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After-hours stock trading for individual investors made a quiet debut. In a 6-8 p.m. session offered by the Discover and Dreyfus brokerages via the electronic MarketXT exchange, 142 orders were executed. There was insufficient volume to match up most buyers and sellers, and more than 1,000 orders went unfilled.

Cisco Systems reportedly has agreed to acquire closely held networking start-up Cerent Corp. for $6.9 billion in stock. Cerent Chairman Vinod Khosla told the Wall Street Journal the deal appears to be the largest ever for a private technology firm.

Norplant's manufacturer agreed to settle lawsuits with at least 36,000 women who say the company played down the side effects of the birth-control device. American Home Products could end up paying more than $50 million to end five years of litigation, the Dallas Morning News reported.

John Meriwether, the founder of Long-Term Capital Management, is trying to raise $1 billion for a new hedge fund, JWM Partners, according to people who have spoken with the fund's partners. The new venture comes just 14 months after a group of lenders injected $3.6 billion into Long-Term Capital, rescuing it from $4 billion of losses incurred during last year's global financial crisis.

Cyprus Amax Minerals and Asarco said they will consider the unsolicited takeover offer from Phelps Dodge to form the world's biggest copper producer if Phelps Dodge increases its $2.7 billion bid to $3.3 billion. Cyprus Amax and Asarco also said they have improved the terms of their own $2.2 billion merger plan, which would create the world's No. 2 producer of copper.

Orders for durable goods vaulted ahead in July, and sales of existing homes, though slowed by rising mortgage rates, still managed to post their third-best month ever. The Commerce Department said orders for durable goods--items expected to last at least three years--rose 3.3 percent last month. The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing single-family homes declined 3.9 percent in July, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.41 million units.

Yields on two-year Treasury notes rose in auction to their highest level since June 23. The yield was 5.557 percent, up from 5.544 percent at the last auction, on July 28. The notes will carry a coupon interest rate of 5.5 percent, with each $10,000 in face value selling for $9,989.30.

Local phone companies will be required to share lists of their customers' names, addresses and phone numbers with competing directory publishers, under new federal rules.


Lufthansa, Europe's No. 2 airline, and its Star Alliance partners may submit a rival bid for Air Canada to keep Canada's biggest carrier within their airline grouping, analysts said. Toronto businessman Gerald Schwartz and American Airlines parent AMR have offered $669 million for control of Air Canada and Canadian Airlines.

Ecuador's President Jamil Mahuad said that the country would defer for 30 days payment of $96 million in Brady bond interest due this month due to the country's severe economic crisis.

Newbridge Networks, a Canadian telecommunications switch manufacturer that has its North American headquarters in Herndon, said it will acquire two companies, TimeStep of Ontario and Northchurch Communications of Andover, Mass., in transactions that will be worth approximately $230 million over two years.


Lockheed Martin of Bethesda received a $1 billion contract from Egypt for 24 F-16 jet fighters. Lockheed expects to receive about a third of the contract's value, with the bulk going to suppliers.