Wall Street's computers and the Securities and Exchange Commission's systems are ready for the end of the 1900s, federal and industry officials said. John A. Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said it will be "business as usual" on Wall Street when the year 2000 arrives. SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt Jr., New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard A. Grasso, National Association of Securities Dealers Chairman Frank G. Zarb, and industry representatives also outlined steps taken by Wall Street, the mutual fund industry and regulators to forestall Y2K software problems.

Qwest's $45.2 billion combination with US West was approved by the Justice Department's antitrust division. The merger of Qwest, the fourth-largest U.S. long-distance company, and US West, which provides local phone service in 14 western states, still needs the approval of the Federal Communications Commission and regulators in seven western states, the companies said.

A shareholders lawsuit filed against current and former Columbia/HCA Healthcare executives on behalf of New York's $90 billion pension fund and more than a dozen other plaintiffs was dismissed by a federal judge. Last year, a magistrate judge recommended dismissing the consolidated lawsuit because plaintiffs had made no demands on the corporation before filing it. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Higgins agreed, saying "there was an unseemly rush to the courthouse to litigate."

Levi Strauss has hired Philip Marineau, 52, president of PepsiCo's North American beverage unit, as its president and chief executive, ending an eight-month search. At Pepsi, Marineau is being replaced by Gary Rodkin, chief executive of the Tropicana juices unit.

Zale, the largest U.S. jewelry retailer, said Robert J. DiNicola is handing the chief executive's responsibilities over to President Beryl Raff after leading a five-year turnaround of the company. Raff, who will retain the president's title and get a seat on Zale's board, will be among the highest-ranking female retailing executives in the United States, said DiNicola, who will remain chairman.

T-bill rates fell. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday fell to 4.720 percent, from 4.875 percent last week. Rates on six-month bills fell to 4.950 percent, from 4.990 percent. The actual return to investors is 4.856 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,880.70, and 5.161 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,749.80. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield on one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, rose to 5.29 percent last week from 5.19 percent the previous week.

The IRS is shortening the address of its World Wide Web site. Taxpayers can now reach the site on the Internet by typing www.irs.gov. The old address--www.irs.ustreas.gov --still works, but the change provides a version simpler and easier to remember.

Ford's request to stop a Web site from publishing the company's internal documents was denied by a federal judge, who cited a possible violation of the First Amendment. Robert Lane, a 32-year-old nursing student, had been publishing internal Ford documents on his Web site--BlueOvalNews.com--for the past few weeks. Ford obtained a temporary ban on the publishing on Aug. 25, but U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds ruled that a permanent ban could violate Lane's right to free speech.


Legg Mason, a Baltimore-based brokerage and money-management firm, has acquired Berkshire Asset Management, an investment advisory firm based in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Berkshire Asset manages about $600 million in equity, fixed-income and balanced accounts for wealthy individuals and institutions.

America Online and Medscape, a health-care Web site, announced a marketing deal in which Medscape will pay Dulles-based AOL $33 million over three years to be featured on AOL's online services starting later this fall.

F&M Bancorp, which operates more than 40 retail branches in Maryland and Pennsylvania, agreed to buy Patapsco Valley Bancshares for $45.9 million in stock to expand its commercial banking business in Maryland. Frederick, Md.-based F&M will pay 1.18 shares of its common stock for each share of Patapsco. Patapsco is the holding company for Commercial and Farmers Bank, also known as CFBank, which has seven branches in Howard County and one in Baltimore County. CSFBank will become part of F&M's commercial banking unit, Farmers & Mechanics National Bank.