The United Auto Workers reached tentative agreements with General Motors and its former parts division on contracts covering about 185,000 workers. The terms of the union's deals with GM and Delphi Automotive Systems were not released. The UAW said the terms would not be announced until after ratification votes. No date was set. A source said the new contract with GM follows wage and benefit terms of the pattern-setting settlement reached on Sept. 16 with DaimlerChrysler and ratified by UAW members. The DaimlerChrysler four-year contract provides base-wage increases of 3 percent in each year, plus a $1,350 signing bonus. The deal leaves Ford as the only automaker still to finish a contract with the UAW.

Fran Tarkenton, the former NFL quarterback, agreed to return $54,187 in alleged illegal profits and pay a $100,000 fine to settle an accounting-fraud case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Tarkenton, who could not be reached for comment, was accused of helping direct a multimillion-dollar fraud that overstated earnings by 200 percent in 1994 while he was chief executive at KnowledgeWare, a computer software and consulting company.

The Federal Reserve advised its bank examiners to watch for signs that banks may be relaxing their lending requirements, creating an increase in shaky loans that could threaten the strength of the banking system. The Fed said that the dollar amount of troubled loans and repossessed real estate held by the nation's largest bank holding companies had increased 13.5 percent, to $18.8 billion, in the 18 months ended June 30.

Consumer confidence slipped in September for the third straight month, the Conference Board reported. The research group said its index of consumer confidence, a measure of people's willingness to spend, dropped a larger-than-expected 1.8 points in September, to 134.2. But economists noted that the index is still close to its June peak of 139, which was the highest reading in more than 30 years.

Chairman Bill Gates's stake in Microsoft has fallen to $72.5 billion from $87.5 billion this year, after he donated $15 billion to his charitable foundation. Gates, 43, has reduced his holdings to about 787 million shares, or 15.3 percent of the world's biggest computer software company, according to the company's latest proxy statement. That's down from a split-adjusted 1 billion shares, or 19.8 percent, in January, the last time the company disclosed figures.

Publishers can't include work by freelance writers in their electronic databases without the writers' permission, an appeals court ruled. The unanimous ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York means that publishers must include electronic rights in contracts with free-lance contributors and could be forced to compensate them for past work included in databases without their permission. Among those that had fought the case were the New York Times, Newsday and Time, which argued that such electronic databases are like anthologies that can be revised without the permission of individual copyright holders.

Amazon.com and the U.S. Postal Service are launching a joint advertising campaign, touting the benefits of the Internet retailer and delivery via Priority Mail. The cost of the effort is "several million dollars," Postmaster General William Henderson said.

INTERNATIONAL

Alcatel, a Paris-based maker of telephone equipment, said it will acquire Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories for about $1.5 billion in stock to add a software company to its growing Internet and data-equipment businesses. San Francisco-based Genesys makes software used by call centers offering telephone, Internet and e-mail services.

Onex won a court decision forcing Air Canada to move up a shareholder vote on the investment firm's $680 million takeover proposal, leaving Air Canada with less time to find alternatives to the hostile bid. Onex, run by Toronto businessman Gerald Schwartz, last month offered to take over the country's largest airline and merge it with Canadian Airlines, a rival that's struggling to stay in business.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Columbia Bancorp of Columbia has agreed to buy Suburban Bancshares of Greenbelt in a stock swap the companies expect to complete in the first three months of 2000. The final value of the deal will depend on the value of Suburban's stock when the deal is closed, but Columbia officials said they expect to pay the equivalent of about $3 a share for Suburban's stock, or $33.9 million total.

America Online of Dulles agreed to put financial news from MarketWatch.com on its Internet sites in exchange for $21 million in cash and promotion over three years.