A new computer virus is capable of affecting users of the Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail programs on Windows 98 and advance copies of Windows 2000. The virus, called "Bubbleboy"--a reference to an episode of TV's "Seinfeld"--is the first known to execute without requiring the recipient to open an e-mail attachment. "This changes the long-standing rule that by simply reading an e-mail message you can't be infected with a virus. . . . Now you can," said Sal Viveros, group marketing manager for McAfee Total Virus Defense. An anti-Bubbleboy software patch is downloadable at Microsoft's Web site (http://www.microsoft.com).

Pfizer, the second-biggest U.S. drugmaker, may be willing to pay a $2 billion fee to complete its $75 billion hostile takeover of Warner-Lambert and become number one. Pfizer said it may drop conditions it had demanded of Warner-Lambert, including removal of a $2 billion breakup fee in Warner-Lambert's $70 billion friendly merger with American Home Products. Pfizer also said it would like to buy Monsanto's Searle drug unit to own the painkiller Celebrex, although it's not for sale.

Allstate said it would cut 4,000 non-agent jobs, or 10 percent of its non-agent work force, and transfer 6,500 fully employed agents to a freelance contract as part of a plan to cut costs by $600 million a year. Most of the money saved will be invested in computer systems, the firm said.

Bank One, which is struggling to regain investor confidence after several managers resigned and the bank cut earnings expectations, warned for a second time that earnings would be lower than expected because of lower profits from its credit-card unit. The Chicago-based bank said earnings would be 78 cents to 88 cents in the fourth quarter, down from a current consensus estimate of 92 cents.

Two lawmakers, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), have proposed legislation to reverse key privacy provisions of legislation overhauling the nation's financial services industry, requiring banks, securities firms and insurance companies to get permission before sharing customer data among affiliates or outsiders. Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and Sen. Richard H. Bryan (D-Nev.) introduced identical legislation in the Senate.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reached an $8 million settlement in an age-discrimination lawsuit involving 350 people who were laid off by AlliedSignal in Arizona in 1993 and 1994. The settlement gives the workers $4 million in cash and $4 million in additional pension payments. Tom Crane, an AlliedSignal spokesman, said the company prohibits discrimination and believes no discrimination occurred but it settled the case to avoid "a lengthy and costly litigation process."

Two big banks hit back at California communities that have banned ATM surcharges, announcing plans to restrict use of their cash machines in the two cities to their own account holders. Bank of America and Wells Fargo said they are cutting off access to non-account holders in Santa Monica, where a ban on the ATM fees takes effect today. Bank of America also said it will issue similar restrictions in San Francisco if the courts fail to overturn a voter-approved city ordinance banning the fees.


The United States rebuffed European Union proposals to reform the bloc's banana import rules, saying more changes were needed to end a long-running trade dispute with U.S. and Latin American producers. The EU proposals are designed to bring the group's banana regime into line with World Trade Organization rules and lead to the lifting of almost $200 million in sanctions in the United States this year. The EU offered to move to a tariff-only banana import system by Jan. 1, 2006, with transition measures until then.


CompUSA, the No. 1 U.S. retailer of personal computers, said it will restate three years of earnings and change the way it accounts for warranty contracts after talks with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company's fiscal first-quarter loss from operations increased to $3.4 million, from the reported $2.6 million. Its fiscal 1999 loss of $64.5 million increased by $7.3 million.

Two large retailers said their fiscal third-quarter profits rose as high consumer confidence and low unemployment helped boost sales, especially of clothing and housewares. Kmart's net income rose 13 percent, to $43 million, while earnings at Federated, the owner of Bloomingdale's, Macy's and other chains, increased 12 percent, to $123 million.