 million shares a night. E-Trade will be the exclusive online broker on Instinet from September, when the service starts, until the end of the year, giving it a head start on potential competitors.

Dell Computer said its fiscal second-quarter profit rose 47 percent, to $507 million, beating Wall Street expectations with strong sales of computers to small businesses, to home users and over the Internet. The earnings worked out to 19 cents per share, 2 cents more than analysts had been forecasting.

America Online has taken a minority stake in TiVo of Sunnyvale, Calif., an interactive-television company. Dulles-based AOL said that under its deal with TiVo, users of AOL TV, the Internet TV service scheduled to be introduced next year, will be able to create a personalized TV lineup to watch at any time. AOL also said it has reached 18 million subscribers worldwide to its core service, up from 13 million customers a year ago.

Microsoft plans to provide competitors with technical specifications so they can develop software for trading "instant messages" on the Internet that is compatible with Microsoft's MSN Messenger product. Microsoft, which has criticized America Online's recent efforts to prevent its popular messaging software from interoperating with other products, has come under fire from some in the computer industry for not allowing other firms' software to communicate with MSN Messenger. Microsoft plans to announce today that three companies, including Internet service provider Prodigy Communications, have committed to using the new technology. Microsoft hopes its move will help pave the way for a common technology standard that would allow people to exchange instant messages no matter what kind of software they use.

Boeing agreed to provide the Labor Department with access to personnel records from two sites under investigation by the department for possible violations of federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace.

Allegheny Teledyne disclosed that the Justice Department is investigating alleged price fixing in the nickel alloys industry and said it and was cooperating with a request for information.

Sears, Roebuck plans to launch a new advertising campaign designed to revive flagging sales and change the company's stodgy image. The nation's largest department store chain is ditching its "Softer Side of Sears" slogan in favor of a more value-focused tag: "The Good Life at a Great Price. Guaranteed. Sears."

INTERNATIONAL

Coca-Cola's explanations of how its products were contaminated at separate plants in Belgium and France are "highly implausible from a scientific point of view," the European Commission said in a report. No fine or punishment will ensue, the company said.

EARNINGS

Dayton Hudson said second-quarter profit rose 30 percent, to $224 million, thanks to strong sales at its Target discount stores. The results included a charge of $4 million for costs of a debt repurchase.

Deere & Co., the world's biggest maker of farm equipment, said fiscal third-quarter profit fell 79 percent, to $60.9 million, and warned that low crop prices will depress demand for combines and tractors in the next quarter.

Hewlett-Packard, the world's second-largest computer company,said its third-quarter earnings rose 37 percent, to $853 million, thanks to its increased focus on revenue growth.

J.C. Penney said its fiscal second-quarter profit rose 15 percent, to $112 million, as the No. 2 U.S. department-store company sold more store- brand clothing and set aside less cash for bad credit accounts.

Lycos, the No. 3 Internet search service, said its fiscal fourth-quarter loss widened, though revenue more than doubled on increased online advertising and electronic- commerce transactions. Lycos said it lost $21.4 million for the quarter ended July 31, compared with a loss of $6.8 million in the quarter a year earlier. Revenue rose to $45.1 million from $19 million.

AnnTaylor Stores reported that fiscal second-quarter profit increased 76 percent, to $12.4 million, as the retailer opened new stores and sold more casual business attire in its spring collection. The results included a charge of $962,000 relating to loan repayments.

Tiffany & Co. said its second-quarter earnings rose 70 percent, to $22.98 million,easily beating Wall Street expectations and reflecting healthy sales in the upscale jewelry retailer's stores and catalogues.

TJX, the third-largest U.S. clothing retailer, said fiscal second-quarter earnings rose 35 percent, to $114.7 million, as the result of a 13 percent gain in sales and operating improvements at its Marshall's and T.J. Maxx units.

LOCAL BUSINESS

ICF Kaiser International reported it earned $28.8 million in the second quarter, compared with a loss of $35.7 million in the year-earlier period. The Fairfax-based company said the quarter included gains from the sale of its Environment and Facilities Management Group and the sale of 90 percent of its Consulting Group. The company's remaining engineering and construction operations continued to operate at a loss.

Vitamins.com, a Falls Church retailer owned by former Dart Group executive Robert Haft, has purchased catalogue and Internet merchant L&H Vitamins for an undisclosed amount. Closely held L&H Vitamins, based in Long Island City, N.Y., is a much larger company with about $20 million in fiscal 1998 revenue. It has 350,000 customers on its catalogue mailing list, a 60,000-square-foot distribution facility and an Internet store at www.b-vital.com. Vitamins.com, which has 10 stores in the Washington area and an e-commerce site, had about $5 million in sales last year. L&H's e-commerce site will be folded into Vitamins.com's Internet store.