Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds raised U.S. cigarette prices to distributors by 18 cents a pack. Philip Morris said 4 cents of its price increase, the sixth in the past 20 months, will be used to help boost its profit, 10 cents would help pay a rising federal excise tax and 4 cents would be used to fund payments under the $206 billion national tobacco settlement.

The World Bank said it expected to launch a full investigation into a $160 million loan to China for a resettlement project in northwestern China near Tibet, amid calls from Tibetan activists to halt the plan. The loan would resettle about 58,000 poor Chinese farmers in an area where Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was born. Protest against the loan continued yesterday, with demonstrators outside the World Bank in the District chanting traditional Tibetan songs and hymns and urging the bank to rethink its decision.

New-home sales unexpectedly rose in July to the second-

highest level ever. Sales of new single-family homes increased 0.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 980,000, exceeded only by last November's total, the Commerce Department said. June's sales pace was also revised to 979,000 units, up from an initial estimate of 929,000. Both exceeded analysts' expectations and put 1999 sales on a pace to beat last year's record by more than 6 percent.

CompUSA, the largest U.S. retailer of personal computers, is laying off about 1,800 people in a restructuring that will reduce its commercial sales force by half. The company said commercial sales representatives will now be regionally based instead of working out of CompUSA stores, which led to duplication in markets where the chain has more than one store.

A Web site that publishes Ford secrets is back online. Blue Oval News ( was shut down last week after U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit granted Ford Motor Co. a temporary restraining order that required site publisher Robert Lane to cease posting the most controversial secret company documents it was displaying. When Ford asked the judge yesterday for a permanent restraining order on what Lane could publish, she said the site should go back up because her temporary order never required its complete shutdown. She said she would rule on the fate of the site by next Tuesday, when that injunction expires.

The Federal Reserve approved the $5 billion merger of AmSouth Bancorp. and First American Corp. The combined company, which will keep AmSouth's name and its Birmingham headquarters, will be the nation's 22nd-largest bank, with $40.6 billion in assets, and will operate in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.

American Airlines plans to integrate Reno Air into its system today despite an ongoing dispute with its pilots union over the merger that led to a pilot sickout against American and 6,600 canceled flights in February. The parties continued to negotiate yesterday, but American said it will absorb Reno Air, its 25 airplanes and its 2,100 employees into the American system regardless.

Atlantic Richfield shareholders approved the company's proposed merger with BP Amoco, a deal that would create the world's second-largest oil company. Shareholders of BP Amoco were scheduled to meet tomorrow in London to consider the $29 billion acquisition.

A company that is seriously considering improvements in its retirement plan must volunteer that information to employees who are considering retirement, a federal appeals court ruled. In a pair of 2-1 decisions, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said an employer's duty to keep employees informed of their retirement options includes not only answering questions truthfully but also disclosing information without being asked.

Sun Microsystems has acquired privately held German company Star Division, which makes the most popular office software among Linux users, and plans to give away its products to drum up more support for Sun's networked computer systems.

Phone customers' complaints about long-distance service being switched illegally and about unauthorized charges on bills are on the rise, congressional auditors reported. State regulators reported a 91 percent increase between 1996 and 1998 in complaints about "slamming," the switching of phone service without the customer's consent. They received 39,688 complaints in 1998. Federal authorities saw a 57 percent rise, from 12,795 complaints in 1996 to 20,154 in 1998, according to the study by the General Accounting Office.

T-bill rates rose. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday rose to 4.875 percent, from 4.850 percent last week. Rates on six-month bills rose to 4.990 percent, from 4.950 percent. The actual return to investors is 5.017 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,876.80, and 5.205 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,747.70. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, fell to 5.19 percent last week, from 5.20 percent the previous week.

Charles Schwab Corp. said its online trading system was inoperative from about 11 a.m. until noon Eastern time yesterday until it switched to backup computers. The Internet broker said it didn't yet know what caused the outage, its eighth of 1999 and its first in four months.

Clear Channel Communications agreed to buy five radio stations in Grand Forks, N.D., and five in Yakima, Wash., for an undisclosed price, continuing its strategy of growth through acquisitions. Clear Channel, the second-largest U.S. radio-station owner, is to acquire the stations from two closely held companies controlled by Tom Ingstad., which to date has focused on selling business and professional books, has developed a new system, called eMatter, that allows book and magazine publishers as well as individuals to sell digitized documents online, and earn royalties on every copy sold. The company says the service will provide a new way to exchange unpublished material, including documents such as company research papers that have never been economical to print.

Dick Clark is celebrating the end of the millennium with a new General Mills breakfast cereal in the shape of 2s and 0s, to be called Millenios.

INTERNATIONALCarrefour, a French supermarket group, is acquiring French rival Promodes in a deal to create the world's second-largest retailer and challenge Wal-Mart in Europe. The friendly stock deal is valued at about $16.3 billion.

AlliedSignal's plan to buy Honeywell is under in-depth antitrust scrutiny by the European Union's executive arm, based on an initial one-month probe. The two U.S. firms said they still expect their union to be complete by autumn and that the European Commission's review focused on limited areas of their aerospace sectors. The commission has four months to decide whether to require changes in the alliance before giving regulatory approval.

Onex does not plan to increase its $1.2 billion bid for the Canada's largest airline, Air Canada, despite a jump in the carrier's stock price, Onex chief executive Gerald Schwartz said. Onex announced the bid last week to buy and then merge Air Canada and the nation's second-largest but struggling carrier, Canadian Airlines.

LOCAL BUSINESS Columbia Energy Services said it plans to sell its trading division, which lost $6.5 million last year after one of its traders misstated prices on some natural-gas futures contracts. The trader was fired. The Herndon-based company said it will concentrate instead on retail sales of electric power and natural gas. Columbia said that it plans to sell the trading operation in Houston as a going concern and that there will be no staff reductions at the operation pending its sale.

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