AT&T and Dobson Communications agreed to buy rural cellular-phone company American Cellular for $2.32 billion through a joint venture, allowing AT&T to cut costs as use of its wireless network increases. The venture will be equally owned, but Dobson will manage operations.

The Justice Department said it has spent $12.6 million in the last decade to investigate and prosecute Microsoft for antitrust violations. Of those expenses, at least $6.4 million were incurred in the 1998 and 1999 fiscal years, when the department began its lengthy courtroom fight with the software giant.

Congressional Democrats protested how Republicans are running a conference committee that's supposed to hammer out differences between Senate and House bills to revamp banking law. In letters to conference Chairman Jim Leach (R-Iowa), Democrats accused Republicans of partisan politics by deciding to let the chairmen of the House and Senate Banking Committees and the House Commerce Committee write a compromise bill behind closed doors, leaving the conference's 31 Democrats with little say in the process.

Factory orders vaulted ahead in August on higher demand for airplanes and electronics in another sign of a resurgence in manufacturing. The 1.3 percent gain was the 12th increase in factory orders in the past 15 months, the Commerce Department said.

Safeway plans to buy back up to $1 billion of its common stock and to continue to pursue acquisitions.

The Nasdaq Stock Market said it removed the stock quotes of three large electronic communications networks from its computer system for about three hours because of problems with new Nasdaq software. The problem was caused by new software being installed to allow Nasdaq to extend the hours its trade reporting and quotation system is open each day, said Scott Peterson, a Nasdaq spokesman. He couldn't immediately say why Nasdaq removed the quotes of Island, Instinet and Brass Utility and not those of other networks or brokers. All three were up and running again just after 1 p.m.

The Securities and Exchange Commission proposed rules to encourage corporate directors to "do the right thing" by taking a more active role in ensuring the accuracy of company financial reports, SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt Jr. said.

EARNINGS

Advanced Micro Devices posted a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss as sales of a new, high-end microprocessor offset declining sales of other computer chips. For the three months ended Sept. 26, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company reported a net loss of $105.5 million, compared to a net gain of $1 million the comparable period a year earlier.

Alcoa, the world's largest aluminum producer, said third-quarter profit jumped 19 percent, to $259.1 million, as lower costs and higher prices more than offset a decline in sales. Sales dropped 1.4 percent, to $4.05 billion, helping drive down Alcoa's shares as much as 6.8 percent.

PepsiCo's third-quarter profit rose 6.7 percent, to $507 million, on higher earnings from its Frito-Lay snacks. The results were adjusted to include the August 1998 purchase of Tropicana and the spinoff of the Pepsi Bottling Group unit.

LOCAL BUSINESS

America Online and Lycos said they will jointly develop an instant messaging service in which users of AOL and Lycos can exchange real-time messages with each other.

Orbital Sciences has promoted James R. Thompson Jr. to the newly established position of president and chief operating officer of the Dulles-based space technology and satellite company.

Malaysian Airlines failed to make a $1.8 million payment on a contract with Dulles-based World Airways to purchase an MD-11 passenger jet.

Good Humor-Breyers, the largest U.S. ice cream maker, will close its Richmond ice cream plant and lay off or transfer about 190 workers to lower its operating costs.